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Object: Ration Book

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Title Ration Book
Production New Zealand Government (creating agency), October 1943, New Zealand
Materials paper, ink, metal
Classification ration books
Technique printing
Dimensions Overall: 140mm (Height) x 110mm (Width)
Credit line Gift of Alison Hutton, 2008
Registration number GH012052

This ration book, issued in October 1943, was the third series to be issued in New Zealand during World War II. From this period, books were graded by age groups, which were marked on the buff covers. For those under 10 years old, there were full rations.


Petrol rationing was introduced as soon as war was declared in September 1939 and lasted until June 1946. It was the war’s first impact on civilian life in New Zealand. When Japan’s attack on Southeast Asia threatened other resources, more rationing was introduced.

Ration books

Ration books were first issued in April 1942 to control the purchasing of sugar and stockings. They were issued through the Post Office to the head of each household and became an essential part of daily life. Generally women were in charge of the household’s ration book, as they tended to do most of the shopping. The coupons were cut from the books by retailers.

Clothing and footwear were rationed in May 1942. Each household was given 52 clothing coupons per year. A man’s three-piece suit required 16 coupons. A woman’s dress required four to six coupons – either as a store-bought dress or the material to make it.

Materials and design

The first ration books were flimsy – paper covers stapled together enclosing a page of rules and four thin sheets. Each was a different colour and marked with the letters S (sugar), T (tea), or M (clothing, footwear, and household linen), and 26 numbered squares. Initially, women aged over 16 had an extra page of X coupons for stockings. They were only allowed one new pair of stockings every three months.


Ration books are reminders of the food and material deprivations experienced by New Zealanders during World War II.

Why ration stockings?

Japan was a major producer of raw silk, so when war broke out supplies dwindled. Nylon was invented in the late 1930s, and started to replace silk in the 1940s. Americans first saw nylon stockings in May 1940. But from 1942 most nylon production went into parachutes and tents, so nylon stockings were also scarce during the war.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.