Collecting U.S. Military Payment Certificates (MPC)
Collecting U.S. Military Payment Certificates (MPC) home page
Until 1946, U.S. military personnel stationed abroad were paid in the currency of the country where they were stationed and could convert that local currency into U.S. dollars as needed. But this process facilitated black market activity. Also, if local currencies depreciated, this would erode the value of their pay. To address these problems, a system of Military Payment Certificates was developed in 1946 and used continuously until 1973 in at least 22 countries. MPCs were denominated in dollars, and usable only in military facilities. Military personnel were paid in MPCs and prohibited from holding U.S. currency. If they needed to buy something in the local civilian communities, they could exchange their MPC for local currency, but could not convert local currency back into MPCs or U.S. dollars. Periodically, to stifle black market activity, a new series of MPC was issued to replace the series currently in use. On these unannounced conversion days, personnel would be restricted to their compounds and only authorized users of MPC could convert their MPC to the new series. After conversion day, the old series of MPC was worthless. As a result, the supply of MPC available for collectors primarily came from military personnel that failed to convert some of their MPC, or from black marketers who were unable to convert any MPC they happened to be holding on conversion days. Because MPC were not issued as formal obligations of the United States Treasury, they can no longer be redeemed for currency.
MPC Series/Denomination Types
Between 1946 and 1973, Military Payment Certificates were issued in 13 Series with denominations from 5 cents to $20. In addition, there were two more Series (691 and 701) that were printed but never issued.
|461||Sep 16, 1946||Mar 10, 1947||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|471||Mar 10, 1947||Mar 22, 1948||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|472||Mar 22, 1948||Jun 20, 1951||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|481||Jun 20, 1951||May 25, 1954||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|521||May 25, 1954||May 27, 1958||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|541||May 27, 1958||May 26, 1961||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|591||May 26, 1961||Jan 6, 1964||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|611||Jan 6, 1964||Apr 28, 1969||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|641||Aug 31, 1965||Oct 21, 1968||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|651||Apr 28, 1969||Nov 19, 1973||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10|
|661||Oct 21, 1968||Aug 11, 1969||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10,$20|
|681||Aug 11, 1969||Oct 7, 1970||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10,$20|
|692||Oct 7, 1970||5c,10c,25c,50c,$1,$5,$10,$20|
|692||Jun 1, 1971||(Fractionals withdrawn)|
|692||Mar 15, 1973||(Dollars withdrawn)|
When printing MPCs, a short run of replacement MPCs was made prior to the production run. These replacement MPCs were then available during the production run to replace notes that were spoiled. Since the replacement MPCs were numbered independently from the production run, they did not match the serial number of the notes they replaced. Replacement MPCs were not designated with a star * like Large & Small Size U.S. Type Notes were. For MPCs, if the serial number does not end with a letter then it is a replacement MPC. All replacement MPCs are relatively rare, and many replacement MPCs are very rare.
Other MPC Topics
- This 2016 Paper Money article by Carlson R. Chambliss provides a detailed overview of the relative rarity of the various MPC Series.
- This 2016 Paper Money article by Benny Bolin discusses collecting fractional MPCs, specifically the 5-cent denomination, with details on each of the 5-cent issues.
- M*A*S*H episode: A Korean War MPC conversion day is a key plot element of "Change Day", an episode from the sixth season of the television series M*A*S*H. Major Charles Emerson Winchester III schemes to purchase soon-to-be-worthless MPC from local farmers and merchants for cash at 10% of face value, then trade it in and pocket a 900% profit. His plan is foiled when Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicutt arrange for the military police to set up a roadblock that delays him from reaching camp in time for the exchange.
Ways to Collect MPCs
Between 1946 and 1973, Military Payment Certificates were issued in 13 Series with denominations from 5 cents to $20.
- A basic collection of each Series/Denomination Type of MPC issued would consist of 90 notes (not including the Series 651 Fractional issues).
- Collectible subsets of this basic collection could include all notes of a specific denomination, or all fractional denominations, etc.
- Much scarcer Replacement MPCs (used to replace notes spoiled during the printing process) can also be collected.
- In addition to the 13 issued Series, there were two more Series (691 and 701) that were printed but never issued. A few examples from these two Series have come on the market, but they are very rare.
SPMC Paper Money Articles Index (MPC)
- This Index page has links to all articles on U.S. Military Payment Certificates that have appeared in the Paper Money Journal since the first issue in 1962.
- This link will download the entire Sep/Oct 2016 Paper Money Journal Special Issue dedicated to U.S. MPC.
Standard References on U.S. Military Payment Certificates
- The Comprehensive Catalog of Military Payment Certificates (4th Edition) by Fred Schwan (2002)
- A Concise Catalog of U.S. Military Payment Certificates by Carlson R. Chambliss (Speckles Press 2012)
- An active forum for all paper money collectors and all paper money collecting topics.
- This is a link to the Heritage Currency Auction Archives for MPCs.
- The SPMC Paper Money Journal is published bi-monthly and covers all facets of collecting paper money. Online and print options available for membership. SPMC.org