Paper Money

Specialized collection of MPCs draws top bids

Military payment certificates, or MPCs, do not exceed the $10,000 price point frequently, and the $70,500 that one lot sold for at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction in Anaheim on Aug. 10 puts it near the front of the list. The lot in question, a one-of-a-kind specimen book for Series 701, was proclaimed the highlight of the sale of one of the most important MPC collections ever.

The “Paymaster Collection,” put together by a government employee, was a complete collection of MPCs by series and denomination, with rare replacement notes, specimens and proofs, some of which had never before been recorded. The top lot and three others were called by Stack’s Bowers “an entirely new category of MPC,” Composite Impression books.

Series 701 was printed during the Vietnam War but was never issued and comprises the last MPCs produced. Some $1, $5, $10, and $20 denominations nonetheless found a way into the hands of collectors around the year 2000. The series included eight denominations, but the four of them denominated in cents were all destroyed. The specimens in this set are the only examples known.

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Only 10 of the sale’s 60 lots went unsold; all others went for a minimum of $1,000.

What are military payment certificates?

The U.S. military used military payment certificates or MPCs from 1946, from shortly after the end of World War II, to 1973, during the Vietnam conflict, to pay service personnel and civilian employees stationed outside of the United States. 

The MPCs were intended to be used only on a military base and not in the broader economy. In theory, by paying service personnel limited-use notes instead of the local currency or U.S. dollars, black markets would be more difficult to operate.

Periodically, the military would announce, with very little warning, that the series of notes in use would be withdrawn and replaced by a new series in an effort to render useless those MPCs that had made their way into the black market.

Such notes are avidly collected by specialists in military money.

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