Mr_Norris_LKNS's Blog

01 Jul 2020

WW2 Numismatics "Top Ten"

Collecting Tips | Mr_Norris_LKNS

Noted numismatic author and specialist Mr. Fred Schwan has frequently listed his favorite Second World War collectible as the common Allied Military Currency (AMC) 2 Franc note. To him, this note represents "history in your hands", as so many of these went with Allied troops on D-Day, to allow a medium of exchange for commerce. These notes are fairly common and can be obtained in excellent condition for very reasonable prices, so it is not their rarity that makes them valuable; it is their connection to a tremendous event in history.

I met Fred at the D-Day historic reenactment held each summer in Conneaut, Ohio. My son and I were vendors, and my booth was called "Wartime Coins and Currency". I have had a longstanding interest in Second World War history, as my parents were of the Depression-era generation and the war, its effects, and after-effects touched their lives in many ways. After my son was born, my numismatic interests from my younger days resurfaced; so naturally the topic of wartime numismatics became the nexus of my two hobbies. Fred came to the event, saw my booth, smiled, walked up, and asked, "Pardon me, but do you happen to have a copy of the book 'World War Two Remembered, History In Your Hands: A Numismatic Study'?" "As a matter of fact, I do!" I replied, as I reached under the tablecloth and pulled out the massive reference book I had been using to guide my own understanding and educate others. Fred might have had a spare copy of this book in his back pocket that he was hoping to sell, but I think he was glad to learn that he'd already sold one to me! "Ah, very good! That's me, right there," he said as he pointed to one of the authors' names. What a moment for me personally! I had questions that needed answers, and here I was meeting an expert in my favorite numismatic topic!

In the time since, I have learned from Fred that there is always something new to learn in your favorite hobby. New varieties come up, forgotten sources of information are rediscovered that change previously foregone conclusions, and tangentially-related topics lead one down yet another rabbit-hole of collecting that adds to one's understanding and enjoyment of the topic as a whole. But I've also learned that it's okay to make something other than the rarest, choicest item your favorite numismatic piece. And if your favorite thing can be had for a couple of bucks, you can have a lot more successful (and affordable) hunting than if your favorite thing was ultra-rare (and ultra-pricey).

When I first started collecting wartime numismatics, I found many items that seemed obviously connected to the topic: US steel cents, Japanese Invasion Money, Vichy-issued French coins, and German currency with all the markings of the Third Reich. I knew about Hawaii and "North Africa" notes, which were at first too pricey for me, but I was occasionally able to acquire a few. I discovered that all those war-era world notes with tape on either end were probably at one time part of a "short snorter"... then I found that there were two kinds of "short snorters", the other being the autographed kind. Then I started learning about the several types of Reich-controlled paper money, for their homeland proper, for occupied territories, and for military use. When I learned that the zinc-coated steel 1944 2 Franc coins used for Belgium's liberation were made from leftover 1943 US steel cent planchets, I was surprised I hadn't put that together sooner!

I still love WW2 numismatics. I love it when I can share this world with someone new, who may have previously only thought of the steel cents when considering it.

There are many "Top Ten" or "Top 100" lists in numismatics. I'd like to see your thoughts on a "Top Ten WW2 Numismatic Items". Here are some common items to start you thinking:

1943 US steel cent

Hawaii overprint emergency notes

North Africa emergency notes

Allied Military Currency (francs, lire, etc.)

1940's Canada "V for Victory" 5 cent piece

US War NickelsJapanese Invasion Money

German Occupied Territories currency

Philippines Emergency Currency ("guerilla money")

Philippines Victory notes

Belgian 2 Franc "liberation" coin

POW money

Concentration Camp money

UK wartime issue banknotes

Vichy French coins

Italian fascist coins/currency

German canteen, transfer military currency

War bonds

Ration tokens, booklets, and stamps

In my top ten list, the steel cent and the AMC 2 franc note would probably have to be in the top 2 or 3. Everyone from experienced collectors to non-collecting novices seems to be at least aware of the steel cent; and when a novice brings such a "rarity" to a coin shop expecting to trade it for much gold, hopefully (in spite of their disappointment) they leave with at least the riches of an educational moment. Because of their uniqueness within a known broad category of widely-collected wheatbacks, I'd posit that the steel cent has probably introduced more folks to WW2 numismatics than any other numismatic item. When back to back with the AMC 2 franc note, the common man from both the homefront and military service is represented, at least for the US; and the 2 franc note gets selected over the 2 lire, mark, or yen note, not because the other theaters weren't important, but because its use on and around D-Day marks a well-known pivotal military event in history.

Japanese Invasion Money is also some of the most frequently encountered in the WW2 category. It was brought home from the Pacific Theater in large quantities, often in excellent uncirculated condition. It generates curiosity from the English inscriptions that are seemingly contraindicative to its backing by the Japanese Government. From the perspective of introducing people to the topic of WW2 numismatics, the steel cent, AMC, and JIM items have probably been responsible for the bulk of it.

War nickels are sometimes recognized by the numismatic novice, so they might also make the top ten, if we're going to keep with the idea of items that are famous as a WW2 related item to novice and expert alike. But my list is more about significance than fame; and while fame can be significant in bringing numismatics to the masses, many items are significant (at least in my opinion) without necessarily being broadly famous.

My collecting theme for WW2 numismatics has always involved the idea that many of these items would be souvenirs of a soldier's or sailor's experience during the war, tangible evidence of service. Therefore I don't shy away from notes with writing on them; the writing often makes it more of a souvenir than not having any writing on it. Because of this, short snorters (both types) would also be high on my top ten list.

Other items on my list would be the emergency overprinted notes, coins and currency of wartime France (both free and occupied), and Philippine emergency currency. The first still have some fame, the second probably not so much, and the third might bring a "huh?" from even a few collectors. Popular Western WW2 history seems to have focused a lot on the fight against Germany and particular campaigns against Japan. This may not be the case for everybody, but in my casual reading, the Philippines don't seem to get the popular attention that other campaigns have; yet their liberation was one of the most massive military operations the world has seen. Chances are greatest that if you encounter JIM in a coin shop, it's from the Philippines. The guerrillas printed their own currency during the war, and although not as prevalent, it was still significant. Prices are rising on JIM, and I believe as history enthusiasts continue to probe the PTO for new stories they haven't already explored, more Philippines related items will rise with them.

Rounding out the list would be German occupation notes, for their impact and broad recognition; and the Canadian war 5 cent piece for the obvious wartime visual of the victory "V" (doubling as a Roman numeral five) and the cool Morse code message around its border.

So how would you order your own "WW2 Numismatics Top Ten" list? What would you include and what would you leave out?



Level 7

I was recently left some notes. I was also given a book with real artifacts from those who hit the beach in D-Day. They had as 50.00 French note. Long half a little dirt. Carried by an American who hit the beach. I was just left three Hawaii notes. Series 1935 A. Two gold notes one dollar. And many more. There in ok condition but it's not the value but the memories I get from them. The Hawaii notes are silver certs. They made 204,000 of them. They burnt as many as they could. They used a crematorium. To many came in so they used the sugar mill on the Island. Thanks.


Level 3

Very nice, I love world war 2 money.


Level 6

Nice blog. It is so cool to meet the author of one of your favorite books and be able to talk. I am a small collector of MPC and JIM. I would include the "shell case cents" of 1944 and 1945. Definitely not rare but very cool to me. Thanks, great job.


Level 5

Great blog. Would love to have paper notes from WW2 era. I have some coins from then. Need to work on my top ten list.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

I love W W II coins my father was first generation in America. His parents came from Germany and fought in WWI and was awarded the Iron Cross. Later my German relatives fought for Germany in WW II as members of the SS (unfortunately). I have a large collection of WWII coins from both Germany and Vichy France coins via an inheritance I often wonder what my father and his parents experienced, during the Great Depression and being identified easily as German during wartime American. I also have the set of wartime Jefferson nickels and the steel cents. Thanks so much for a very informative article


Level 4

Yes I agree this is a really neat note and Fred said during the seminar that some soldiers sent them back a souvenirs. Thinking to the US flag stamps from a similar time period I wonder if there are any errors where the flag is printed over the shaded engraving ?

It's Mokie

Level 6

Great Blog Dave. If you are not already an owner, you would be interested in a great book I just received two days ago from Australia. Japanese invasion Money by Gregory Hale. I have just barely started reading it but I can already see it is going to be a fascinating journey into the Japanese administration of their far-flung Pacific Empire. If anyone is interested, it is available here, the price for the book plus shipping to the U.S. seems high until you consider the Australian Dollar is a lot lower in value than the U.S. Dollar.: https://www.japaneseinvasionmoney.com.au/main/index.php

It's Mokie

Level 6

Never saw the first edition but this edition is chock full of hi-def pictures and amazing history told from the Aussie/British POV rather than the usual U.S. POV. Love It.


Level 4

Yes! I have a first edition of that book and it’s great; but I hear the second edition has so much more information and updates! I’ll have to get ahold of a copy and check it out!


Level 3

Great blog. Thanks for all the great information I only have a couple WW2 coins and most of them are U.S. . Here are two things my list would have a U.S. war nickel and the steel cent. Thanks!

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