Paper Money

Series 1988 $5 error note shows cancellation marks

Four large X marks on each side of this Series 1988 $5 Federal Reserve note were imprinted instead of the usual third printing elements.

Images courtesy of Frederick J. Bart, Executive Currency.

A bizarre, previously unseen, and thus far inexplicable new paper money error is reported by Frederick J. Bart of Executive Currency, a researcher and author of United States Paper Money Errors.

The error appears on a Friedberg 1979 Series 1988 $5 Federal Reserve note that lacks the overprinting that would have included the seals, serial numbers, and Federal Reserve District identification. It is certified by Paper Money Guaranty as Choice Uncirculated 63 and designated “cancelled plate print.” The piece is oversized in that its dimensions are slightly larger than normal.

Instead of the third printing, four large Xs appear on each side. Although not mentioned by PMG, it seems that the note comes from the end of a paper roll because, as Bart explains, “telltale signs of vertical matte markings appear along the wide edge of the roll.”

The Xs were engraved onto the face and back plates prior to any printings, evidenced by the fact that the back Xs are in green ink and those on the face are black, consistent with the dominant ink color on each side.

Although it is only conjecture and speculation, the most educated assumption one can make, barring additional input and/or correction from the BEP, is that another portion of the plate cylinder was severely damaged, causing the press operator to cancel all plates by putting the four Xs on each side before printing and the presumed destruction of the entire plate cylinder, rendering it unusable for additional printings. Bart also notes that more noticeable damage appears elsewhere on other plates, so these were attempts to signal destruction of the entire group of plates. The BEP has been asked for comments.

Bart says that if anything remotely similar exists, he has never seen it. “After nearly one-half century of studying U.S. paper money errors, I’ve become a bit jaded; yet this unique discovery piece ignites my passion.” 

Bart can be reached at

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