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Hawaii overprint note

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Hawaii Overprint Note, Hawaii Notes, Emergency Circulating Note
(United States)
Value$1, $5, $10, $20
Years of printing1942 – 1944
Nature of rarityEmergency Issue
Estimated valueUS$2 - $1,300

A Hawaii overprint note is one of a series of banknotes (one silver certificate and three Federal Reserve Notes) issued during World War II as an emergency issue after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The intent of the overprints was to easily distinguish United States dollars captured by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces in the event of an invasion of Hawaii and render the notes worthless. Although a sizeable number of the notes were recalled and destroyed after the end of World War II, many escaped destruction and exist as collectibles of numismatic interest in the present day.


After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the Empire of Japan, U.S. military officials surmised that in the event of an invasion of Hawaii, the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces would have access to a considerable amount of United States dollars which could be seized from financial institutions or private individuals. Faced with this scenario, on January 10, 1942, Military Governor Delos Carleton Emmons issued an order to recall all dollars in circulation in Hawaii, save for set caps on how much money both individuals ($200) and businesses ($500; save extra currency for payroll purposes) could possess at any time.[1][2][3][4]

On June 25, 1942, new overprinted notes were first issued. Series 1935A $1 silver certificate, Series 1934 $5 and $20 Federal Reserve Notes, and Series 1934A $5, $10, and $20 Federal Reserve Notes from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco were issued with brown treasury seals and serial numbers. Overprints of the word HAWAII were made; two small overprints to the sides of the obverse of the note between the border and both the treasury seal and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco seal, and large outlined HAWAII lettering dominating the reverse. The purpose was that should there have been an Imperial Japanese invasion of the islands, the US government could immediately declare any Hawaii-printed notes worthless, due to their easy identification.[1][3][5] With this issue, military officials prohibited the use of non-overprinted notes and ordered all Hawaii residents to turn in regular notes for Hawaii-overprinted notes by July 15, 1942.[4][5] Beginning on August 15, 1942, no other paper U.S. currency could be used except under special permission.[1]

HAWAII Overprint Notes
Image Value Dimensions Main Color Description Date of Catalog #
Obverse/Reverse Obverse Reverse Watermark printing issue withdrawal
$1 silver certificate 6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm) Green; Black George Washington Great Seal of the United States None June 25, 1942 April, 1946 Friedberg F-2300
Friedberg F-2300*[6]
$5 Federal Reserve Note 6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm) Green; Black Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Memorial None June 25, 1942 April, 1946 Friedberg F-2301
Friedberg F-2301*
Friedberg F-2302
Friedberg F-2302*[7]
$10 Federal Reserve Note 6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm) Green; Black Alexander Hamilton US Treasury Building None June 25, 1942 April, 1946 Friedberg F-2303
Friedberg F-2303*[8]
$20 Federal Reserve Note 6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm) Green; Black Andrew Jackson White House None June 25, 1942 April, 1946 Friedberg F-2304
Friedberg F-2304*
Friedberg F-2305
Friedberg F-2305*[9]


The notes and issuance continued in use until October 21, 1944;[1][3][4][5] by April 1946, notes were being recalled, but many were not destroyed and are still legal tender at their face value, though their numismatic value is considerably higher.[4] Many notes were saved as curios and souvenirs by servicemen.

Destruction of recalled notes[edit]

Faced with a $200 million stockpile of US currency, military officials opted to destroy all the recalled regular currency instead of overcoming the logistical problems of shipping the notes back to the mainland.[3][4][5] At first, a local crematorium[a] was pressed into service to burn the notes. To ensure complete destruction, a fine mesh was placed on the top of the chimneys to catch and recirculate unburnt scraps of currency escaping the fire.[3]

Destruction of the notes was slow, and pressed with time, the bigger furnaces of the Aiea sugar mill were requisitioned to help burn the currency.[3][4][5]

As a collectible[edit]

Of the series, the $5 note is considered the most desirable, as a little over 9 million examples were printed. Over 35 million $1 notes were made, making them the most common of the series. Star notes exist for all the notes, and command a sizable premium.

Denomination Quantity printed Star note quantity printed References
$1 35,052,000 204,000 [6]
$5 9,416,000 ? [7]
$10 10,424,000 ? [8]
$20 11,246,000 54,500 [9]




  1. ^ a b c d Friedberg, pg. 20
  2. ^ Budnick, p. 93
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Simpson Inside Cover
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Krauss, Bob (2005-07-27). "Wartime currency not so rare". Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on 2014-07-12. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
  5. ^ a b c d e Budnick, p. 97
  6. ^ a b Friedberg pg 44-45
  7. ^ a b Friedberg pg 108
  8. ^ a b Friedberg pg 160
  9. ^ a b Friedberg pg 208-209

Cited literature[edit]

  • Budnick, Rich (2005). Hawaii's Forgotten History: the good...the bad...the embarrassing. Aloha Press. ISBN 0-944081-04-5.
  • Friedberg, Arthur L. & Ira S. (2008) The Official Red Book. A Guide Book Of United States Paper Money: Complete Source for History, Grading, and Prices (Second Edition) Whitman Publishing ISBN 0-7948-2362-9
  • Simpson, MacKinnon (2008). Hawaii Homefront: Life in the Islands during World War II. Bess Press. ISBN 978-1-57306-281-7.