What Is a Silver Certificate How Much it's Worth

We’ve been mining silver for more than 5,000 years, and it has since been one of the most valuable resources. As time went by, the use of this and other precious metals evolved together with civilizations.

One of the most historic times for silver was between 1878 and 1964, when silver certificates were issued.

What is a silver certificate? How much is it worth?

Do you have some silver certificates lying around? If so, you’ll be surprised to learn the history behind these certificates, their use, and their worth.

What is a Silver Certificate?

A silver certificate is actually a form of paper money you could exchange for silver coins. It’s a certificate you could redeem for its face value of silver dollars.

Initially, these were representative money, and you could exchange them for silver. However, from June of 1967 to June of 1968, you could only exchange them for silver bullion.

They’re still used today, but not in the same way as before. In other words, you can no longer exchange the certificate for silver, although it’s still legal tender.

The History of Silver Certificates

The first certificates were issued after and because of the Coinage Act of 1873. It was the law that demonetized silver and abolished the right to coin it into legal tender money.

The act ended bimetallism when there was a fixed rate of exchange between gold and silver. It was a big moment in history often referred to as The Crime of ’73.

Its policies changed many things, especially among the millions of people who supported the Free Silver movement during the 19th century.

One of these people was Willian Jennings Bryan, who was a democratic presidential candidate at the time. Ever heard his “Cross of Gold” speech? It’s where he advocated for the pro-silver policies.

Silver coins were no longer used as legal tender as much, although few were still circulating. In 1878, the US government issued certificates under the Bland-Allison Act.

People could still deposit silver coins under this act, exchanging them for certificates that were easier to carry. Countries like Colombia, China, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Panama, Morocco, and Ethiopia also issued silver certificates.

The first silver certificates issued in 1878 came in denominations between $10 and $1,000. After eight years, denominations of $1, $2, and $5 were also authorized.

Certificates were printed on large 3.125’’x7.375’’ notes. Can you imagine the difference between the modern notes that were issued back in 1928?

The only small certificates were $1, $5, and $10 printed from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Silver certificates were phased out in 1964. The currency is still used as a form of legal tender, but you can now exchange it for its value in cash only. You can’t change it for its value in silver.

How Much is it Worth?

Do you own silver certificates? If so, you’re probably wondering how much cash can you get for these old pieces of paper.

Well, the first thing you should understand is that there’s no single value for any note. In other words, values are determined based on many different factors.

The value depends on the following:

  • The Federal Reserve seal letter and number
  • The denomination
  • The date and series
  • The physical condition
  • The serial number arrangement
  • The errors or varieties

The condition is graded on a scale from 1 to 70 and is best determined by a professional.

Luckily, you can recognize many of these factors by just looking at the bill. The denomination is quite evident from the start, while the date of series you can find on the front or obverse of the note.

The Federal Reserve seal and the serial number can also be found on the front. Make sure to check its general condition because that factor alone can impact its value quite a lot.

Naturally, crisp notes are more valuable than even slightly damaged ones.

The serial number arrangement is something you can also check out yourself. Check the very low and high numbers as well as if there are any repeating digits.

The most valuable thing to look for is the small star placement. The small star indicates that the one you have replaces a faulty note with the same serial number.

Look out for a palindromic phenomenon otherwise called a radar note. In this case, the serial number is read the same forward and backward.

Some people even paid extra for a serial number to present a special date like an anniversary or birthday. However, it’s usually a personal date that appears ordinary to other people.

With that said, it’s important to mention that most certificates that circulate today were made in the 1930s. We’re talking about the Series 1935 and 1957 $1, Series 1934 and 1953 $5, and Series 1934 and 1953 $10 bills.

These are worth only a few dollars because they’re typically a bit worn out.

When Collecting Silver Certificates

When Collecting Silver Certificates

Many people collect different silver certificates. You can either gather all series and seals of a particular denomination or focus on getting all denominations from a specific period.

Some people collect all denominations of all series and signatures or focus on a specific period. Still, there’s no right or wrong way to collect silver certificates, so this isn’t something you should worry about.

Whatever your approach is, make sure to buy the best quality you can. High-quality notes will make for a more attractive collection that’ll essentially be worth more than worn-out notes.

This helps ensure a better return on your investment if you ever choose to sell your collection.

The Most Valuable Silver Certificates

The most common certificates are those from 1957 and 1935. These are typically worth $5 if they’re in perfect condition and only around $1.50 in circulated condition.

They’re not collectible because they’re not rare enough. Another common silver certificate is any $5 note issued in 1934 and 1953. These have a blue seal, and you can get about $7 for them.

Silver certificates are sometimes referred to as small and large. The large ones were issued from 1878 to 1923 and can get you anywhere from $1 to $1,000.

These usually depict presidents, vice presidents, first ladies, and many other notable figures. Small notes depict Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton.

However, the value isn’t always directly correlated to denomination or size. It depends on many factors we previously mentioned.

The certificate itself cannot be redeemed for silver, but a Federal Reserve note. For this reason, the actual value lies in the collectivity of the certificate.

These are collectors’ items, and collectors will pay more than what the actual certificate is worth if it’s rare enough.

How to tell if it’s rare

The first silver certificates were issued in 1878, so try to get the oldest ones. The rarest ones are from 1880 to 1886, so make sure to check the date.

Next, you should look at the serial number. Those with a serial number below 100 are much rarer than those that have a higher serial number. Again, it’s even rarer and more valuable if it begins with a star instead of a number or letter.

The design is likely to impact its worth as well, so check who’s on the obverse. The 1886-series note with Martha Washington is quite valuable and can get you between $225 and $3,000 depending on its condition.

The 1899-series has an eagle on the obverse and can get you some $100 if it’s in average condition. You can get about $6,000 for an MS63 one.

However, keep in mind that the rarest notes are rarely up for sale. People who hold these certificates are unlikely to part ways with them due to their worth.

And, we’re not only talking about how much money you can get for some of these. In most cases, people hold on to them because they’re old and rare.

How to Tell if it’s Real

There’s always a risk of counterfeit, so make sure to check before investing your money. Now, it can be tricky to tell if a certificate is genuine or not unless you have some solid knowledge and experience.

If you’re looking to buy some valuable pieces, it might be best to bring a professional with you. Bring a specialized expert or your experienced friend. Anyone can help as long as you’re sure they know something about the topic.

You found an old silver certificate in your grandparent’s house, or someone passed it to you? If so, take it to a specialized store where they can tell you how much it’s worth if it’s even real.

You can also take some pictures of it and ask people on the internet. Many enthusiasts, collectors, and experts can offer solid advice.

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