A Dirty Little Secret

The United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain after the Spanish-American War. Coinage and paper money for the Philippines were made by the United States until independence in 1946.

After the Japanese invasion in 1941, the gold and silver in the Philippine treasury was secreted out of the country on board the submarine USS Trout. Guerrilla forces loyal to the United States administration harassed the Japanese occupiers. Feeding and equipping the guerrilla armies cost money.

USSNarwhalSS167.jpg
USS Narwahl, one of the submarines that supplied
the guerrilla armies in the Philippines.

Arms, equipment, food and other provisions were brought to the Philippines by submarine during the war. These supply missions also brought with them money. Two different types of money were brought in — counterfeit Japanese military pesos and pre-war Commonwealth of the Philippines notes. The counterfeit Japanese notes will be discussed in a subsequent post.

The War Department asked the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to print additional pre-war Philippine paper money. The last series of paper money issued in the Philippines had been put into circulation in 1941. The BEP printed a short run of these notes for the War Department in denominations of 1, 5 and 10 pesos.

The War Department believed that the Japanese would be suspicious of anyone who was found in possession of brand new currency notes so the first group of notes ordered by the War Department was artificially aged by the Bureau of Standards. The notes were tumbled in metal drums containing dirt, coffee grounds and other contaminants to soil the notes.

The printing and artificial aging of the notes was a clandestine operation. The existence of this special series of notes was uncovered by author and researcher Neil Shafer in the 1960s when he stumbled upon correspondence and records relating to their printing in the National Archives. Included in this documentation were the serial numbers of the notes that were artificially aged. The serial numbers for each denomination are as follows:

1 pesoE6008001E – E6056000E
E6064001E – E6072000E
E6080001E – E6324000E
5 pesosE1208001E – E1328000E
10 pesosE810001E – E870000E

As you can see, the number of notes printed was small — 300,000 1 peso notes, 20,000 5 peso notes and 60,000 10 peso notes. All denominations are scarce with the 10 peso being rare. The artificial aging can fool dealers and collectors alike who may pass on the notes because of their low grade.

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