I need new tires on my car. The dealership told me last fall they needed to be replaced. I hoped the winter would not be too bad and that I could wait until spring. Our winter in northeast Wisconsin was fairly mild that went well. But the time has come. Needing tires reminded me of one of the more unusual numismatic souvenirs from WWII when not only could tires not be bought, but the government compelled Americans to sell their tires for the war effort.
When Ebay was in its infancy I came across a United States Treasury check from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for $.20. I researched what I could (it was sometime around 1999 so internet resources were limited) but could not find anything that helped to identify what it was for. The only significant information on the check was a notation that read: D.S.C. Idle Tires. I thought this might be a business name.
I knew the RFC was involved in assisting state chartered banks during the Great Depression and assumed that the check had something to do with that.
Over the years I ran across similar checks from the RFC that referenced D.S.C. Idle Tires. One thing that struck me as odd is that they were all written for amounts that were multiples of $.20.
The riddle was finally solved a few years ago when I came across a check for $.80 that was accompanied by a document from the Defense Supplies Corporation. It prompted me to re-new my research into the RFC.
During WWII, the RFC had many roles. One of these was procuring materials for the war effort that had previously been supplied from areas now controlled by the Axis. The Defense Supplies Corporation was the RFC subsidiary charged with this task. The most notable commodities that were now in short supply were rubber and tin. Both materials came from parts of Asia that had been taken over by Japan.
The D.S.C Idle Tire Program required individuals to sell their excess tires to the government. One spare could be kept in addition to the tires on a vehicle. All other tires had to be sold. There were significant penalties for having more tires than authorized. Non-compliance also prevented a person from receiving gas ration coupons.
The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was in charge of rationing in United States. OPA also established ceiling prices for commodities to prevent price gouging. One of the items under rationing and price control by OPA was automobile tires. The ceiling prices established by OPA were the same prices that D.S.C. paid for idle tires. The prices are detailed in the chart above. Scrap tires were purchased for $.20 per tire.
The Railway Express Company assisted the government in collecting tires. They established 23,000 collection points around the country. Individuals brought in their tires and filled out a form with their particulars. The tires were shipped by Railway Express to D.S.C. depots. The tires were then examined and appraised. Compensation was forwarded by mail. The seller could be paid by check or receive war savings stamps or war bonds.