By Philip Thomas for PCGS ……
One way to honor military veterans of the United States Armed Forces is to examine and admire a particular series of Military Payment Certificates (MPCs), that primarily features military-themed vignettes: the illustrious and illustrative Series 681.
Out of the nation’s current count of 16.5 million veterans from all military branches combined, about six million served in the Vietnam conflict. Series 681, issued in August 1969 and withdrawn just over a year later, circulated at the very heart of that conflict and was used exclusively within the Vietnamese theater of operations – unlike nearly all previous MPC issues that experienced geographically diversified use across the globe within a large number of countries and territories.
Another notable difference with Series 681 involves the prominence of military personnel and equipment in the printed designs of almost all of the denominations, on faces as well as on backs. Older MPC designs tended to display various allegorical themes and figures, national seals and symbols, or female busts and portraits on backdrops of colorful lacy patterns and guillochés. The notes of Series 681 were much more representative of the service members physically possessing them in the locations in which they were being held and exchanged.
All four fractional denominations – that is, notes with face values less than $1 – present nuclear-powered submarine Thomas Edison at center right on the face and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Edward White performing a Gemini 4 mission spacewalk on the back. The Air Force continues to shine on the $1, with both face (a pilot wearing a helmet) and back (air demonstration squadron Thunderbirds flying in formation) featuring USAF-themed vignettes.
The faces of the larger denominations of $5, $10, and $20, which are more substantial in material size as well as face value, spotlight a Naval petty officer second class, an Army Special Forces master sergeant and a portrait of a helmeted WWII-era GI, respectively. The backs of the $10 and $20 showcase two mighty and monumental weapons of war: an M48A4 tank in action and a B-52A bomber in flight.
For veterans and non-veterans alike, Military Payment Certificate Series 681 is terrific to collect. A complete denomination set is relatively accessible to collectors of all budgets and the designs of each denomination deftly demonstrate the people we acknowledge and appreciate on Veterans Day (as well as year-round!) and the sacrifices they made for us and our country.
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