Japanese Invasion Money Part 1: Introduction & Common Design Elements

In World War II, Japan wanted to free the Pacific of European and American influence and unite the Asian nations into a greater East-Asian co-prosperity sphere.  Towards this goal, the Japanese issued “Japanese Invasion Money”, or “JIM”, to create economic control of the areas it conquered.  The notes were tied to the yen at par (e.g.: 1 yen=1 peso) except for the Oceania pound, which equaled 10 yen.


JIM was issued for:

  • Burma (cents and rupees)
  • Malaya (cents and dollars)
  • Netherlands East Indies (cent and gulden)
  • British Oceania (shillings and pounds)
  • Philippines (centavos and pesos)

Timeline to Invasion

The below timeline should help give a graphical reference to when the affected countries were taken and when the JIM for each country was issued



Common Design Elements

Although Japanese Invasion Money was printed for 5 countries and each country’s notes had different images and designs on them, all notes share some similar design elements. This section will cover the common design elements that can be found on every single JIM note in the series.


Like any paper currency printed, each bill was assigned a set of block letters, serial numbers or block letters with numbers. For some, the block letters were fractioned and are known as fractional block letters. There were 4 types of serializing that were used across the entire group of notes. In each case (with exception to the Philippines serialized notes) The numbering began with a letter designating the country for which that note was printed. These Letter designations are discussed above, under the heading entitled “Block Letter Designations

  • Block Letters & Fractional Block Letters – in this case block letters are simply a series of 2 letters, the first being the designated letter for the country for which the note is printed followed by another letter starting with the letter A. So for Malaya the initial block series would be MA, Philippines would be PA, and so on. When enough notes were printed to exhaust the XA-XZ then the block letters would be come  fractional block letters and would be something like S/AB or B/BW.

Example of Block Letters vs. Fraciontal Block letters

  • Block letters with serial numbers – as was the case with the some Netherlands East Indies notes, designated with the letter S, some notes have block letters followed by a serial number. An example of this be seen below

Click image to enlarge the photo

  • Serial numbers – This Numbering system is quite self explanatory, that the notes were printed with a serial number, but unlike the block letter with serial number type, the country’s designation letter and block are not part of the serial number.  This was done in the case of some of the Philippines notes that were printed later on in during the war.

Click on the image to see the serial number of the note better.

Block Letter Designations

The notes were issued in multiple series, with and without serial numbers. They used a system of code letters called blocks. Block letters consist of a letter for the series which are:
B – Burma
M – Malaya
O – Oceania
P – Philippines
S – Netherlands East Indies (Sumatra)

They also include a letter (A to Z) for the block (e.g.: BA, BH). When the block letter combinations were exhausted, fractions were used (e.g.: B/AA, B/AH).

Inscription and Seal

Almost every note has, in Japanese script, at bottom center, “Government of Great Imperial Japan.” In addition to this in ascription each note has the round seal with “Minister of Finance.” Most of the time its on the face of the note in the bottom design boarder of the note.  For some this seal is  bottom center just above the “Government of Great Imperial Japan” in Japaneses script. For others it is located in the lower right between the denomination numerals. The placement of this design element varies greatly across all notes but for the most part you will find it on all of them. See the images below for examples.

Quatrefoil Watermark

In the following sections, you will see mention of certain varieties having been printed on paper with a quatrefoil water mark.  A quatrefoil is simply a design element of a flower with four petals. This quatrefoil watermark can be seen by holding the note up to the light. Below is a simple drawing to demonstratewhat a quatrefoil is.

Click the image of the quatrefoil design to get a larger view.

Horizontal Quadrille Paper

Some JIM notes were printed on horizontal  quadrille paper. This is a paper that has horizontal lines which can be seen in the paper when held up to tge light an examined closely. The image below is an example of horizontal quadrille paper

Click the image to enlarge

Silk Threads

Much like our currency here in the US, some JIM notes were printed on paper with multi colored silk threads woven into the paper. This was, and still is, a common counterfeiting measure. In cases where JIM notes were counterfeited (discussed in a later section) these silk threads wold be printed in the design. This would prevent detection of the counterfeits until multiples were examined at the sAmerican time. Only then would it be seen that the threads were in the exact location.

(Image of silk threads coming)

Jim Estimates

The estimates of the issues of JIM show that a significant number were issued.

  • RUPEES            5,700,000,000
  • DOLLARS         5,700,000,000
  • GULDEN           3,300,000,000
  • POUNDS           10,000,000
  • PESOS               10,100,000,000

Many JIM are easily located and inexpensive, but there are also some issues that are difficult and expensive to collect. The notes have interesting designs and come in a large variety of colors. Due to their relative lack of popularity there are “cherry-picking” opportunities available for collectors. Some of the countries have more then one style of notes for a particular de- nomination. There are also specimen notes, (trials with perforated holes), replicas as well as counterfeits for some notes. Each country’s series will be explored in more detail in subsequent installments.


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