What Is a Silver Certificate?

A silver certificate is a kind of representative currency that was printed and used in the United States from the years 1878 to 1964. Unlike today’s paper money silver certificates were actually redeemable for physical silver.

At first silver certificates could be redeemed for silver dollars coins of the same face value and later for silver bullion (non-minted silver in bar or round form).

What is a silver certificate

An Early Silver Certificate

1968 saw the end of redemption for silver certificates and since that time the only currency you could receive in exchange for a silver certificate has been the inflation devalued Federal Reserve Notes which we used today.

In other words you can still use a silver certificate to buy things at Wal-Mart or the gas station but it will be just like using a normal $5 dollar bill (or whatever the given denomination is).

Of course you shouldn’t use a silver certificate to pay for a pack of gum or a coffee since they are becoming more rare and some types of silver certificates can be quite valuable to collectors.

Interesting Silver Certificate Features

Initial batches of silver certificates used seal and serial numbers that were either brown, red or blue.

Later during the 1899 series run of one, two and five dollar certificates the color for the seal and numbers was standardized and blue was used from that time forward. Larger bills of greater than five dollar denominations received this standardization at different times.

There was also a 1935a series silver certificate with a brown colored seal that was circulated in Hawaii during the Second World War.

What Is the Point of a Silver Certificate?

The reason for having silver certificates has a lot to do with the portability of money. In the old days the United States dollar was actually backed by precious metals like gold and silver.

It can be inconvenient to carry around heavy coins made from gold or silver though and paper currency acted as a fill-in. You could trade your paper currency in for the gold or silver promised on the face of the bill at anytime.

At one point the currency was simply backed by gold but silver certificates enabled the exchange of bills for silver as well. So what we call money today was actually a certificate stating that the Treasury had silver or gold in storage which it would give you on demand in exchange for the note. Since people have valued the precious metals through the years and you could exchange a dollar for gold or silver it was easy for people to trust and value silver certificates the U.S. dollar as well.

Unfortunately that trust has been broken although we still see a great deal of it in place since it can take years for built up trust to finally be discarded. Paper currencies have a history of losing the trust of populations in many countries rather rapidly so if you do not have any precious metals you may want to take a cue from our ancestors and history and acquire some.

It’s too bad that simply acquiring some silver certificates can’t get you any silver but that is the situation we’re in. As a result if you want to accumulate some silver you are better off looking on eBay or checking out the local coin shop.

Be sure you check on the spot price of silver and the value of particular coins before you get started though. You also want to focus on the common types of silver coins like the Washington style silver quarters that were produced up until the 1964 mint date mark.