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Silver Certificates

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

Did you know that depositors of silver could choose to have their bullion struck into silver coins?

Until the Act of 1853, depositors could still choose to have silver struck into dollar coins, but since there was more than a dollar's worth of silver in a dollar coin, it was more profitable to sell the bullion to manufacturers and jewelers. So long as silver prices remained high, this effectively placed the United States on the gold standard.

Although the Mint rarely received deposits of silver for striking into coins after 1853, it purchased silver bullion using the new lightweight silver coins at above-market prices. This was illegal, as Congress had ordered that the new lightweight coins only be purchasable using gold.

The glut was replaced with a shortage when most federal coins were hoarded amid the economic chaos of the Civil War.

The Coinage Act of 1873 or Mint Act of 1873, 17 Stat. 424, was a general revision of the laws relating to the Mint of the United States. In abolishing the right of holders of silver bullion to have their metal struck into fully legal tender dollar coins, it ended bimetallism in the United States, placing the nation firmly on the gold standard. Because of this, the act became contentious in later years, and was denounced by some as the "Crime of '73".

Silver certificates are a type of representative money issued between 1878 and 1964 in the United States as part of its circulation of paper currency. They were produced in response to silver agitation by citizens who were angered by the Fourth Coinage Act, which had effectively placed the United States on a gold standard. The certificates were initially redeemable for their face value of silver dollar coins and later (for one year – June 24, 1967 to June 24, 1968) in raw silver bullion. Since 1968 they have been redeemable only in Federal Reserve Notes and are thus obsolete, but still valid legal tender at their face value and thus are still an accepted form of currency.

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