Counterfeit Detection: Altered Military Payment Certificate

Posted on 4/20/2021

Someone obliterated a letter on this piece of paper money to try to make it look more valuable.

Sometimes, just a simple letter or number can mean the difference between a great paper money rarity and something that is much more commonplace. Such is the case with this Military Payment Certificate that was recently submitted to PMG.

Altered Series 661 50 Cents Military Payment Certificate
Click image to enlarge

A fascinating area of paper money collecting, Military Payment Certificates were used to pay American servicemen serving abroad from 1946 to 1973, which covered the period immediately after World War II, the Korean War and most of the Vietnam War. They were designed to keep coveted US dollars from flooding to wherever the soldiers were stationed, thus undermining the local currency. At an unannounced time, new certificates were issued and the old ones were voided, thus discouraging their use as currency by the local population.

The Military Payment Certificate that was submitted to PMG is a Series 661 50 Cents, which means it was used in Vietnam in the late 1960s. PMG has graded more than 120 examples of Series 661 50 Cents, more than any other 50 Cent Military Payment Certificates. Gem Uncirculated examples can be acquired for less than $100.

However, an initial glance at the serial number (B07272451) suggests this is a Replacement Note, because it lacks the expected B suffix after the numbers. Replacement Notes for this issue are much rarer and are worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Close-up of serial number in normal light.
Click image to enlarge

But something isn’t right here. The Replacement Notes for Series 661 50 Cent Military Payment Certificates are not supposed to have serial numbers higher than B00672000. Let’s take a closer look at that serial number under the special lighting that the PMG Grading Team has available.

Close-ups of serial number under special light.
Click image to enlarge

Under the special light, the area where the suffix would be on a regular issue shows obvious signs of manipulation, to the extent that the outline of the letter ‘B’ can be seen. Under high magnification, the underprint is clearly disturbed and there are even traces of the ink left behind.

Close-up of the underprint where the "B" was removed
Click image to enlarge

If you are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a paper money rarity, it is important to know that it is authentic and accurately graded. Any banknote certified by PMG is backed by our PMG Guarantee of grade and authenticity.

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