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Laboratory Analysis of Stolen Currency (Paper Money)

Laboratory Analysis of Stolen Currency
Paper Money, the Journal of the Society of Paper Money Collectors, Inc. (SPMC)
Vol. LV, No. 2 – Whole No. 302, March/April 2016
By James C. Ehrhardt, Ph.D and Craig S. Schwandt, Ph.D

Improvements in scientific technology and technique have greatly expanded our ability to analyze microscopic samples for their composition, source, and/or age. This has led to various applications, such as the study of chemical impurities, historical artifacts, and crime scene evidence. Although the surface and interior composition of coins has been studied to help determine their history and legitimacy, little similar work has been done on currency. We report here on our laboratory analysis of stolen currency to confirm its well-documented history and to demonstrate the potential for future studies on other currency.

An accompanying article in this issue details the 1866 robbery of the Osage National Bank of Osage, IA, charter #1618. In brief, the door of the bank safe was blown off with gunpowder and among the stolen currency were crisp, unsigned, unissued $5 Original Series notes from the bank with serial numbers 1751 through 2200. The thieves forged the bank officers’ signatures and distressed the notes before starting to pass them. Sixteen of the stolen notes have survived, mostly in tattered and torn condition. 

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