Error Note Chronicles: Obstructed Printing Errors

Posted on 8/17/2021

Obstructions during printing lead to exciting errors.

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 Obstructed Printing Error.

It is important to remember that creating a banknote generally involves several stages of printing. Seals and serial numbers will often be added near the end with their own printing, before a sheet of notes is cut into individual pieces of currency.

With banknotes moving through so many different printing stages, it is no surprise that occasionally a stray piece of material (usually a piece of paper or tape) will come between the printing plate and uncut sheets of notes. The result is a portion of a banknote with blank area, also known as an Obstructed Printing Error. Obstructed Printing Errors are popular with collectors, with note values increasing dramatically when the item causing the obstruction is retained with (or, in other words, still “stuck on”) the error note.

1907 $5 Legal Tender graded PMG 20 Very Fine with an Obstructed Printing Error
Click images to enlarge.

No, someone is not trying to hook Andrew Jackson with a fishing line on the above note. Instead, somehow a piece of string fell on the “Woodchopper” $5 note before the second print. This left an unprinted area resembling a big hook that measures about 3.5 inches and meanders into and out of Jackson’s portrait. This note will be offered in Heritage Auction’s Currency Sale #3585 (lot 20850) from October 6 through October 8, 2021.

The next note almost made it out of the presses without a problem. But, something fell on the press during the Third Print, which prevented the printing of the lower portion of the Treasury seal and the entire left serial number, as well as the bottom of the large 1 on the right side above the words WASHINGTON, D.C. This note also will be available in Heritage Auction’s Currency Sale #3585 (lot 20853) in October.

1923 $1 Silver Certificate graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated with an Obstructed Printing Error.
Click images to enlarge.

For a truly “a-peel-ing” error, look no further than the famous “Del Monte Note,” a splendid example of the exciting Obstructed Printing Error with Retained Obstruction. When this note was printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Fort Worth facility, somehow a “Del Monte Ecuador” banana sticker found its way onto the surface before the Third Print began.

The "Del Monte Note:" a US $20 1996 Federal Reserve Note (St. Louis) graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ with an Obstructed Printing Error with Retained Obstruction.
Click images to enlarge.

The sticker's placement is ideal, as it covers part of the details of the Second Print and is overlaid by elements from the Third Print: part of the Treasury Seal and the right serial number. If you peeled off the sticker, you would see the word TWENTY in full, but part of the Treasury seal would be missing. This fascinating note realized $396,000 in a January 2021 sale.

Close-up of the front of the "Del Monte Note" showing the banana sticker retained obstruction.
Click image to enlarge

Not all Obstructed Printing Errors occur on US currency. This 20 Cordobas from Nicaragua is another example of such an error — and it also includes a retained obstruction. This noticeable Obstructed Printing Error occurred during the printing of the back of this note, and the paper scrap that obstructed the printing has been retained and included in the PMG holder along with the note. This note sold in 2017 for $89.

Nicaragua, Banco Central, 1968 20 Cordobas graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ with an Obstructed Printing Error with Retained Obstruction.
Click images to enlarge.

PMG, an independent member of the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG), has certified many exciting error notes. Collectors and dealers who have error notes can submit them to PMG for certification under the Economy Special grading tier or higher 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

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