By Fred Schwan
The best exhibit of Military Payment Certificates at the American Numismatic Associations’ World’s Fair of Money this August will not be on the exhibit floor. It will be in the Stack’s Bowers auction viewing room. Indeed, it will be the greatest public exhibit of MPC ever. Those are strong words, but I can back them up.
The company is selling what it is calling the “Paymaster Collection” of MPCs.
Here are the highlights with details below:
• The only complete set of MPC ever sold or for that matter ever seen;
• A wide array of specimen notes, sets, and books (in several different formats);
• Amazing replacement certificates, including first reports and outstanding condition;
• A book with the cumbersome title Progressive Impressions, Composite Impressions and Specimens. This is only the third such book reported in private hands and each of the three is from a different series making each unique;
• Only a few certificates in regular issue format, but even they include important and rare pieces.
The seller is the heir of a former government (military or civilian?) employee who obviously had an interest in MPCs. The person obviously was in a position to obtain spectacular, rare, and interesting MPC. It is not at all certain that the person was a paymaster, but the term gives the desired impression.
The first part of the overall collection is a complete set of MPC by series and denomination—15 series with seven or eight denominations each. Let me jump right to the headline. The Series 701 notes are all specimens and the fractional denominations are included. This is the first time that most collectors can see such pieces and the first time that any collector can at least try to buy a set.
The Series 701 set is the last series of the collection. All of the other series are interesting, too. Most of the early series (461-472, 541) are all uncirculated replacements. Tudor press printed these series. This company printed Allied military currency just a few years before printing MPC. The company created specimen certificates by perforating replacements with SPECIMEN. Therefore, these replacements were likely intended to be and were treated as specimens, but how should collectors consider them? I do not think that there is a real answer to that question.
Series 481 and 521 were not considered above. They are a combination of regular issues, replacements and one specimen, and they are all important. The most spectacular is the Series 481 $5 with a serial number that exceeds the official number printed for the issue. Exactly one certificate like this is currently known in collections. It belongs to Dick Freyser, who discovered it about 15 years ago. It has been a mystery waiting a solution. The example in the Paymaster Collection does not provide an answer, but it is intriguing.
All of the later series (591-701) consist of specimen certificates. Of those the Series 651 has not been previously reported. Even the others that have been reported in similar form mostly differ in subtle but important ways. All are spectacular.
The Paymaster Collection has three different kinds of bound books of MPCs. First there is the sort of routine specimen book with one specimen of each denomination bound into a book. There is only one such book in the collection. It is from Series 692. How boring—there is one such book in collections.
Next there is a spectacular Progressive Impressions, Composite Impressions, and Specimens (PCS) book for Series 701. There are two other such books in collections. They are all of the same format consisting of sheets of four of each denomination and each stage of each denomination. Each denomination has nine pages of four notes.
Now for the really big news. This Series 701 PCS book includes the fractional denominations. When the single specimen set of this series above is sold it is the first opportunity for collectors to obtain examples. In the same sale we have the second opportunity.
I have saved the following for last (next to last) because it is the most surprising thing of all. It is a whole new category of MPC item. Included in the collection are four bound books called Composite Impressions. These books (Series 461-481) are similar to PCS books above in that they are sheets of four notes, but unlike the PCS book these books have only one sheet per denomination (regular issues for the Series 481 and replacements for the others). Such books have never been reported in private sales and I have never seen even one in government hands when visiting all of the archives and museums that I know of.
The collection is rounded out by some loose specimens and partial printings (proofs?). Before now these items would have been features in any auction. Now they relegated to rounding out the sale.
I hope to write several articles over the coming months delving into the various issues.
In my opinion, this is not only an historic night for MPC collecting but also for the greater paper money community. I am sure that many price records will fall and I hope for a packed room to witness the event.