Black Market Printing Press

Forgery equipment

...copied by counterfeit gangs, using the confusion of wartime to create a huge black market..

During the Allied occupation of Italy during the Second World War an investigation was undertaken to uncover the source of fake currency which was circulating within that country. The result left the Military Police with a complete and intact forgery printing kit.

Between 1943 and 1945 the Allied Powers governed Italy after the collapse of Mussolini’s Fascist ruling party. One of the first tasks was to replace the Italian wartime currency with new bank notes. Within months these new Lira notes were being copied by counterfeit gangs, using the confusion of wartime to create a huge black market in Italy.

The job of investigating these black market operations fell to the Special Investigation Branch, a small team of Military Police Detectives. Following a detailed search the detectives were able to uncover not only the 500 Lira bank notes being printed, but also, the pots of ink, printing blocks, ink roller and even the huge granite pressing weights that the criminals were using to create the fake bank notes. 

This find allowed the Military Police to shut down this particular illegal operation, but at the time it was only one of many.   

Quick Facts

  • Found in Italy
  • Used in the period 1943-1945
  • Made of Ink, granite, tin, rubber, wood, and paper
  • Currency copied Lira
  • Official currency issued by the Allied Military Government, Italy
  • Accession Numbers CHCMP:144, 146, 147, 148, 149, 151, 152, 153, 154


  • Black market counterfeiting was only one of many different crimes occurring in Italy during the Second World War. The wheels of vehicles were stolen if left unattended; theft and burglary were common, as were robbery and assault. Even more serious crimes such as murder and manslaughter also had to be dealt with, not to mention the fact that the Germans were still fighting even after the Italians had surrendered.

Did you know?

During the Second World War the Nazis forged 10 million British banknotes valued at £134M which they planned to drop by aircraft to destroy the British economy. The plan failed, and most notes were dumped in an Austrian lake - although fake notes still came to light in Britain during the 1950s. 

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