Error Note Chronicles: Printed Tear Error

Posted on 11/21/2023

Sometimes, things really go awry in the printing process and the result is a rare error like this.

Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®) is the world’s leading authority on banknote errors, a popular segment of numismatics. In Error Note Chronicles, we take an in-depth look at different errors. This month’s topic is the Printed Tear Error.

The United States prints billions of bills every year using durable paper designed to stand up to the rigors of circulation. Nevertheless, during the printing process, the strength of the equipment used to print currency occasionally causes tearing in some of the massive amounts of paper used.

PMG can determine that a tear is a Printed Tear Error associated with the production process when ink ends up on the wrong side of the paper money. Take a look at this 1981 $5 Federal Reserve Note (Cleveland). The First Print (with the design of the back of the note) and the Second Print (with most of the design of the front of the note) appear to have happened normally here. However, the paper folded over at the end of a tear, and a portion of the Third Print (with the serial number and district number) ended up on the back of the note.

Click images to enlarge.

Here is another example of a Printed Tear Error that happened in a similar fashion. In this case, most of the Federal Reserve District seal ended up on the back on the note, in contrast to the previous note, where it is simply missing altogether. Collectors do value these errors, and this particular note realized $900 at a Heritage Auctions sale in January 2018.

Click images to enlarge.

The Printed Tear Error can also occur on world currency. In this case, a V-shaped tear developed on the right side of front of this China 1990 1 Yuan note and folded upward. The area of the front of the note above the hole (as it is encapsulated in the PMG holder) has design elements printed on it that were intended for both the front and the back of the note. However, this area is missing the pattern that is evident all around the edge of the front of the note; the ink associated with that part of the design must have been applied before the fold occurred.

Click images to enlarge.

PMG, an independent member of the Certified Collectibles Group® (CCG®), has certified many exciting error notes, including the famous “Del Monte” error note that realized $396,000 in a January 2021 sale.

Collectors and dealers with error notes can submit them to PMG for certification under an applicable grading tier with “error” or the specific error noted under the Variety/Pedigree column on the submission form. There is no additional fee for this service.

For more information about submitting to PMG, visit

Other Error Note Chronicles columns:

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