Editor's note: The following is the first of a four-part Coin
World series about propaganda notes prepared by Michele Orzano for
the July 2014 monthly edition of Coin World.
Other posts in the series include:
Something as simple as scribbling a political or social slogan on a
piece of cash places the note into the broad category of propaganda
notes. That broad category includes everything from deliberate
messages to undermine a nation during wartime to using a
note-look-alike design to catch the eye of a potential customer when
advertising a business or service.
Genuine and facsimile U.S. and world notes have been widely used to
spread propaganda for decades.
Collecting these items makes for a fun jaunt off the traditional
Wartime propaganda notes send messages to enemies
German troops invaded France on May 10, 1940. It would be more
than four long years before France was liberated after Allied troops
landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. During the interim,
France had a very active underground resistance movement. The
resistance used guerilla warfare, provided military intelligence to
the Allies and helped Allied personnel escape from behind enemy lines.
Whether whoever altered the illustrated 20-franc note of 1943 was
a member of the French resistance or not, the alteration served to
send a very clear message to German dictator Adolph Hitler.
The genuine French 200-franc notes depict a French fisherman
securing a heavy rope with a knot.
An alteration was accomplished by someone making slits, as a first
step, above and below the knot on the rope in the genuine note. A
portrait of Hitler was cut from a German postage stamp and pasted into
the slits, so as to have it appear the fisherman is strangling Hitler
with the rope. The note illustrating this story was sold in a Heritage
auction in 2011 for $30.
Italy entered World War II in June 1940. A propaganda campaign
using look-alike U.S. paper money soon followed.
One well-known style of propaganda leaflet distributed by Italian
armed forces was made to look like a U.S. Series 1935 $1 silver
certificate. The back of the “note” appears to have a handwritten
phrase in Italian. When translated it says, “The Americans have always
made empty promises, breaking them like soap bubbles,” according to
World War II Remembered: History in Your Hands – A Numismatic
Study by C. Frederick Schwan and Joseph E. Boling.
These pieces were lithographed on thin paper and were said to be
produced in Verona, Italy, and distributed in several provinces of
northern Italy, according to World War II Remembered. Various
other denominations and note types were used to spread messages in
Arabic and German.
The note depicted in this story sold in 2013 in a Heritage
Auctions sale for $43.
A propaganda note that looks a lot like a 1973 200-kip note from
Laos has a curious history.
Pathet Lao, a communist political movement active during the
Vietnam War, issued notes after its leaders relieved the Royal Lao
government of power.
The designs for the face of the Pathet Lao’s notes showed
vignettes of soldiers and the transporting of war materials. The back
design featured a view of a textile factory and the That Luang Temple.
Shortly after the original notes were produced, counterfeits
started appearing in circulation with a portrait of Ho Chi Minh
substituted for the temple vignette on the back.
U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Herbert A. Friedman, an expert on
psychological warfare, indicates the fakes were produced by the Royal
Lao government supporters, in an effort to persuade the general
population that the Pathet Lao group was fighting for Vietnam and not
to better the situation of the Lao people.
According to information on Friedman’s website,
, it is possible that the
Royal Lao government teamed up with the Central Intelligence Agency to
destabilize the communist government in Lao.