Monthly Archives: December 2014

Red Seal, Blue Seal, Gold Note, Silver Note

When you look down at that $5 bill in your pocket. Have you ever wondered why that seal is green? Or why even include a seal? Well, once upon a time, there were actually different styles of notes. The notes that we have today are actually called Federal Reserve notes, but at one time, there were silver certificates and gold certificates as well, where banks were obligated to give you the same amount as dictated by the bill in that amount of silver or gold. Let’s take a look back at the different styles of bills and what the secrets of those seals actually are.

Yellow Seal US Dollars (Gold Certificates)

Introduced in 1863, the yellow seal US bank notes were actually gold certificates. Meaning, that the denomination of bank note was backed by the same amount in gold in the US treasury, and that you could exchange that certificate for the gold at a bank in the US. Which meant that US money was at one time backed by the Gold Standard. There were several times that this standard was suspended though. It was suspended twice during World War I and made it a free floating currency, similar to the fiat currency that it is today. The gold standard US dollar came to a close in 1933 with the Gold Reserve Acts, which made it illegal for the public to be in possession of gold coins or certificates. In 1964, the act was lifted and the notes could be traded again, however, like the silver certificates, they could no longer be redeemed for their value in gold, and became a collectible for numismatists.

Blue Seal US Dollars (Silver Certificates)

Similar to their gold standard cousins, the blue seal US bank notes were in fact silver certificates. These notes first began circulating in 1878 and were backed by the US stockpile of silver bullion. These certificates could be redeemed for their value in silver. At first, it was through an exchange of the certificate for silver dollar coins and later became an exchange for raw bullion. These notes were mainly done in the 1, 5, and 10 dollar denominations. In 1963, the notes were discontinued with a deadline of 1968 placed on any remaining silver certificates to be redeemed for their value in silver. These notes are still considered legal tender today but are valued at their face value and not at the current price of silver.

Red Seal US Dollars (US Notes)

The red seal dollars are an interesting fare. They were started during the Civil War and were in production for about one hundred years, making them one of the longest produced notes next to the dollar produced by the Federal Reserve. These notes were actual pieces on national debt. Which means they were direct obligations by the US government and that the individual who had them owned a piece of the national debt. These notes went out of circulation in the 1960s and were removed as legal tender in the mid 90s.

Green Seal US Dollars (Federal Reserve Notes)

The bills that we all use today are actually known as Federal Reserve notes. These are the only notes still being actively produced and are also the youngest. First introduced in 1914, these notes are backed by the US government but aren’t actually produced by the US. Instead, the 12 Federal Reserve banks within the US prints this money and, by law, must maintain enough assets to balance the notes issued. This currency is actually a fiat currency and is not based on any gold or silver standard.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.


History of The Nickel Pt. 2

Continuing from part one that we did a couple of weeks back. We’re here once again to talk about the history of the nickel. The nickel, also referred to as the half dime, wouldn’t gain it’s nick name (pun not intended) until the mid 19th century at the end of the Civil War. This war spawned half dimes north and south of the mason-dixon line, and as such, creates a wide overlap of the different coins.

Shield NickelShield Nickel (1866-1883)

This coin came to be at the end of the Civil War. During the war, people had begun to hoard gold and silver coins due to the government stopping the use of precious metals in coinage. This lead to the well known “shinplaster” coins. These coins were made of non-precious metals, and were quickly despised by the public. This coin would be one of the first to be a base-metal composite coin as the coin itself was made of 75% copper and 25% nickel. The shield nickel as it became known, was only minted by the Philidelphia mint and only 125 million had been struck, by the time it was replaced in 1883.

1913 Liberty Head NickelLiberty Head Nickel (1883-1913)

In the year of FDR’s birth, another birth was coming to the US; the Liberty Head Nickel. This coin designed by the famous (or infamous depending on the collector you’re talking to) Charles Barber. This coin was a change in design as well as shape for the nickel as the chief engraver for the mint used Barber’s design to increase the size of the nickel to help extend the life of the dies.However, this change along with Barber’s original design would end in disaster. After a special unveiling of the coin where the coin was handed out as a gift to dignitaries, the coin was then mass struck for consumption, but, there was one chief flaw in Barber’s design. He had not placed the word “cents” underneath the roman numeral V on the reverse of the coin.

This lack of designation lead to con men at the time to gold plate the coin and pass them off as $5 eagles, since the coin was the same size as one of the more valuable dollar coins. This was quickly remedied but the coins were already in circulation. This coin produced one of the most coveted rarities for the numismatic world, when 5 of the coins were discovered to have been illegally printed the same year that the Buffalo Nickel was supposed to be used.

1935 Buffalo NickelBuffalo Nickel (1913-1938)

We’ve written about the Buffalo Nickel before, when we did an article on some of the most sought after coins by collectors. This coin has a very rich history, as this featured a non-anglicized Native American on our country’s coinage. If you’re curious about it’s history you can read more about it here.

Jefferson Nickel (1938-)

This leads us to our current nickel which is known as the Jefferson Nickel. This version of the coin has been in production continuously since 1938. Will this change at some point? Possibly. However, a coin honoring one of our founding fathers will be hard to replace.

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed this look at one of our oldest coins. For any of your numismatic needs, feel free to check out our inventory of great collectibles, including some of those talked about here.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.


The Mysterious Two Dollar Bill

It’s been known as a rarity, a fake, and has had three different versions of itself. I’m speaking about the two dollar bill of course. This bill has had an interesting spot in US numismatic history, and is even the center piece to some urban legends and conspiracy theories. However, despite popular opinion, this bill is still produced and is still considered legal tender. But, why would you want to spend this rare US bill when you could keep it as a colorful historical piece of your collection. Today, I’ll be going over briefly about its history and the different versions that have sprung up over the years.

It started as a “greenback”

The first two dollar bill was printed in 1862 as a US bank note and featured Alexander Hamilton in profile in the portrait of the bill. Interesting little side fact, the term “greenback” came from these bills because of the largely green ink on the reverse of the notes. Anyway, the bill would be redesigned in 1869 to feature the portrait of Thomas Jefferson which is the same portrait used on the bill today. But, the bill wouldn’t always feature Jefferson through its lifetime.

The First Two Dollar Bill in 1862

Who is that on the 2 Dollar Bill?

Like I said above, Jefferson wouldn’t always be the one gracing the obverse of the $2 bill. In 1886 when the first $2 silver certificate was issued, Civil War general Winfield Scott Hancock, would be the man featured on the bill until 1891. In 1896, an “educational series” silver certificate would feature Samuel Morse (one of the inventors of Morse code) and Robert Fulton (inventor of the steamboat) on the reverse of the bill. The obverse contained a mythical figure bringing the science of electricity and steam to commerce and industry. Additionally, George Washington would grace the portrait of the bill in 1899.

1896 Educational Series Two Dollar Bill

Same bill now in smaller size

In 1928, all US bills were shrunk from their large size to the standard size we know and use today. The $2 bill was issued once again as a US bank note, with Thomas Jefferson on the obverse portrait of the bill. The bill would keep Jefferson as the portrait on the obverse and have his home Monticello on the reverse. This bill would basically stay the same, but would go through several other minor changes from its 1928 series. In 1953, the bill was brought in line to the same procedures as the $5 bill and once again was changed in 1963 before it was discontinued in ’66 however, this would not be the last time this bill would be seen.

Don’t call it a comeback!

In 1976 as a cost-saving measure and as a way to celebrate the US’s bicentennial, the two dollar bill was brought back. This new bill was printed as a federal reserve note, and featured the same portrait of Jefferson from 1928. The reverse would feature John Trumbull’s painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Superstition still surrounds this curious bill as some consider it bad luck to own or carry around a $2 bill. What I can guess where this comes from is because of the tumultuous history of the bill, but it’s just a guess. An interesting urban legend behind the bill is that Steve Wozniak buys them in sheets from the treasury department and binds them in a booklet. Interesting if it’s actually true. Well, there you have it folks, not such a mysterious bill when you spell it all out.

If you’re curious, or would like to add it to your collection. We do carry several different series of the $2 bill. Check them out!

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.


History of the Nickel pt.1

When you think about our coins, which do you think is the oldest? Well, the oldest of our modern coin denominations is actually the nickel which is older than the penny by a year. The nickel is our oldest currency, dating back as early as 1792. Originally known as the half-dime, this coin has been around in one form or another since the early years of the union. Curious about it’s history and how it changed with our country? Read on.

1792 half dismeThe Half-Disme

First coined in 1792 the half disme (yes they spelled dime with an “s” it was the 18th century, modern english as we know it wouldn’t emerge until much later, and anyways it’s French) emerged as the country was first beginning to expand. The US had just grown to 14 states with the creation of Vermont, had no navy to speak of, and were paying tribute to the barbary pirates. At this point, we had trading relationships with the spanish colonies (Louisiana and Florida) and so Spanish reales flowed freely along with English shillings and pence. Because of the complete incompatibility of the currencies of England and Spain, it slowed down trade and exchange between the two required overly complex exchange calculations.

Which leads us to the creation of the US currency system. Congress was debating how we should change our national currency. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton all favored the adoption of the decimal system, which was useful on multiple fronts for the US. Firstly, it would represent a clean break from the English Pound Sterling currency and allow a way to reconcile the differences between Spanish and English currencies.

After the US adopted the dollar in 1785 events moved very quickly over the next 7 years. From the creation of a national mint to the actual minting of the coin. The half disme is very rare, and many counterfeits exist. To date, there are only 200-250 known examples still in existence. This coin was mainly used for visiting dignitaries and very few were actually issued into circulation. In fact, the coin was replaced in 1794 by the next coin on our list, the Flowing Hair half dime.

1794 Flowing Hair Half Dime1794-95 Flowing Hair Half Dime

The first nickel to be distributed to the American people was the 1794 Flowing Hair half dime. Designed by Robert Scot, the first chief engraver for the national mint. The coin was minted for two years before it was replaced, but it is an extremely rare and highly valuable collector’s piece. Around 7,500 half dimes were minted with the 1794 date, but were actually minted in March of 1795. Due to the infancy of the mint at this point, most of the half-dimes are of poor striking quality which is considered normal until the mid 19th century where techniques were improved and/or changed. All of the flowing hair half dimes were struck at the newly finished Philadelphia Mint. Interestingly enough, no true proofs are known, although there are some coins that are of presentation levels of quality.

This coin represents a very important piece of American history. This half dime is one of the first official issues of silver coinage by the US. Where in the past, silver coinage had been the purview of the monarchy, for our government to produce it was a clear and decisive act of nationalism.

Our money is a rich and colorful window into our nation’s history. A lot can be gleaned from our coinage. Come back next week where we’ll continue to look at the history of the nickel. Additionally, check out some of the great historical silver coins we have available for purchase.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.