How to Find the Federal Registry Number for a Silver Certificate

By Rich Finzer
Silver certificates were replaced by federal reserve notes in 1963.

The U.S. began producing silver certificate currency in 1878. During their various printings, the bills were produced in denominations ranging from one dollar up through one thousand dollars. They were redeemable at the U.S. Treasury for an equivalent number of silver dollar coins. This practice was abolished in 1964. Like other forms of U.S. currency, each silver certificate was assigned a unique number. However, these numbers are not referred to as “Federal Registry” numbers. They are simply called serial numbers. Depending on the production series of your silver certificates, the serial numbers are located in various places on the bill face. Locating them is easy.

Examine the bill. If it is a $1, $5 or $10 silver certificate from the series of 1934 or later, the serial number will appear on the bill's face twice: flanking the oval portrait in the center. On the right side, it will be printed above the seal of the U.S. Treasury. On the left side of the bill, it is printed below the number denomination. The Treasury seal and the serial number will be printed in blue.

If the silver certificate is a $1 or $5 denomination from the 1923 series, the serial number will appear twice. On the left side it will be located below the blue Treasury seal. On the right side it will be printed above the number denomination. The numbers are printed in blue ink.

If the certificate is a $1, $2 or $5 bill from the series of 1899, the serial number is also printed in two places. On the right side, it is printed above the blue Treasury seal. On the left it is printed below the denomination, which is also printed in blue. The serial number will be printed in blue as well.

If it is a $1, $2 or $5 silver certificate from the series of 1896, the serial number appears in two places: on the upper right and lower left sides of the bill. The Treasury seal, which is printed in red, is in the lower right-hand corner. The serial number is printed in blue.

If it is a $1 bill from either the 1886 or 1891 series, the serial number will be printed on the upper right-hand corner and in the lower left-hand corner beneath the likeness of Martha Washington. The serial number will be printed in blue; the Treasury seal will be printed in red. On the $5 bill from the 1886 or 1891 series, the serial number will appear in the lower left-hand corner and on the upper right side above the portrait of President Grant.

Tip

Before passage of the Federal Reserve Act, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing assigned the serial numbers for all U.S. paper currency. After the Federal Reserve Act, the "Fed" assumed the responsibility of assigning blocks of serial numbers for U.S. paper money. The Fed conveys this information to the BEP. The serial number printed on the face of each bill is unique to that bill and that printing series. All serial numbers on all silver certificates are printed in blue ink.

If your silver certificate(s) are the larger "horse blanket" size bills, they are highly collectible and very valuable. Handle them carefully and store them securely.

The last silver certificates were printed in 1957. Most were either redeemed for silver before 1964, shredded when they became unusable or are now in the hands of collectors. While they are no longer printed, they remain a valid form of U.S. currency.

About the Author

Rich Finzer earned his boating license in 1960 and started his writing career in 1969. His writing has appeared in "Northern Breezes," "Southwinds," "Living Aboard," "Good Old Boat," "Latitudes & Attitudes," "Small Craft Advisor," "Life in the Finger Lakes," "BackHome" and "Dollar Stretcher" magazines. His maple syrup has won awards in competition. Rich has a Bachelor of Science in communications from Ithaca College.