What Is a Military Payment Certificate?

Melissa Barrett

The military payment certificate (MPC) was first produced in 1946 in response to financial difficulties caused by the introduction of large amounts of American currency into foreign economies. Basically, this program consisted of specially printed paper currency that, in theory, could only be used by military personnel. The U.S., however, underestimated the combined ingenuity of several enlisted soldiers and local entrepreneurs, and the use of MPCs in the underground economy was never successfully eliminated. Still, over the next 27 years, the program would be used with varying degrees of success in most foreign military operations.

In 1973, the United States ended the military payment certificate program.
In 1973, the United States ended the military payment certificate program.

In 1973, the United States ended the military payment certificate program. Ironically, the overinflation of the face value of the currency that once plagued the military has continued, albeit in a much more acceptable venue. Today, a thriving collectibles market exists for these pieces of history. For example, an MPC printed with a face value of 25 cents in 1948 can sell for as much as $550 US dollars (USD).

Like most collectible currencies, the value of any military payment certificate is largely reliant on printing information. The primary identification of any MPC is a three-digit number that can be found on the front of the currency and is prefaced by the word series. The first two digits of the series numbers correspond with the last two digits of the year in which it was printed. The final digit represents the number of series printed within a certain year. As such, an MPC with a series number of 472 would belong to the second series of certificates printed in 1947.

Generally, the value of a military payment certificate that contains a misprinting is exponentially increased. Due to printing processes, these errors generally occurred in certificates that held a common position on the precut sheets of currency. As the uncut sheets contained 100 bills, each position on the sheet was allotted a number between 1 and 99, and each certificate in that position in an 8,000-sheet printing was labeled with that code. These position numbers generally appeared independently as a one- or two-digit grouping on the front of an MPC.

The condition of a military payment certificate also has a huge impact on its resell value. Mint or near mint quality is generally defined as retaining the same appearance as the day of printing. Given the living conditions of the average deployed soldier and the age of the MPCs, bills in this condition are both rare and valuable. More common are certificates in good or fair condition.

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