Post Exchange

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The Post Exchange (or PX) facilities are trading posts located in bases of the US Army or US Air Force, and operated by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.[1] Equivalent facilities in bases of the US Navy are called Naval Exchange.

Many Japanese products (not only cameras) sold in the Allied Army military bases in Japan and abroad were stamped with special markings. The products sold in PX stores were not subject to the same high taxes as those sold in Japan's domestic market, and the markings were applied to avoid tax evasion by domestic Japanese buyers. EP products were shipped throughout the world for all Allied Armies of WW2.

The earliest marking, used around 1948–49, is a diamond-shaped engraving containing the Roman letters CPO or their katakana equivalent シーピーオー. "CPO" is said to stand for Central Purchasing Office,[2] an office of the occupation army of the USA under General Douglas MacArthur's command.[3]

The "CPO" marking was replaced about two years later by an <EP> marking inside a diamond, either in black or in red. The exact meaning of the letters "<EP>" is not confirmed; they probably do not stand for "Exchange Post", because the facilities were called the reverse, one suggestion is "Export Permitted".[4] The EP marking was perhaps applied until the early 1970s.[5]

<EP> most likely stood for Export Product and was used on many different items, not just cameras. Dates for <EP> are 95% 1948~1955, then slowly phased out as inventories were sold off. WW2 devastated the Japanese economy and sadly the Japanese people could not afford their own products. To avoid paying high domestic taxes and cheating, <EP> was labeled by the Japanese government on all export products sold in PX stores in Japan and throughout the Allied Army world. If a Japanese citizen was found with an Katakana or <CPO> or <EP> stamped product there was a serious fine imposed. A result of this practice was that many Japanese photographers were still using pre war cameras even in 1955.[6]


  1. Base exchange at Wikipedia.
  2. See for example Dechert, p.68.
  3. "The Central Purchasing Office is established as a special staff section of General Headquarters, Far East Command, for the purpose of purchasing indigenous Japanese merchandise for resale to the Post Exchange type systems of the Allied Occupation Forces". And "All CPO marked merchandise found in the possession of other than Allied personnel will be confiscated." ... text from a letter of the GH Far East Command, Nov. 23, 1948
  4. See for example this thread at
  5. Early 1970s: this thread at mentions an EP marking on Canon FTb cameras dating 1971–2.
  6. Researcher and writer on 1938-1950 Japanese cameras Don from Eastwestphoto