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Q: black market in world war two ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: black market in world war two
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: writerguy-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 04 Mar 2003 15:11 PST
Expires: 03 Apr 2003 15:11 PST
Question ID: 170662
how did black market operations function on the homefront during world
war two and what were the most profitable black market goods

Request for Question Clarification by digsalot-ga on 04 Mar 2003 15:21 PST
Any particular "homefront" or general information about each? 
"Homefronts" were all over the place and on both sides?
Subject: Re: black market in world war two
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 04 Mar 2003 18:30 PST
Dear writerguy-ga;

Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to answer your interesting
question. I think you will be surprised when you find out what the
largest black market item of the time was. Silk pantyhose? Chocolate,
perhaps? No, that’s only in the movies. Liquor? Sugar? Rubber? Large
markets to be sure, but those weren’t the big ones either…

Since World War II era black markets dealt primarily in
items/commodities that were in short supply or prohibited, we will
discuss only those things that were rationed or sanctioned in some way
as opposed to an otherwise legal prohibition such a drugs, alcohol,

For four years following Dec. 7, 1941 certain items were rationed in
the United States. This was done to insure the some items were not
wasted, surpluses were not depleted and so that everyone who needed
these items would have an equal opportunity to obtain them – and use
them in moderation. Imports and exports during this time period were
limited to say the least and many of our goods were being diverted to
assist with the war effort. Funding for our economy was meager at best
and industries were doubling as production centers for the War
Department. Inflation was also a very real concern. It wasn’t long
into the conflicts that it became obvious the war’s end was nowhere in
sight and could not be predicted with any degree of accuracy. With the
financial situation the way it was and the production of good already
drastically cut, it was essential that everyone conserve what he had
(or was legally allowed to get) in order to keep from creating too
large a demand from our domestic industries and resources, thereby
drawing unnecessarily from the efforts to support the wars abroad.

On January 27, 1942, under Directive No. 1 of the War Production
Board, The Office of Price Administration (OPA) received the authority
to start controlling product prices and implement plans to ration
certain goods. Under the direction of the War Production Board, the
entity that decided on items that should be scrutinized, the OPA
immediately began limitations on certain items, initially these were
things like tires, automobiles, gasoline and sugar. Penalties for
violating the regulations were a year’s imprisonment and a $5,000

In the beginning, gasoline was the biggest problem. The OPA focused on
trying to win voluntary compliance with the rules but when these
attempts failed miserably, gasoline curfews were imposed in some areas
(particularly on the eastern seaboard), permitting the sale only
between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM. This did little to help decrease
the usage of gasoline, and to complicate matters, the petroleum
industry began developing “Quick 100-octane”, a high-octane fuel
needed for aviation fuel. As mentioned previously with regard to other
industries, this production took away previously available manpower,
money and natural resources needed to produce automobile gasoline. The
government knew that it would and suspected that this alone would help
stabilize the consumption of gasoline by civilians, so they kept it
pretty much to themselves thinking that by the time the public caught
on gas would already have became scare. This was not to be however.
Officials in the petroleum industry has hopes of serving two markets –
civilian “and” military – so when it started looking like the civilian
market would plunge, they leaked information that the government had
plans to ration civilian gasoline. This insider information caused a
surge in gas consumption and demand, making matters worse than ever

Over the next few years a number of complicated procedures were
implemented in order to control the usage of gasoline, as well as
other products. Some were much more successful than others. The story
was much the same with sugar, coffee, electricity, rubber goods,
textiles and others. This leads us up to the most black marketed item
of the era, which we haven’t even discussed yet – and that was
government issued ration coupons.

Ration coupons were the hub of the OPA’s plan. By allowing people to
consume only what they could prove a necessity for, they could
regulate use and therefore regulate perceived demand. That is to say
that most people would only demand what they were legally entitled to
and when that was gone they would be forced to wait until they could
get more authorization to purchase, whether they “actually” needed it
or not. Their general perception of need would change and most would
comply with the law. This concept worked for the most part at the
consumer level but as it always has a way of doing, organized crime
saw a unique opportunity to prosper. Before long, the counterfeiting
and black marketing of rations coupons became so prevalent that the
OPA had dedicated about a third of its entire staff to enforcement. It
was very difficult to calculate but in 1943 the OPA itself
acknowledged that somewhere around 15%-50% of all gas coupons were
counterfeits and in 1944 it was estimated that 2.5 million gallons of
gas were being sold illegally every single day!. With large-scale
arrest made in New York and Detroit netting millions of dollars in
fake coupons, the criminal element turned its eye toward the food
industry. In 1944 alone the food industry was drained of 1.2 billion
dollars in illegally obtained consumables.

True to form, gasoline caused the big firestorm in the World War II
era back market, but oddly enough, in the end, it was mere paper that
kept the fire burning.

Below you will find that I have carefully defined my search strategy
for you in the event that you need to search for more information. By
following the same type of searches that I did you may be able to
enhance the research I have provided even further. I hope you find
that that my research exceeds your expectations. If you have any
questions about my research please post a clarification request prior
to rating the answer. Otherwise, I welcome your rating and your final
comments and I look forward to working with you again in the near
future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;


“Coupons and Counterfeits: World War II and the U.S. Black Market”

“ALL THINGS HISTORICAL: World War II home front”



“World War II America at Home and at War”

Home Front Doing Its Part For Allied Victory(Part I & II)




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Subject: Re: black market in world war two
From: stressedmum-ga on 04 Mar 2003 16:07 PST
This isn't an answer but it might offer a fun insight into my family's
sole experience with the black market. In England during WW2 my
Grandma had helped out a friend and, as a really 'big' thank you gift,
she was give a ten pound sack of sugar, black market of course and
very illegal. Word quickly got around that my Godfearing, very legal,
and generous to a fault Grandma had sugar and soon, neighbours, family
and friends had dropped by and were given a cup of this white gold. At
the end of the day, the sack was empty and everyone was feeling very
pleased. As Grandma prepared to sit down with a well earned cup of
hot, sweet tea, only then did she realise that she had completely
forgotten to put aside any sugar for her family. Thanks to her, just
about everyone she knew was enjoying real sugar in tea or in baking
that night, but, alas, there was none left for her and hers! As Homer
would say, "Doh!".

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