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Silver Certificates

Silver certificates were printed from 1878 to 1964 in the U.S. as paper currency. Each certificate indicates how much silver the government will pay to the bearer upon request. On most large-size silver certificates, the obligation reads: “THIS CERTIFIES THAT THERE IS ON DEPOSIT IN THE TREASURY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA {NUMBER} SILVER DOLLARS(S) PAYABLE TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND.” The Coinage Act of 1873 eliminated silver from the bimetallic (gold and silver) standard that had been created by Alexander Hamilton, touching off a national debate. Shortly thereafter, the government issued silver certificates.

At the time, the government controlled the price of silver, so it was able to link the number of bills in circulation and the amount of silver on deposit. However, by the early 1960s industrial demand for silver skyrocketed. Eventually, the decision to halt redemption for silver metal was required because speculators were trading silver and silver certificates back and forth based on the fluctuations in the value of silver. In March 1964, the Secretary of the Treasury halted redemption of silver certificates for coined silver dollars.

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