Fresh Off The Frontline: Part I
Posted on 12/15/2016
The ever-changing landscape of World War II provided a difficult task of funding a nation’s war effort. World War I had shown what the lack of having control of a currency could do to a country. Hyper inflation or hoarding of money caused many nations' economies to collapse. The powers at war developed new currency to try to fight these problems and address new ones with an ever-changing frontline.
America was caught off guard by the attack on Pearl Harbor. America was worried about a Japanese invasion and knowing what Japan was capable of, they acted accordingly. The United States recalled all US standard notes on the islands and issued Emergency Issue Hawaii Notes. These notes looked very similar (design wise) to the current issued notes, but had surcharged “Hawaii” on the fronts and backs of the notes. These notes were Silver Certificates with Julian and Morgenthau signatures and brown seals instead of the normal blue. Not having the blue seal and surcharge made the notes very easy to distinguish from the standard issue. If Japan did invade Hawaii they could then deem all the surcharged Hawaii notes null. Japan would then be unable to use these captured dollars for their war fund.
As America advanced into North Africa for Operation Torch, it needed to be able to pay its troops. America designed a special currency to have cash on hand for its soldiers but also have the option to declare that money worthless in case of a mass capture. If a mass capture did occur, the Axis could use the captured money to help fuel their cause. The notes they developed to try and prevent this used Silver Certificates but with a lemon yellow seal instead of the normal blue one. These new yellow seal notes were given to American soldiers advancing into Africa and then later in Europe as the Allies advanced towards Germany.
The Island of Malta, between Europe and Africa, made for a strategic base of operation for both sides. The island, being over one hundred miles offshore, had most of its rations delivered by plane or boat. During World War II, supplies were scarce and hard to deliver so far offshore. The island's economy started to falter and supplies became more limited due to the pressure of Germany trying to take this keystone island. To answer this crisis, Malta began taking what notes it had on hand and surcharging them. This made for a very unique and crude note, showing just how much of an emergency it was to issue these notes.
Currency like this reminds us of our past, the challenges nations faced and the ingenuity they used in such trying times. An extensive amount of variety exists among emergency issued money, allowing for a substantial and unique collection to be sought after among collectors.
- Grove, Eric. (2011, February 17). The Siege of Malta in World War Two. Retrieved December 5, 2016, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/siege_malta_01.shtml
- Schwan, Fred & Boling, Joseph E. (1995). World War II Remembered: History in Your Hands, a Numismatic Study First Edition. BNR Press.