Silver certificates are paper currency formerly issued by the United States and formerly redeemable for silver stored by the government. One of the most widely circulated silver certificate denominations was the $1 note, which for many years was the equivalent of a silver dollar coin.
Silver certificates were first printed in 1878 as a government response to the influx of silver from mines in the western United States. They were originally large "saddleblanket" notes (7.375 inches x 3.125 inches), but their size was reduced in 1928 along with the rest of U.S. paper money to its current, smaller size.
End as Currency
The U.S. government issued large numbers of silver certificates in the 1930s and a smaller amount in the late 1950s. Toward the end of their existence as currency, they were redeemable for silver bullion instead of coins. Because of increases in the price of silver, the law was changed so that by 1968 the certificates could no longer be redeemed for silver.
Silver certificate dollar bills remain legal tender in the United States, but even the most common of them have a little more value as collectors items than as currency. As a result, they are very seldom seen outside of paper money collections.
In circulated condition, most smaller silver certificate notes command only a small premium over face value (perhaps as little as $1.25). Uncirculated notes, on the other hand, can fetch two to six times face value.
Larger-size silver certificates (pre-1928) can be worth considerably more than the smaller-size varieties, sometimes hundreds of times face value. Even the relatively common 1923 $1 silver certificate is worth from $20 to $150.
1899 $1 Silver Certificate
The 1899 $1 silver certificate is highly prized by collectors for its remarkable design (the "Black Eagle"), which was not repeated again on U.S. currency. Uncirculated examples of this note may trade for $250 or more.
Dees Stribling has been a freelance writer based in Chicago for over five years and is a widely published real estate and business writer. He has edited magazines focusing on real estate, business and the fire service for over two decades. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Vanderbilt University.