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The U.S. government printed special silver certificates (U.S. Banknotes) with yellow seals (instead of red or blue seals) so if the North African campaign failed, we could devalue those notes after they fell into Italian/German hands. But the print date was 1935(A)... Were they actually printed in 1935 and reserved for a niche use like this, or were they printed in 1941/1942 and just back dated to 1935 to throw off the Germans?

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    Note that the 1935 series was used through the beginning of the Johnson Administration, with the 1935H notes printed in 1963-64. Oct 24, 2022 at 14:48

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Were they actually printed in 1935 and reserved for a niche use like this, ...

No, since the '1935' does not relect the date it was printed, but the year it was designed.


At the time in most countries, the printing of banknotes was a 2 step process:

  • printing of the 'face' (background of note)
  • overprinting of seal and number

A central bank could then prepare an issue beforehand (with the needed quality control) and store the printed sheets for later use.

Symbols of the United States Department of the Treasury - Wikipedia
Initially the U.S. government had no means to produce bills on its own, so the first paper bills were printed by private firms and then sent to the Treasury Department for final processing. Along with trimming and separating the bills, this processing included the overprinting of the seal onto the notes (even today, the serial number and seal are overprinted on the notes after the face has been printed).

The series year (major design change) and letter (minor design change), that would be engraved to the plate, reflects when the banknote was designed. Some plates could have been used for many years.

Silver certificate (United States) - Wikipedia - Small-size silver certificates
As was usual with currency during this period, the year date on the bill did not reflect when it was printed, but rather a major design change.

The production of the 'face' banknotes for the blue, brown or yellow seals would have been the same.

The series 1935 A was in use for all notes until at least 1945.
The series 1935 B would have started sometime after 1945-07-23, when the signature of Morgenthau was replaced with the signature of Vinson (minor design change).

U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing - History Timeline
November 1942: Silver Certificates containing a yellow seal, instead of the usual blue seal, are produced for the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch). Like the overprinted "Hawaii" notes, the modified Silver Certificates can be declared worthless, if necessary.

A certain amount of prepaired printed sheets of the series 1935 A would then have been taken and overprinted as required.


Sources:

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