Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Currency Stamped with “HAWAII” during WWII

Like most people of his generation, my father saved stuff, especially “special” stamps, currency and coins - below is a $10 bill of his that he gave to me.

According to the Federal Reserve, with the start of World War II, the US started printing specialized military currency to provide economic stability for the US dollar in occupied countries.

In Hawaiʻi, the Treasury Department replaced all US currency with special issue notes as a precautionary measure in the event of a Japanese victory.

These notes were circulated only in Hawai‘i and their brown seals and serial numbers differentiated them from notes issued on the mainland.

Overprints of the word HAWAII were made; two small overprints to the sides of the obverse of the bill between the border and both the treasury seal and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco seal, and huge outlined HAWAII lettering dominating the reverse.

The hope was that, should there have been a Japanese invasion, the US Government could immediately declare any Hawai‘i-stamped notes worthless, due to their easy identification.

$1, $5, $10 and $20 San Francisco Reserve notes featured the seal and serial numbers that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing called the "Hawaiʻi Overprint" (from July 1942 until October 1944.)

Hawai‘i wasn’t the only place where special currency was distributed.  Similarly, special notes were issued for use by American troops during the invasion of North Africa in November 1942.

These notes were overprinted with distinctive yellow Treasury Seals to distinguish them from the regular Silver Certificates overprinted with blue seals.

Like the overprinted Hawai‘i notes, these distinctive certificates could be declared worthless if large amounts fell into enemy hands.

In addition to the Hawai‘i currency issued, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced or oversaw the private production of Allied military currency used in Italy, France, Austria, Germany and Japan during and after the war.

The Department of the Treasury redeems all genuine United States currency at face value only, and does not render opinions concerning the numismatic value of old or rare currencies.

However, numerous websites indicate premiums are being paid for these special bills.  (I am keeping mine as a reminder of my father.)

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