How much did a box of matches cost in 1944 ?

We recently received an enquiry from an author who is working on a novel set in late 1944 where a teenager in London is trying to sell individual matches to raise some money, and asked us how much a box of matches would have cost back then. After scratching our heads for a bit we were able to provide two answers :

  1. the short answer : the price of a box of ordinary matches was retailed at 1½d in 1944
  2. the long answer : the retail price of matches was subject to price control from 31st July 1940 until 9th December 1951, and during the war only British made matches were available

By referring to “The Match Makers, The Story of Bryant & May” by Patrick Beaver we learned the following :

  • The “standard” box of matches was increased from 1d to 1½d in the first war time budget of WWII, because the taxation was increased by ½d by the exchequer, which doubled the tax on matches in 1940. The standard box held 50 matches and retailed at 1½d
  • Swan Vestas was introduced in 1883, held 100 matches and the retail price was 1d, which remained the case for over 30 years. The first tax on matches was introduced in 1916, and the price was then increased to 1½d and the contents dropped to 75 matches. The tax was doubled in 1940 and officially fixed at 3d for an increased content of 100 matches. In 1951 the contents was dropped by the Board of Trade from 100 to 95 matches
  • Therefore, The standard box, subject to price control from 31st July 1940, held 50 matches and retailed at 1½d. In 1951 the contents was dropped by the Board of Trade from 50 to 47 matches
  • The Swan Vestas boxes, subject to price control from 31st July 1940, held 100 matches and retailed at 3d. In 1951 the contents was dropped by the Board of Trade from 100 to 95 matches
The Matchmakers by Patrick Beaver 1985
The Matchmakers by Patrick Beaver 1985

 

 

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