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Silver Certificates are a type of representative money printed from 1878 to 1964 in the United States as part of its circulation of paper currency. They were produced in response to silver agitation by citizens who were angered by the Fourth Coinage Act, which had effectively placed the United States on a gold standard. The certificates were initially redeemable in the same face value of silver dollar coins, and later in raw silver bullion. Since 1968 they have been redeemable only in Federal Reserve Notes and are thus obsolete, but are still valid legal tender.
The seal and serial numbers on many of the first Silver Certificates issued were red, brown, and blue. It was not until Series 1899 for the $1, $2, and $5 denominations that the seal and number colors were officially and permanently changed to blue. (This occurred at different points for denominations above $5). During World War II the government issued 1935a Silver Certificates with a brown seal for Hawaii distribution and 1935a certificates with a yellow seal for North Africa distribution. The idea was that if these areas fell into enemy hands during the war, the money could easily be identified and cancelled so as to prevent large monetary losses.
- 1 History
- 2 Complete series catalogue
- 3 See also
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
Beginning of an age
The Coinage Act of 1873 placed the United States on the gold standard, which replaced the gold and silver bimetallic standard that had been created by Alexander Hamilton. Many people saw this as the Crime of '73, because it dramatically reduced the money supply, harming people invested in silver, like some Western banks, and mining companies, and many businesses and individuals, while benefiting those invested in gold (the Eastern banks who had lobbied for the change, and gold mines). This was the topic of William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech.
In response, the Bland–Allison Act, as it came to be known, was passed by Congress on February 28, 1878. It did not provide for the "free and unlimited coinage of silver" demanded by Western miners, but it did require the United States Treasury to purchase between $2 million and $4 million of silver bullion from mining companies in the West, to be minted into coins that would be legal tender for all debts, like gold. These coins, however, were quite heavy, so the government applied their gold certificate strategy to the silver. For example: if there were five silver dollars in the treasury, the government would print a $5 Silver Certificate against the dollars, providing a somewhat easier medium of exchange. The idea was kept, and Series 1878 was printed in denominations of $10 to $1000. Most large-size Silver Certificates include the obligation: THIS CERTIFIES THAT THERE HAS (HAVE) BEEN DEPOSITED IN THE TREASURY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (NUMBER) SILVER DOLLAR(S) PAYABLE TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND
20th century and the small-size Silver Certificates
In 1928, the United States Treasury decided to reduce the size of its currency in order to speed up transactions, and also to cut costs. By this time, the Federal Reserve had taken over much of the currency market, and the prices of gold and silver had risen greatly. For the Series of 1928, only $1 Silver Certificates were produced. Fives and tens of this time were mainly Federal Reserve Notes, which were backed by and redeemable in gold. All this would change, however, with the beginning of the Great Depression in October 1929, when the United States economy met with profound disaster.
In response, President Franklin Roosevelt persuaded Congress to recall all gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates, which circulated alongside Silver Certificates. This prompted Congress to quietly place the U.S. on the silver standard. On May 12, 1933, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed, which included a clause allowing for the pumping of silver into the market to replace the gold. A new Series 1933 $10 Silver Certificate was printed, but not many were released into circulation.
A 1934 law allowed the government to exchange silver bullion (instead of silver dollars) for Silver Certificates. The 1933 $10 certificates, as well as the 1928 $1 certificates, were phased out and replaced with Series of 1934 certificates. The obligation on these certificates was changed to read "THIS CERTIFIES THAT THERE IS ON DEPOSIT IN THE TREASURY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (NUMBER) DOLLAR(S) IN SILVER PAYABLE TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND". The small-size $5 Silver Certificate was also introduced with this series.
World War II emergency notes: The North Africa series
|U.S. Silver Certificates – North Africa series|
|Image||Value||Dimensions||Main Color||Description||Catalog #[nb 1]|
|$1 Silver Certificate||6.140 × 2.610 in (155.956 × 66.294 mm)||Green; Black||George Washington||Great Seal of the United States||Fr-2306, Fr-2306*|
|$5 Silver Certificate||6.140 × 2.610 in (155.956 × 66.294 mm)||Green; Black||Abraham Lincoln||Lincoln Memorial||Fr-2307, Fr-2307*|
|$10 Silver Certificate||6.140 × 2.610 in (155.956 × 66.294 mm)||Green; Black||Alexander Hamilton||US Treasury Building||Fr-2308, Fr-2308m, Fr-2308*, Fr-2308*m, Fr-2309, Fr-2309*|
End of the Silver Certificates
Certificates circulated, mainly in the $1 denomination, widely throughout the United States in the years following 1934. When the '34s wore out, they were replaced with a new, more modern-looking Series 1953 (1935 for the $1 silvers; see below), with the same face changes as the Series 1950 Federal Reserve Notes had experienced. However, the Silver Certificates began to disappear from circulation during the 1940s and 1950s. The amount of Silver Certificates in circulation depended directly upon the amount of silver bullion in the Treasury vaults. As people redeemed the certificates for bullion or silver dollars, the notes were shredded, because the notes had lost their backing and could not be recirculated unless there was more silver being produced. The price of silver was also rising. In 1960, it was nearing $1.29, which meant that silver dollars were worth more than $1. This meant that people would receive their silver dollars and melt them down for the bullion, thereby reducing the amount of silver in circulation, which was already falling.
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11110, transferring his authority to issue Silver Certificates to the Treasury Secretary while preparations were made to issue the first $1 Federal Reserve Notes as a replacement for the Silver Certificates.
In March 1964, Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon halted redemption of silver certificates for coined silver dollars; during the following four years, silver certificates were redeemable in uncoined silver "granules." All redemption in silver ceased on June 24, 1968. In the 1970s, large numbers of the remaining silver dollars in the mint vaults were sold to the collecting public for collector value.
Small size silver certificates remain available in large numbers, and as noted above can no longer be redeemed for bullion. Some of the earlier notes have premium values for collectors, particularly for rare issues. But the later series, except for printing errors, unusual serial number sequences, and Star Notes, have little additional worth, particularly if they are worn.
Complete series catalogue
This is a chart of some of the series of Silver Certificates printed. Each entry will include: series year, general description, and printing figures if available.
Large-size Silver Certificates
Series of 1899
|Register of the Treasury||Treasurer of the United States|
Series of 1923
|Register of the Treasury||Treasurer of the United States|
Small-size Silver Certificates
|1928||$1||H.T. Tate – Andrew W. Mellon||638,296,908|
|1928A||$1||W.O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||2,267,809,500|
|1928A/B Experimentals||$1||W.O. Woods – A.W. Mellon||31,224,000|
|1928B||$1||W.O. Woods – Ogden L. Mills||674,597,808|
|1928C||$1||W.O. Woods – William H. Woodin||5,364,348|
|1928D||$1||William Alexander Julian (W.A. Julian) – William H. Woodin||14,451,372|
|1928E||$1||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||3,519,324|
|1934||$1||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||689,856,000|
|1935||$1||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||1,681,552,000|
|1935A||$1||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||6,111,832,000|
|1935A Brown Seal Hawaiian||$1||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||35,052,000|
|1935A Yellow Seal North Africa||$1||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||26,916,000|
|1935A Experimental R/S||$1||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||2,368,000|
|1935B||$1||Tres. W.A. Julian – Sec. Fred M. Vinson||806,612,000|
|1935C||$1||W.A. Julian – John W. Snyder||3,088,108,000|
|1935D||$1||Georgia Neese Clark – John W. Snyder||4,656,968,000|
|1935E||$1||Ivy Baker Priest – George M. Humphrey||5,134,056,000|
|1935F||$1||Ivy Baker Priest – Robert B. Anderson||1,226,560,000|
|1935G||$1||Elizabeth Rudel Smith – C. Douglas Dillon||235,640,000*|
|1935H||$1||Kathryn O'Hay Granahan – C. Douglas Dillon||31,956,000|
|1957||$1||Ivy Baker Priest – Robert B. Anderson||2,917,240,000|
|1957A||$1||Elizabeth Rudel Smith – C. Douglas Dillon||1,688,800,000|
|1957B||$1||Kathryn O'Hay Granahan – C. Douglas Dillon||767,680,000|
|1934||$5||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||393,088,000|
|1934A||$5||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||656,266,000|
|1934A Yellow Seal North Africa||$5||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||16,710,000|
|1934B||$5||W.A. Julian – Fred M. Vinson||59,129,000|
|1934C||$5||W.A. Julian – John W. Snyder||403,146,000|
|1934D||$5||Georgia Neese Clark – John W. Snyder||486,146,000|
|1953||$5||Ivy Baker Priest – George M. Humphrey||339,600,000|
|1953A||$5||Ivy Baker Priest – Robert B. Anderson||232,400,000|
|1953B||$5||Elizabeth Rudel Smith – C. Douglas Dillon||70,000,000*|
|1953C||$5||Kathryn O'Hay Granahan – C. Douglas Dillon||90,640,000*|
|1933||$10||W.A. Julian – William H. Woodin||216,000*|
|1933A||$10||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||226,000*|
|1934||$10||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||88,693,000|
|1934 Yellow Seal North Africa||$10||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||rare*|
|1934A||$10||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||42,346,000|
|1934A Yellow Seal North Africa||$10||W.A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||21,860,000|
|1934B||$10||W.A. Julian – Fred M. Vinson||338,000|
|1934C||$10||W.A. Julian – John W. Snyder||20,033,000|
|1934D||$10||Georgia Neese Clark – John W. Snyder||11,801,000|
|1953||$10||Ivy Baker Priest – George M. Humphrey||10,440,000|
|1953A||$10||Ivy Baker Priest – Robert B. Anderson||1,080,000|
|1953B||$10||Elizabeth Rudel Smith – C. Douglas Dillon||720,000|
Notes: The Series 1935G comes in two forms, one without the motto ("In God We Trust") as with all previous $1 Silver Certificates and all $5 and $10 Silver Certificates printed, and the other with the motto as with all subsequent $1 Silver Certificates and all Series 1957 $1 Silver Certificates; the breakdown of production figures for 1935G is 203,240,000 without motto and 32,400,000 with motto. The number of Series 1953B $5 Silver Certificates released was 14,196,000; the remainder were consigned to destruction and never released. Serial blocks of the 1928A and 1928B bills that were lettered XB or YB were made of experimental paper, and ZB of regular paper as a control, similar work was done with some 1935 notes. The 1935A "Experimental" bills were stamped with either a red "R" or "S" while testing regular and synthetic papers; equal numbers were made of each. Only a very few Series 1933 $10 Silver Certificates were released before the Series 1934 replaced them and nearly all Series 1933 were consigned to destruction; of these only a few dozen are known to collectors today. No Series 1953C $5 or Series 1933A $10 Silver Certificates were issued; all were consigned to destruction, though museum specimens of each are known to exist. A small number of Series 1934 (no "A") $10 Yellow Seal North Africa notes are known to have been printed in error (as "mules"); of these about a couple dozen are known to collectors today.
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- The most widely used categorizing system in the field of United States banknotes was pioneered by Robert Friedberg. Each note is assigned a single Friedberg number (or “Fr #”) which identifies its type, denomination, series date, and signature combination. In the North Africa series table, the number in italics corresponds to the actual image displayed.