In June I had the pleasure of again attending the Memphis, Tenn.,
International Paper Money Show or, as it is known to most paper money
collectors, simply “Memphis.”
The show allowed me to again meet old and new friends, enjoy
barbecue, and even find a few new notes for my collection. As I was
going through Don Fisher’s inventory of Ohio obsolete paper money I
happened across a note that at first struck me as yet another
counterfeit $5 on the State Bank of Ohio.
All the diagnostics were there — Benjamin Franklin’s portrait
looked more like that of an axe murderer, and the back contained a big
blunder. Instead of boldly displaying state bank of ohio, mine simply
said state of ohio, because the counterfeiter had miscalculated and
not left enough room for the entire text. OK, that was interesting
enough, but then I looked at the face to see which branch was the
supposed issuer of this note. To my surprise, the branch name was
neither of the two branches that are known for the city, but rather
the “Hamilton County Branch.” One small problem here: there was no
Hamilton County Branch of the State Bank of Ohio. The counterfeiter
had apparently been either too lazy or too careless to verify this
information. As a result, his efforts were easily detected by anyone
exercising even minimal care.
The counterfeiter’s credo was “it doesn’t have to be perfect, the
counterfeit needs to be good enough to pass under ideal circumstances
— poor lighting, a crowded store, an inexperienced clerk, or other
The note is pretty heavily circulated, so it must have fooled at
least a few people, but the two seemingly minor mistakes the
counterfeiter made did not make the job of passing these notes any easier.
Those of us who collect obsolete paper money enthusiastically
collect these contemporary counterfeits along with our “regular”
notes. Some are clumsy efforts that should not have fooled anyone,
while others are very deceptive. They’re all part of the complex field
of obsolete paper money. If you’re looking for something new to
collect, you might want to consider contemporary counterfeits. They’re
lots of fun and historic as well.
Wendell Wolka has been a paper money collector and educator for
more than 40 years. If you have questions or suggestions, you can
reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at
Box 1211, Greenwood, IN 46142. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope
if a written response is required.