Several times a year, I end up explaining this over and over, so I guess it is for the benefit of all to raise an independent thread and ask the moderators to pin it for easy future reference.
All sorts of items sold on the market during the war such as flags, clothing, tabi, civil defense helmets, etc are found with small paper tags with writing on them. Most of the time, among what is written, there will be a single Kanji in a circle (either公, 停 or協 ). These were official price control ratings as applied to the item in question.
Those who have read my pinned articles know that Japan already experienced severe material shortages as early as 1937. Naturally the government would have feared the onslaught of hyperinflation, and in response, on 20th October 1939 introduced the Price Control Act, which forcefully froze prices of goods to the level as of 18th September 1939 and forbade any price increases.
Goods which got these fixed prices got the 停 in a circle (the mark was read as Maru-Tei), which meant “Halt” and was abbreviation for 停止価格（Stationary Price）. However, when buyers, sellers or unions could get the governing body to approve, they could get a revised price as a new freeze point. These items were marked with a協 in a circle (read as Maru-Kyo) short for協定価格 (Negotiated Price). The final category was 公 in a circle (read Maru-Ko) for公定価格 (Public Price), a price fixed by law by the governing body. These different degrees of price control actually came in a progression.
After the across the board freeze to 18th Sept 1939 prices (Maru-Tei), the government had to yield on some items (Maru-Kyo), but finally the government would issue laws to peg down those prices and made them official legal prices (Maru-Ko). So as the war progressed more and more items got shifted to the Maru-Ko category.
These labels were only found on civilian items and not on military issue items. Army style visor caps also can be seen with these tags, which indicated the kind of cap army veterans could buy on the civilian market.
Here’s an example of a label, which I stole from Geoff Ward’s post about a civil defense helmet. It has the Maru-tei label and interestingly freezes prices at various stages of distribution. The one on top is the Ex-factory price pegged at 5.3 Yen. Then comes wholesale price pegged at 5.8 Yen, and finally retail price at 6.5 Yen.