Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.
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Purchasing power: In war’s wake — Toledo, Ohio 1946
In 1946, this dime could have bought 250 aspirin tablets or two rolls of toilet paper, and the silver in it today is worth only about $1.45. Graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service as MS-68 with full split bands, it sold for $4,230 in 2015.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led the nation through the twin perils of the Great Depression and World War II, was crippled by polio as a young man. In 1938 he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, whose chief fundraising event was the annual door-to-door March of Dimes campaign.
Shortly after Roosevelt died April 12, 1945, Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock began work on the Roosevelt dime — a singularly appropriate denomination. Production began Jan. 30, 1946, the president’s birthday.
The nation was still transitioning to a peacetime economy when the coin was issued. Pent-up demand from a decade of Depression and five years of war stressed the economy. Civilian goods were often in short supply or had not been available for years.
The 1946 dime contains .07234ounces of silver, worth about $1.45 as I write this. In 1946, the value of that silver in the dime was slightly more than 5 cents.
As for what that dime could purchase in1946, here are the prices for some items advertised in the Toledo Blade newspaper in January 1946:
- Lane’s “cut-rate drugs” was
charging a dime for six pencils with erasers, a can of Shinola
shoe polish, a flashlight battery, two bars of Lava soap, 50
envelopes or 250 aspirin tablets.
The store was also selling rat traps for 11 cents, a 40-ounce can of Colgate tooth powder for 37 cents, a giant tube of Colgate shaving cream for 39 cents and a pint of Fumo moth spray for 59 cents.
- At Belman’s supermarket, a dime would buy two rolls of
Northern toilet paper, a package of marshmallows, a can of
grapefruit juice or half a pound of boiling beef.
The store was also selling lard for 18 cents a pound, 3-pound jars of Crisco for 68 cents, a large package of Oxydol detergent for 23 cents and beef steak for 39 cents a pound.
- A dime wouldn’t buy much at W.T. Grant’s, a dime store chain
that went under in 1976. The store advertised artificial flowers
and small boxes of Kleenex, which it said was a “very scarce
item,” for a dime.
The store also advertised that it had just 24 each of four types of “new metal toys.” Parents of those lucky post-war children were able to buy toy patrol and transport planes for 59 cents and stake and dump trucks for 79 cents.
General Electric, the object of a CIO strike, took its case to the public, complaining that it had offered workers earning less than $1 an hour a 10-cent pay hike and those earning more a 10 percent raise, to no avail. The federal minimum wages was 40 cents an hour in 1946. It is now $7.25 an hour.
Next: In war’s wake — Berlin April 1945