MPCs: Military Payment Certificates

From 1946 to 1973, American soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines, received their wages in Military Payment Certificates. MPCs were the special issue of the Department of Defense (called the War Department until 1949), not the U.S. Treasury. 

The purpose of the MPCs was to limit black market transactions in American dollars in occupied lands. MPCs could only be used by US military, most often only on US bases at the official retail outlets at base exchanges (BX) or post exchanges (PX). US  service personnel could exchange their MPCs for local currency if they were going off base for recreation. But, they could not exchange local money for MPCs coming back. Also, the old series were often retired and therefore unusable when a new series is issued. An MPC shows the year of issue and the rotation.  481 means issue 1 in year 1948. 

For an easy narrative on what this was like, see the M*A*S*H* season 6 episide 8, "Change Day" about Maj. Winchester's attempt to profit from black marketeering in MPCs. 

Most of the MPCs you find at local stores and local shows are very low grade. Often you find them with staple holes because the low-denomination notes were collected into tacks to be exchanged for new notes or local currency. All notes are far more expensive than coins of the same year in the same condition, just relatively speaking. 

The most valuable MPCs are replacement notes. Federal Reserve replacement notes have a Star * after the serial number.  With MPCs, the serial number usally begins and ends with a Letter. A replacement note does not end with a Letter. 

Third party graders certify and seal MPCs like other paper money, and such "slabs" usually bring higher prices than "raw" notes of the same series and grade.

1 year ago

I have a growing interest in these. It helps that my local club has a couple avid collectors. What are the best reference books on these?

1 year ago

World War II Remembered: History in Your Hands—A Numismatic Study by C. Frederick Schwann and Joseph E. Boling (BNR Press, 1995, 842 pages).


You can find Japanese Invasion Notes, Allied Occupation Currency, and Military Payment Certificates at almost any coin store or local show. In addition to those well-known currencies, there are prisoner moneys, emergency issues, war bonds, ration coupons, and other kinds of occupation currencies from the Allies, Axis, and neutrals. This definitive work catalogs them all. While prices have changed in the past twenty years, relative pricing has not: rarities are still hard to find; common items are ubiquitous. What has changed is third party grading. Now, you can find these in certified holders.


The real value here is the extensive narrative history, explaining the details of these numismatic artifacts of the global war of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The cover is explained in the story of the French occupation currency. The box is stenciled “Operation Tom Cat.” By closely inspecting the original photograph, the authors found that both British and French currencies were being distributed to troops ahead of the invasion of Normandy.

1 year ago
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