What is 'Silver Certificate'

A silver certificate is an old version of dollar bills that are no longer being printed or circulated in the United States. It is a type of former legal tender in the form of paper currency that was issued by the U.S. government beginning in 1878.

BREAKING DOWN 'Silver Certificate'

The silver certificate got its name because the certificate represented a stated amount of silver bullion purchased or held by an investor. Although the U.S. stopped minting silver coins in 1806, both gold and silver coins were usable as legal tender until 1861. Prior to the release of the silver certificates, investors and other U.S. residents often accumulated wealth in the form of silver bullion, which they could then exchange for legal tender. Congress wanted to abolish that ability to transform silver into currency, but needed a compromise that would provide investors with some option so as not to leave their silver reserves worthless.

These certificates were created to allow an investor to purchase silver without having to take physical possession of the investment. Certificates were deemed payable to the bearer upon demand. The first releases of the silver certificates were larger in size than their subsequent counterparts, which were similar in dimensions to the modern U.S. paper currency in circulation today. The larger certificates were minted in denominations ranging from $1 to $1,000. The smaller-sized certificates were available mainly in lower denominations. Thee certificates featured portraits of notable Americans including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant.

In March 1964, the U.S. Treasury Secretary announced that silver certificates would no longer be redeemable for silver dollars, and the government stopped printing these certificates soon after.

Silver certificates as collectibles

Today silver certificates can be redeemed for their face value in cash in the U.S. but not in actual silver. However, some silver certificates are worth quite a bit more than their face value. The exact value of a specific silver certificate depends on several factors, including its condition and rarity. For many people, the allure of these certificates lies in their collectability and the nostalgic significance they represent.

Silver certificates continue to have strong appeal among both currency collectors and history buffs. These certificates can represent an interesting historical artifact, serving as a sort of time capsule that can transport the holder back to a period when many interesting and important events were happening in the country. It is also a tangible example of the changes occurring in the currency system at that time.

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