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Collecting WWII Emergency Notes
By George S. Cuhaj
December 27, 2011

Excerpted from The Standard Catalog of U.S. Paper Money, 30th Edition, edited by George S. Cuhaj, available from

Emergency conditions during World War II brought about several interesting and collectible varieties of small size U.S. currency. These included North African Invasion notes, Hawaii overprints and R&S experimental notes.

North African Invasion Notes

When U.S. armed forces hit the beaches of North Africa in 1942 to begin the advance into Axis-held Europe from the south, special currency was issued to the troops, which could be easily identified and demonetized in the event of military reverse and the capture of large quantities of the cash.

The notes were normal Silver Certificates, with blue serial numbers, but with Treasury seals printed in yellow. All bearing the Julian-Morgenthau signature combination, the $1 denominations were issued in Series 1935A, the $5s in Series 1934A and $10s in Series 1934 and 1934A. The 1934 $10 notes are quite scarce, especially as star notes.

Hawaii Overprints

As an economic defense precaution against Japanese invasion and occupation of Hawaii, specially marked U.S. currency was issued there in July 1942, to replace other types in circulation. Distinguished by brown seal and serial numbers, and by “HAWAII” overprints on face and back, such notes could have been declared worthless in the event large numbers of them were captured.

The $1 notes used as emergency currency were Silver Certificates of Series 1935A, while $5s, $10s, and $20s were overprinted examples of San Francisco-district Federal Reserve Notes; the $5s in Series 1934 and ’34A, the $10s in Series 1934A only, and the $20s in Series 1934 and ’34A. All notes bear the Julian-Morgenthau combination. By late October, 1944, the emergency monetary conditions were declared ended, and normal currency returned to use in Hawaii, and the Hawaii-overprinted notes went on to do further duty during the occupation of formerly Japanese-held islands in the Pacific.

R & S Experimentals

To test different types of security paper during World War II, when it was not known whether supplies of normal U.S. bank note paper could be maintained, an experimental run of notes was produced using normal, and new special paper.

Notes on the special paper were overprinted with a large red S in the lower right corner, while a control group on regular paper was printed with a large red R in the same location. Exactly 1,184,000 of each type were released to circulation, all Silver Certificates bearing Series 1935A designation and the Julian Morgenthau signature combination. The tests proved to be inconclusive, so no change in bank note paper resulted, but collectors were left with an interesting variety that is especially challenging in uncirculated condition, and truly rare in star note form.

Because unscrupulous persons have applied phony R and S overprints to regular Series 1935A $1 Silver Certificates in an effort to pass them off as the higher-value experimental issue, collectors should be aware of the serial number ranges of the genuine issues. Serial numbers for the genuine R notes run from S70884001C through S72068000C; while those for the S notes are S73884001C through S75068000C.

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