When the Government Burned $200 Million of Hawaii’s Cash

In 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American government became worried about what would happen if Japan invaded Hawaii. Specifically, officials were concerned about the U.S. currency on the islands. If the Imperial Army invaded and grabbed all the cash, how would the government flag and demonetize those bills? After all, the money would be indistinguishable from all other U.S. currency in circulation. To hedge against that situation, the government recalled all of the paper money in the territory, asking the people and businesses to trade in their money for freshly printed bills that had the word "Hawaii" stamped across them. The government also issued strict rules about how much anyone in Hawaii could carry: individuals could have no more than $200 in cash, while businesses were capped at $500. The government rounded up $200 million in paper money, but instead of putting it into circulation or stockpiling it somewhere, they decided the simplest solution was to simply burn it. They couldn’t burn it fast enough at a crematorium in Honolulu, so they commandeered the furnaces at a sugar mill in Oahu to get the job done. By October 1944, the U.S. no longer felt the threat from Japan and they took the emergency bills out of circulation, allowing normal currency to re-enter Hawaii. Today, very few of the Hawaii bills are still in circulation. If you find one, hold on to it. Depending on the denomination and series, a Hawaii overprint bill can sell at auction for anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to $52,000.