Error Note Chronicles: Misalignment Errors

Posted on 9/21/2021

Inexact sheet alignment leads to border disorder.

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 Misalignment Errors.

US banknotes are created in sheet form and require more than one printing. Errors can and do occur at any of the three basic stages of the printing process, listed below:

  • First Print: the back of the note.
  • Second Print: the front of the note that includes the portrait and border.
  • Overprint: certain elements of the front of the note, which can include serial numbers and seals.

Misalignment Errors, which can occur during any of the three stages, happen when a full sheet of paper money gets out of alignment during the printing process. Normal notes have an even border around the engraved picture on the front and back. Sometimes, when the sheet of bills gets out of alignment during printing, the note will have uneven borders, a truncated design or even part of the next note's design. Typically, misaligned notes will appear well-centered on one side and off-center on the other side.

Misalignment Errors on the First Print

1918 $1 Federal Reserve Bank Note (Kansas City) graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ with a First Print Misaligned notation
Click images to enlarge.

The above note displays a dramatic error on its back that might appear at first glance to be a cutting error. However, the front of the note is well-centered. This indicates that the note was somehow misaligned during its first print, which resulted in an error note.

This note is currently for sale as part of a pair of error notes (lot 20855) in Heritage Auctions’ September 29 to October 4 Currency Auction #3585. It is listed along with a 1918 $1 Federal Reserve Bank Note (Dallas) graded PMG 30 Very Fine with an Offset Printing Error notation. The estimate for the pair is $1,500 and up.

Misalignment Errors on the Second Print

1981 $20 Federal Reserve Note (New York) graded PMG 58 Choice About Uncirculated with a Second Print Misaligned notation. Realized $94 in a December 2020 sale.
Click images to enlarge.

The above note demonstrates a misalignment during the second printing. Notice that the Third Print that includes the serial numbers and seals appears to be too low on the front. Both serial numbers are incorrectly touching elements beneath them and the green seal is not horizontally aligned with the word TWENTY. In this case, the Third Print is actually in the correct place, but the Second Print is too high, which can be seen at the top of the note, where some of the design was truncated, and the bottom, where the next note’s design begins.

Misaligned Overprints

2006 $1 Federal Reserve Note (Atlanta) graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ with a Misalignment Error on the overprint.
Realized $104 in an April 2021 sale.
Click images to enlarge.

This note shows a Misaligned Overprint Error. At first glance, the note appears to be normal, with the engravings on both sides appearing centered. Looking more closely, however, the serial numbers and seal on the front of the note appear to be horizontally shifted. The green seal sits far to the left on the word “ONE,” and the 6s run into the borders and Henry Paulson’s signature.

A world issue

China, Federal Reserve Bank of China 1938 1 Fen graded PMG 55 About Uncirculated with a Misalignment Error notation.
Click images to enlarge.

Misalignment errors occur on currency throughout the world and are relatively common. The above China 1 Fen note shows a Misalignment error on the back of the note. This particular note is currently for sale in an auction presented by Stack’s Bowers taking place October 2, 2021 with bidding already over $150.

Currently in auction

Several other PMG-certified Misalignment Error notes are being offered for sale in Heritage Auctions’ September 29 to October 4 Currency Auction #3585, including:

  • an 1862 $10 Legal Tender graded PMG 20 Very Fine with notations of Minor Misalignment on Back and As Made Gutter Folds (lot 20851) with an estimate of $3,000 and up
  • an 1880 $2 Legal Tender graded PMG 62 Uncirculated with a Minor Misalignment on Back notation (lot 20847) with an estimate of $1,500 and up

About PMG

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 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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