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16 Dec 2020

A Guide to WW2 OPA Tokens: An Obscure Section of Numismatics

Exonumia | Antek

OPA tokens are a section of numismatics that most people overlook. But OPA tokens are more than just tokens to me. They are historical items which everybody should take a look at. They show the struggles of World War Two.


So, without further ado, let's jump into the backstory of these tokens, why they were created, and what is collectible about them!


What is OPA? And why did they issue tokens? OPA was an agency founded during World War Two. It was meant to ration items, fix prices on certain items, and prevent inflation during World War Two. OPA stands for "Office of Price Administration." This agency was founded by the government. OPA issued rationing stamps at the start of World War Two and issued red and blue OPA tokens to make exact change for people buying food with ration stamps. When they started using these tokens, the rationing stamps would be equal to ten of these tokens. The OPA had a nickname during World War Two; "Office of Overpriced Administrators."


What are OPA tokens? What do they look like? What are they made of? The first question was kind of answered in the paragraph above. They were used to make exact change when somebody bought food with rationing stamps. There are two colors of OPA tokens; blue and red. The red OPA tokens were for things like meats and fats, while the blue tokens were for processed foods. As for their looks, they are made out of vulcanized fiber (whatever the heck that's supposed to mean) and look and feel kind of like cardboard. They are 16mm in diameter. They have a weight of .33g. They are just a bit smaller than a dime in size.


Design: Both the obverse and reverse have the same design.The token reads "OPA" at the top with a big "1" in the middle. There are two letters near the "1", one letter on the left and one on the right. There are 30 different known letter combinations for the red tokens and 24 different known letter combinations for the blue tokens. You can find "* Blue * Point *" or "* Red * Point *" on the token depending on the colour of the token. I will include an image.


What are they worth (both now and during WW2)? Is one colour rarer than the other? Are certain OPAs rarer than others? During World War Two they were worth one point each. As mentioned earlier, rationing stamps were worth ten points, so OPA tokens would be used to make change, which is why they're worth one point. Nowadays they are worth fifty cents on average. Dealers at coin shows and coin shops have bins of them for 50 cents a piece or even less. There are errors and letter combinations worth more, though.

To answer the second question, yes. The blue is rarer than the red. It is estimated that at least 900 million blue OPAs were made and at least one billion red OPAs were made. Despite this, they are harder to find than you would think, but they are still cheap. The third question is a really good one. There are certain letter combinations rarer than others. According to Bob's tokens, MV, WC, WH, and MM are the rarest letter combinations to locate. Bob's tokens also says that the MV has sold for $125 to $260 on ebay. Key word: sold. Make sure you check sold listings when checking values.


When were they discontinued? 1945.


What is collectible about them? This question is easy to answer. The letter combinations and errors. People like to have a whole set of these tokens, one of each letter combination. The errors OPAs are also sought after and collectible. I simply like these tokens because they are cheap, fun, and you are holding history in your hands. You are holding the effects on World War Two in your hands. I hope to achieve a full set some day.


Random fact: We have not yet figured out what the reasoning behind the different letter combinations on OPAs stand for.


Numista page for these tokens: https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces42308.html and https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces21179.html for the red ones.


I hope you all learned something new and enjoyed this blog. Let me know if you have any questions or if you will pick any of these up!


Comments

Mal_ANA_YN

Level 4

This is the first time I have heard of them. Cool history lesson.

Antek

Level 3

👍😅

Kepi

Level 6

Great history lesson! I didn't know about these... Very interesting! ; )

Antek

Level 3

Thank you!

Longstrider

Level 6

Nice blog on OPA's. I bet a lot of people have never heard of them. Good job educating us. Got to love exonumia. Thanks.

Antek

Level 3

Thank you :) I chose OPA tokens because I thought maybe people didn't know about them

CentSearcher

Level 5

Neat! I will have to ask my LCS if they have any.

Antek

Level 3

Let us know if you get any :)

I have a few ration books, but no OPA tokens, I didn't even know they existed. Thanks for such an informative blog!

Antek

Level 3

Great! Hope you can add some to your collection

"SUN"

Level 6

Nice blog. Very collectible with great history. Thanks

Antek

Level 3

thank YOU

Golfer

Level 5

Thank you for a nice history lesson. Never heard of these. Maybe I will recognize them, if I see them for sale, or in a coin show bin. Something unusual but with a high mintage!

Antek

Level 3

NP, glad you enjoyed :)

Mokie

Level 6

What a wonderful item to collect, it goes with a proper WWII collection along with Silver Nickels, Steel Cents, Hawaii Overprint Bills, and North Africa Yellow Seals. Put all that together and you would have a wonderful display at your local coin show. I LOVE IT!!!

Antek

Level 3

Yes! Great pieces of history for an numismatic and/or history collection

Stumpy

Level 5

My grandfather still had two food ration books and one gas ration in his trunk when he died, but I had never seen or heard of these! Thanks for the knowledge smack down. Later!

Antek

Level 3

Wow, that's cool! Rest in peace gramps, I'm sure you had many great memories together. Thanks for the comment :)

Still surprised these held up so good since WWII.

Antek

Level 3

Indeed! I think it's because of how many were made

TheNumisMaster

Level 5

Never heard of these! Thanks for sharing! Cheers, NM

Antek

Level 3

👍

Haney

Level 4

Very cool and thanks for sharing.

Antek

Level 3

np, thank you for reading :)

Mike

Level 7

Thanks. I have never seen one or heard of it. I thank you for the information. . And the lesson on these.I could see them getting lost easy the size of a dime. Thanks again. Good work.

Antek

Level 3

Thank you!

I. R. Bama

Level 5

I have seen these and they are pretty interesting. I recently saw a bunch of them for sale on coinsmakecents.com.

Antek

Level 3

Yep, very interesting! Thanks for reading and commenting

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