What Is a Silver Certificate Dollar?

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Close-up of a museum curator's hands holding an old silver certficiate next to a modern one dollar bill.
Close-up of a museum curator's hands holding an old silver certficiate next to a modern one dollar bill. (Image: Michel Boutefeu/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

Silver certificates are a type of United States paper currency that is no longer printed. The defining difference between silver certificates and other paper money is that they were backed by physical silver held by the U.S. Treasury and could be exchanged for the metal. Silver certificate dollars are still legal tender, meaning you can spend them just like other dollar bills. They are worth more as collectible items than currency, so you rarely see one in circulation. Silver certificates can no longer be redeemed for the actual metal.

History of Silver Certificates

The Brand-Allison Act of 1878 authorized the Treasury Department to mint silver dollars. In addition, the Treasury began printing silver certificates, initially in denominations ranging from $10 to $1,000. In 1928 the Treasury Department introduced a reduced size of paper currency, resizing bills to the dimensions in use today. Only $1 series 1928 silver certificates were printed. Several additional series of silver certificate dollar bills were also produced, including series for 1934, 1935 and 1957. The notes display the words “Silver Certificate” and state that the bill may be redeemed for silver. By 1960 the price of silver had risen to $1.29, making the metal worth more than the paper certificates. Consumers began to redeem large numbers of silver certificates, and in 1964 the Treasury Department stopped printing silver certificates. Redemption was halted in 1963, although Congress later authorized a one-year redemption period ending in 1968.

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