Paper Money

Readers Ask: HAWAII overprint, brown seals

A friend has a $1 silver certificate with the word HAWAII printed twice on the face and once across the back.

Is this something special?

J. Volland

via email

Your friend has a Series 1935A $1 silver certificate.

This is an emergency note issued by the United States during World War II. It looks exactly like any other $1 silver certificate except for two things.

One, it has the word HAWAII overprinted twice on the face and once across the back of the note.

Two, it has a brown U.S. Treasury seal and serial numbers (regular issue silver certificates had blue seals and serial numbers).

After the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Treasury Department officials decided that if enemy armed forces successfully occupied the Hawaiian Islands, any paper currency in circulation needed to be distinctly identified.

If that happened, the U.S. government could revoke the legal tender status of those notes. The notes would become useless as currency, preventing the Japanese, German or Italian armed forces from using captured notes in any financial warfare.

The overprinted notes were released into circulation in July 1942, and only these notes were acceptable in the islands after Aug. 15, 1942.

At first, regulations prohibited the notes from circulating outside Hawaii, but all restrictions on using the currency outside the islands were lifted in 1944. The notes often turned up in circulation on the mainland after the war and were distinctive enough for many people to pull them out of circulation as keepsakes.

These notes are highly collectible. Your friend’s note appears to be in Fine to Very Fine condition, worth $45 to $50, according to Coin World’s Paper Money Values.

Ultimately the value (above face value) of any collectible coin or note is what a buyer and seller can agree upon.

The $1 silver certificates with the HAWAII overprints were not the only emergency issues produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Series 1934 and 1934A $5 Federal Reserve notes, Series 1934A $10 Federal Reserve notes and Series 1934 and 1934A $20 Federal Reserve notes also had the overprints.

In addition, the BEP printed $1, $5 and $10 silver certificates with gold Treasury seals. These notes were issued to U.S. forces serving in Europe and North Africa.

Like the HAWAII-overprinted notes, these notes could be identified and declared worthless if they fell into the hands of an enemy.

Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from Coin World. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to or call 800-673-8311, Ext. 172.

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