MPCs are growing in popularity and can offer the new collector an easy and fun way to learn about numismatics
US large & small size currency, Confederate notes and fractional currency are all common items that many people collect. There is, however, a small niche in the numismatic collecting community that is growing: Military Payment Certificates (MPCs). MPCs have a range of collectors from those who collect regular issue notes to the more specialized areas of errors and replacements.
Military Payment Certificate, Series 472, 5 Cent, Graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Military Payment Certificate, Series 461, 5 Cent, Graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
For the United States, the purpose of the military payment certificates was multi-dimensional: preserve the economy, reduce counterfeiting and curtail black-market issues. The first goal was to protect the interests of the United States economy from enemy intrusion. Two examples of this were the Hawaii and North African Emergency Issues that were used during World War II for the United States.
After World War II, the United States returned to past policies of paying the soldiers in local Allied Military Currency. The problems arose when the government was converting more of the Allied Military Currency into local currency. Due to the counterfeiting and black-market abuses of the Allied Military Currency, the government then decided that currency control books were the next step to preclude the abuses.
Unfortunately, this was not the solution to the problem. In 1946, a proposal was made by the Treasury Department and accepted by the War Department for a military scrip which would become US Military Payment Certificates.
$5 1934 Hawaii, Fr#2301, Graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
The proposal and eventual MPCs came with limitations on use. MPCs were only allowed to be used by military personnel in military facilities and approved locations. If MPCs were converted to local currency they were not allowed to be reconverted to MPCs. US MPCs were in use from 1946-1973 and were used in all overseas military locations.
Military Payment Certificate, Series 691, $1, Graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Overall, there were 16 series printed; however only 14 were issued to the soldiers. There were four printers that were used during this time: the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Forbes, Stecher-Traung and Tudor Press. Notes were lithographed (Schwann, 2002). The main security feature of the scrip were planchettes. MPCs also became the first notes to feature the use of ultraviolet ink as a security feature. Counterfeiting was often rampant as planchettes were drawn on notes by counterfeiters. For this reason and black-market curtailment, the series would often change very rapidly.
Military Payment Certificate, Series 611, $5, Graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
The designs of the first several series were simple, perhaps due to the time crunch that happened between MPC approval and implementation. The succeeding series became more intricate in design and more vibrant in color. Due to the lithograph process, many of the design elements used in the notes are borrowed from other notes. An example of this would be the vignette of Pablo the bison on the $1 bill for series 692 which also graces the 1901 $10 Legal Tender note (Schwann, 2002).
$10 1901 Legal Tender, Fr#114, Graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated, front
Military Payment Certificate, Series 692, $1, Graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, back
All Series contains notes that have denominations from five cents to 10 dollars. Several of the series have definite themes that define the notes.
Series 461, 471, 472 and 481 all have the Great Seal. On Series 461, 471 and 481, the seal is located on the back and for series 472 the seal is located on the front of the notes.
Series 521 was the first issue that had the denominations listed on the reverse of the notes as well as the introduction of more vibrant colors.
Series 611 saw the introduction of female portraits being printed on the front of the larger denomination notes.
Series 681 showed different military branches on the different denomination notes.
Series 661 saw the introduction of a $20 note.
Series 691 was an exact copy of Series 541 except for the $20 note, which was a new design and was not issued.
Series 692 featured Indian chiefs Hollow Horn Bear and Ouray on the $10 and the $20 notes (Schwann, 2002).
Series 701 featured historical Americans such as Mark Twain and Washington Irving. However, these two notes were not issued.
All series show the same dating process. The series number consists of three numerals – the first two digits are the year of issue and the last digit is the number of the series for the year. An example of this would be Series 691 and Series 692, both printed in 1969.
Military Payment Certificate, Series 681, $5, Graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Military Payment Certificate, Series 692, $10, Graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
Military Payment Certificate, Series 692, $20, Graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ, front
While MPCs are not as prevalent in their numbers as other areas of currency collecting, MPCs offer a different category for collecting. MPCs are growing in popularity and can offer the new collector an easy and fun way to learn about numismatics.
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Schwann, F. Comprehensive Catalog of Military Payment Certificates. Port Clinton: BNR Press. 2002.
Military Payment Certificates Currently Available on eBay