Silver Certificates are a kind of representative money printed in the United States from 1878 to 1964. The certificates are still valid legal tender but are now obsolete, only redeemable in Federal Reserve Notes since 1968. A Silver Certificate can be distinguished by a number of features: the seal and serial numbers on many of the first certificates are red, brown, and blue. The colors were officially changed to blue when Series 1899 came out.
The Coinage Act of 1873 put the United States on the gold standard, causing silver agitation among citizens. The Bland-Allison Act was passed in 1878, requiring the United States Treasury to buy between $2 million and $4 million worth of silver bullion from Western mining companies. This silver would be minted into coins. The coins, however, proved rather heavy, causing the government to print a $5 Silver Certificate against the dollars for easier exchange. The 1878 series of certificates was printed in denominations of $10 to $1000.
During the Second World War, the United States government issued 1935a Silver Certificates with a brown seal for distribution in Hawaii and on North Africa, 1935a certificates with a yellow seal were issued so that the money could be easily identified and cancelled if it fell into the wrong hands.
In the years following 1934, Silver Certificates were widely circulated, but they began to disappear during the 1940s and 1950s.
Guide for collectors
Large numbers of remaining Silver Certificates in the mint vaults were sold to collectors in the 1970s.
The majority of Silver Certificates are worth only a little more than their actual face value. The most common certificates are those from 1935 and 1957. In average circulated condition, these would sell for about $1.25 to $1.50. An uncirculated note may fetch a little more, but not likely more than $4.00.
Because there are only a few notes worth collecting for their monetary value, many collectors buy Silver Certificates because they are interested in the rich history or the notes’ uniqueness.
Perfect condition Silver Certificates are in ‘GEM uncirculated 65 condition’ – this means that they have no fold, rips, stains or tears. The margins will be perfect, with razor sharp corners and no pinholes. Although many Silver Certificates are not particularly valuable, there are a few editions that are worth a fair amount of money and make for more expensive additions to a Silver Certificate collection:
- The large-sized 1899 $2.00 Agricultural & Mechanics note with a serial number of one. This certificate is very valuable if in GEM uncirculated 65 condition. This note is special because it has a low serial number (D1), high certified grade and a matching signature combination.
- The 1896 $5.00 Educational Silver Certificate in GEM uncirculated 68 condition. This is the final Educational Note series.
- There are only six 1891 $50.00 Silver Certificates in existence.
- Fr. 262 $5 1886 Silver Certificate sold for $65000 through Heritage Auctions in September 2008.
- Heritage Auctions also sold Fr. 263 $5 1886 Silver Certificate in September 2008 for $50000.
- In September 2008, Heritage Auctions sold Fr. 263 $5 1886 Silver Certificate for $24000 in September 2008.
There are a number of rare and unique Silver Certificates worth collecting. The easiest (but sometimes risky) way to find Silver Certificates up for auction is online via internet auctioneers such as eBay.
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