Tag Archives: silver certificates

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+.


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+.