Much like gold certificates, silver certificates were created in the late 19th century to ease the transfer of silver bullion ownership and to represent the physical amount of silver being held by a financial institution. During a time when mining was booming throughout the country, it became imperative to carry the certificates - whose appearance mimicked regular paper currency - as it was too difficult to transport large quantities of metal. From 1878 to 1964, silver certificates were treated as legal tender and accepted just as any other paper currency or coinage.
Initially, the certificates were redeemable for their face value as silver dollar coins. But from June 1967 to June 1968, the bearer was able to redeem the certificate(s) for raw silver bullion. After this time, the certificates became obsolete, though they can still be redeemed at face value through any financial institution or bank.
As with most obsolete items, silver certificates have become collectors' items with their true value in the hands of their condition, rarity and demand. For example, a single dollar certificate issued between 1935 and 1957, which looks much like that of a one dollar bill with George Washington on the obverse, can typically fetch just over face value at $1.25-$1.50. A certificate issued in 1896, in perfect condition featuring Martha Washington or Vignette of History Instructing Young, may hold a value of $1,000, considerably higher to the collector than if redeemed for its originally stated amount at any bank.
Peeling back the layers in the world of collectables, you will find with certificates as it is with dollars and coins that there are many factors to consider when determining value. Some key areas taken into consideration during the appraisal process are:
- Year issued- typically the older the year, the higher the value.
- Serial number- the smaller the serial number reads, the probability of the certificate being worth more to the collector. (Example: A0000000001A will have a higher value than A00232467709A)
- Condition- if the item has ever been circulated, the buyer would be willing to pay less than if it had not.
- Face Value- Since many certificates and other forms of currency are produced in smaller quantities as the face values increase, these items tend to become more scarce, thus increasing value to the potential buyer.
While these are factors to consider, they are not all that are considered in the totality of appraisal. To best determine what a certificate may be worth, it is in the best interest of the owner to seek an expert opinion.
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Since 1979, Bellevue Rare Coins has been a trusted, family-owned business serving the Greater Seattle Area with locations in Bellevue, Lynnwood, and West Seattle. Specializing in gold, silver, diamond, and jewelry purchasing, in addition to dealing in rare coins. We now offer a vast selection of fine, vintage and custom designed jewelry. Visit anyone of our three friendly locations for the best deals selling or buying.