BBC History Revealed
RATIONING LED TO THEFTS
Some of the most significant and lucrative black-market activities centred on the long list of staple products subject to rationing. Food, petrol and clothing rationing was administered through ration books and coupons, which provided forgers and thieves with great opportunities. In 1944, some 14,000 newly issued ration books were stolen in a raid: they were sold for an estimated profit of £70,000, roughly equivalent to £3 million today. Forgery took place on a small and a large scale but was hard to pin down. A rare major prosecution took place in Manchester in 1943, when 19 men were accused of involvement in a wide-ranging racket of selling forged clothing coupons. A printing press in Salford supplied a host of wholesalers in the north and south of England with high quality forgeries. The going rate for a sheet of forged coupons on Oxford Street was £10 – around £400 in today’s money. Rationing naturally gave rise to a great deal of corruption among shopkeepers, farmers and officials, and many culprits ended up in court.