Paper Money

Paper money has its own ‘struck-through’ errors

Paper money has its equivalent of the struck-through error type found on coinage — when foreign matter intervenes during a printing stage keeps some of the print from reaching the note. The obstructing material can also partially or fully obscure a further portion of the note.

The Series 1995 $5 Federal Reserve note highlighted here was neither produced recently nor was it sold recently, but neither of those facts obscure the attractiveness of the error.

Indian Head cent continues to resonate with collectorsLast minted in 1909, Indian Head cent still a collector favorite: Our first monthly issue of the summer is rich with Indian Head cent insights, along with 'State quarters' for world coin collectors — a fascinating contrast.


The error $5 note was offered at auction by Heritage in 2006. The lot description describes the note: 

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“A great error with the third printing being applied over a piece of taped kraft paper, with the tape holding the kraft paper in place stretching around to the back of the note. These dramatic errors have proved extremely popular, with auction records reaching very close to the five figure mark.”

The cataloger was accurate in the assessment of the note’s potential. The note, graded About Uncirculated by the auction house (third-party grading of notes was not universally practiced as it is now), realized $4,312.50.

Series 1995 notes of all denominations were printed in three steps, the first on 32-subject sheets and the final step occurring after the sheet was cut into two vertical half sheets of 16 notes each. The back of the sheet from which this note originated was printed first, with the ink permitted to cure for 24 hours or so, and then the face side was printed and also allowed to cure. Finally, the sheet was cut into the two half sheets and fed into the overprinting press, which would apply the green serial numbers and Treasury Department seal, and the black Federal Reserve seal and four district numbers.

At some point between the printing of the face and the application of the overprint, a strip of tape and kraft paper became attached to the half sheet, partially obscuring a portion of the face to the left. The result: the application of the upper left Federal Reserve District number (12, for San Francisco) and seal, plus the upper portion of the left serial number, were overprinted on the tape and kraft paper instead of the note itself.

The small FW facility mark to the lower right of the face indicates this note was printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s plant in Fort Worth, Texas. However, the error could just as easily happen at the BEP facility in Washington, D.C. No matter the note’s origin, it is an interesting example of a fascinating type of error.

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