Sales Tax Tokens. What are they?

In today’s world, in most states, sales tax is common place.  We pay it, we accept it and we move on.  At the turn of the 20th century, this was not the case.  Although several countries around the world had a sales tax of some sort, the idea had not been brought to the United States yet.

In 1921, a national 1% sales tax was proposed in a national finance bill.  It was not passed, much to the delight of farmers and other labor interests.  The state of  West Virginia took it upon themselves to implement a state wide sales tax of 1%, which would serve as an example for the rest of country later on.

By 1929, the Great Depression had struck and state governments were trying desperately to make up for the great loss in income tax and out pouring of relief funding due to the overwhelming increase in unemployment.  Many states started to look at West Virginia’s sales tax as a viable option for making up some of the lost revenue.  In 1929, Georgia adopted a state sales tax and by 1933, 11 other states had followed suit.


The one main problem with sales tax was the odd sales totals that were created.  The basic idea is as follows: Retailers would pay a tax on everything they sold.  This added cost was passed on to the consumer.  If, for example, a person bought something for 10 cents (remember, this is the 1930’s) and there was a 3% sales tax, the total for the item would be 10 cents plus three tenths of a cents for the tax.  Being as there was no three-tenths of a cent coin, the retailer would either lose money by rounding down, or upset the customer and over collect by rounding up.

Enter the sales tax token.

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sales tax tokens allowed for merchants to round up to the nearest cent with out over collecting (making a 10 cent item 11 cents).  The customer would pay the additional tax, and in exchange would receive a tax token that could be used to pay the sales tax on their next 10 cent purchase since, technically, they already paid it.

Confused yet?

Not only did people have to remember to bring their tax tokens along with them, but with over 500 different types and denominations from 12 states, people quickly grew confused and didn’t know what to use when or where.

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

$1LENCE D00600D at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By the time World War II rolled around, ration tickets and food stamps were handed out, adding to the confusion.  Most states began dropping tax tokens altogether.  Missouri was the only state to come out of WWII with tax tokens still on their books.  In 1961, they finally dropped them.

By 1969, all but 5 states had enacted some type of sales tax and today that number remains the same today.  Although we no longer use tokens to keep things even, they do still exist in the world of collectibles.  We just came across some in our shop a few weeks ago. and have them listed on Ebay.  Check them out and consider adding this neat piece of history to your collection today.

Kick the Can

There are several simple games children play today that their Grandparents were backyard champs at – kickball, hide n’ seek, hopscotch; but one that seems frozen in the past is Kick the Can.  Remembered as a vintage game, not many children nowadays really know how to play.  You’d be an odd child out if you didn’t know how to play Kick the Can eighty years ago.  For those of us under the age of forty, I’ll lay out the rules:

The objective is simple.  Kick the can and don’t get caught!  A can is filled with rocks and set in the middle of the game area.  Like tag, or hide n’ seek, one player is designated “it” and the other players run and hide while the “it” player closes his eyes and counts.  When the “it” finds the hiders, he calls out their names and they must race him back to the can to kick it far into the air first.  If the hider beats the “it” person, he returns to hiding while the “it” retrieves the can, counts and begins searching again.  But if the “it” person wins the race to the can, the hider is sent to an allocated “jail” area, near the can.  Other players hiding may rush out to kick the can at any point, freeing the imprisoned players!  The game ends when “it” wins, capturing all the hiders, or when a hider kicks the can over.


The origins of the game are like many antiquated practices, imprecise.  It is fondly remembered as a popular game during the Great Depression. Because of limited extracurricular resources and abundance of children in the neighborhood, it seemed only natural for kids to grab a paint can from the trash, fill it with rocks and participate in hours on end of unfacilitated playtime.  During these difficult economic times, the kids seemed to have the right idea – making something out of nothing.  Not requiring any designated materials or playing field, Kick the Can was the perfect pickup game that has been lost somewhere in oral teaching along the way.

Perhaps kids of today could take a lesson in unplanned playtime.  In his book “Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff discusses the importance of unstructured play, referring to the early 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of kid’s free play.

At the turn of the 20th century as child labor decreased, kids had a lot of free time on their hands – freedom to play from dawn ’til dusk, to read comics and to explore their world in whatever way satisfied their fascinations.  However, with the increasing priority of education, extracurricular activities became less significant and more structured as adults realized their responsibility in nurturing a balanced growing person.  Adult involvement in free time inevitably led to more structured play, as adult-directed sports replaced pickup games.  Simultaneously, parents worried about their children playing with other neighborhood kids unsupervised, as parental control became a topic of concern.  Today, though we realize the need for children to play, society has entirely limited kids’ ability to play and explore in their own chosen ways.

Though antiquated, perhaps we could all learn from a little game of kick the can.  Like organized sports, these types of outdoor, movement-oriented games are beneficial for both the mind and body.  Next time you’re outside, give it a try!

All About Carnival Glass

The rainbow colors of carnival glass have caught many a collector’s eye.

Carnival glass is an inexpensive kind of glassware with a rainbow shimmer. Although it got its name from its use at carnivals, that’s not where the glass got its start.

Tiffany made the first iridized art glass, but the formula was expensive, as the iridescence was mixed into the glass instead of sprayed on the surface.Carnival_glass_vase

But then Fenton Glass Company made a cheaper kind of iridescent art glass in 1907: the first carnival glass, then called “Venetian Art” by Fenton. This made the glass much more widely available, although it took a while to catch on. But other glass makers copied the manufacturing process and made it more widely available.

Customers didn’t want to pay a lot for a piece with such a cheap process, so soon the glass was being given away as a prize at carnivals. Forget stuffed animals: glassware was the way to go.

Movie theaters and grocery stores also gave the glass away for promotions. Pieces were otherwise found at five-and-dime stores.

A carnival glass pattern uploaded by Wikimedia commons user russavia, taken by user aussiegall.

A carnival glass pattern uploaded by Wikimedia commons user russavia.

When the Great Depression came around, carnival glass had a decline thanks to the emerging of the depression glass patterns, which were very cheap, colorful machine-made glass.

Carnival glass has been called many things, such as “Taffeta,” “Cinderella,” and “Poor Man’s Tiffany.” It really only got the name “Carnival Glass” after World War II, by which time it had become collectible. Glass companies started to make carnival glass again in the 1970s, but collectors prefer the original, early 20th century pieces.

Red or pastel-hued carnival glass is especially rare. One ice blue carnival glass plate even sold for about $16,000 on eBay.

Do you own or collect carnival glass pieces? Let us know in the comments!


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Collectors Weekly

In a Nutshell

Sustainable Living: Kitchen Tips from the Great Depression

It just so happens that sustainable living practices coincide with times of recession.

It makes sense, when you think about it. During economic recession, saving money means using less – turning down the heat, making your own dinner, and using less fuel, being kind to the earth as a result.

In general, these practices also mean being healthier. It’s a 3-in-1 deal, and how can you say no to that?

The amount of things you can do to save energy are only as limited as your imagination. It just means reworking how you think. Do you really need to throw away that Ziplock bag, or can you reuse it?

Today’s tip: Make your own food.

(This goes along with our post about victory gardens! Growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs is cheap and fun.)

Pre-made/frozen meals use more plastic & cardboard waste than home-cooked meals, not to mention all the added sugar & preservatives. Do your body and your wallet a favor: don’t buy prepared meals.

Just take a tip from YouTube star Clara, a 94-year-old cook who demonstrates meals that her mother made during the Great Depression. In her popular online show, she shows how to stretch ingredients to the furthest degree and still get a great meal out of it.

You can check out Clara’s videos and recipes here.

"Wilt-not waste-not" fresh vegetable care released from 1941-1945

“Wilt-not waste-not” fresh vegetable care released from 1941-1945

  • Cooking your own meals takes some planning. It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. Plan out a week’s worth of meals, including leftovers, before you go to the grocery store. That’ll keep you from the temptation from buying unnecessary, unhealthy packaged food.
  • Fresh food is your friend! So are rice & pasta, good staples to keep in your pantry.
  • Reduce the amount of meat you use, or get rid of it altogether. Meat is more expensive than most other foods you’ll buy.

And there you have it. Some simple ideas to get the healthy train going. If you eat out constantly, try starting out with a couple cooked dinners a week, and see where it takes you!

Do you have any kitchen tips not mentioned here? Do your fellow sustainable cooks a favor and write your tips in the comments!

How to Start Your Own Victory Garden

Winter is on its way, but some of us are already dreaming of spring. And why not put that anticipation of spring to good use?

During World War I and World War II, the government promoted the creation of “victory gardens” or “war gardens”, vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted on private property and public parks.

On a similar vein, Seattle, WA has confirmed plans to build a “Food Forest” full of fruit trees, herbs, and more, all available to the public free of charge.

Creating victory gardens helped with multiple things at once. The public food system was becoming overburdened, and if citizens created their own gardens, more factory food could be shipped to soldiers. They also made people feel like they were truly contributing to the war effort and boosted morale.


“A Victory Garden is like a share in an airplane factory. It helps win the War and pays dividends too.” -Claude R. Wickard

Victory gardens can be just as useful today – for slightly different reasons. With a growing movement toward at-home solutions, self-reliance, and locally grown foods, victory gardens fit right into place.

So how do you start your own? With perseverance, yard space, and some seeds.

  • Planning is important, which is why you should take the winter season to read up on gardening and the right plants for your area of the world.


  • Pick your plants. Which veggies, fruits or herbs do you eat the most often? If you’re new to gardening, which ones are the easiest to grow?
  • Decide where to plant your garden. Will you pick a nice patch in your backyard, or will you need to use creative containers like window boxes?

With some patience and reading up, a victory garden can be yours!


Victory Garden Informational pdf
As usual, Wikipedia
Starting a Victory Garden
Wartime Educational Film

Sustainable Living: What We Can Learn from the Great Depression

At the time of the Great Depression, people used whatever tricks they could to live frugally and not use up their resources.

Today, “Green Living” has been introduced to help the planet as well as save money in today’s economic downturn. But in today’s world of mass production where no one in the millennial generation knows how to darn socks, many have to completely re-learn methods of waste-free living.

We would like to help aid the movement toward sustainable living. Using research on living at the time of the Great Depression, we’ll write a series of articles describing the methods they used at the time of the Great Depression and give helpful suggestions adapted for today’s audience.

A woman with canned fruit for the winter in 1933.

A woman with canned fruit, ready for the winter in 1933.

In an article on Yahoo Voices written by Stewart Lodge, Stewart describes the Depression as a simpler time when nothing was put to waste if anyone could help it. Kids used plastic bread wrappers for lunchboxes, people wore shoes until they fell apart (then fixed the soles themselves), and canned their fruit for the winter.

Times may be different now, but where applicable, we can still learn from the past.

A simple motto to start with is this: Learn to love used stuff.



Does everything you buy really need to be new? Sometimes the hand crafted items that have stood the test of time are the better options. Not to mention the vintage charm and history they contain. (You might find some old items you like scattered throughout our other blog articles!)

And sometimes things you’ve owned for a long time don’t necessarily need to be replaced. Have a couch that’s getting a little shabby? Simply give it a snazzy new couch cover or replace the springs. Rework your thoughts from “I need to get a new one” to “How can I fix this?” That way you can save money and also stop that couch from going to the landfill.

Sometimes the way to start a big change is with small steps, and internalizing small mottos like this one can go a long way.

Make sure to check back regularly for posts on how you can make a difference with sustainable living!

And help us out in the comments: What do you do to live sustainably?