The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
A gold certificate in general is a certificate of ownership that gold owners hold instead of storing the actual gold. It has both a historic meaning as a U.S. paper currency (1863–1933) and a current meaning as a way to invest in gold.
Banks may issue gold certificates for gold that is allocated (non-fungible) or unallocated (fungible or pooled). Unallocated gold certificates are a form of fractional-reserve banking and do not guarantee an equal exchange for metal in the event of a run on the issuing bank's gold on deposit.Allocated gold certificates should be correlated with specific numbered bars, although it is difficult to determine whether a bank is improperly allocating a single bar to more than one party.
The gold certificate was used from 1863 to 1933 (although there is the rare 1934 issue) in the United States as a form of paper currency. Each certificate gave its holder title to a corresponding amount of gold coin at the statutory rate of $20.67 per troy ounce established by the Coinage Act of 1834. Therefore, this type of paper currency was intended to represent actual gold coinage. In 1933 the practice of redeeming these notes for gold coins was ended by the U.S. government and until 1964 it was actually illegal to possess these notes. (In 1964 these restrictions were lifted, primarily to allow collectors to own examples legally; however the issue technically converted to standard legal tender with no connection to gold.)
After the gold recall in 1933, gold certificates were withdrawn from circulation. As noted above, it was illegal to own them. That fact, and public fear that the notes would be devalued and made obsolete, resulted in the majority of circulating notes being retired. In general, the notes are scarce and valuable, especially examples in "new" condition.
The early history of United States gold certificates is somewhat hazy. They were authorized under the Act of March 3, 1863, but unlike the United States Notes also authorized, they apparently were not printed until 1865. They did not have a series date, and were hand-dated upon issue. "Issue" meant that the government took in the equivalent value in gold, and the first several series of gold certificates promised to pay the amount only to the depositor, who was explicitly identified on the certificate itself. The first issue featured a vignette of an eagle uniformly across all denominations. Several later issues (series 1870, 1871, and 1875) featured various portraits of historical figures. The reverse sides were either blank or featured abstract designs. The only exception was the $20 of 1865, which had a picture of a $20 gold coin.
From 1862 to 1879, United States Notes were legal tender and the dominant paper currency but were not convertible at face value into gold and traded at a discount. However some transactions, such as customs duties and interest on the federal debt, were required to be made in gold. Thus the early gold certificates were acceptable in some transactions where United States Notes were not, but were not used in general circulation due to their premium value. After 1879, the government was willing to redeem United States Notes at face value in gold, bringing the United States Notes into parity with gold certificates, making the latter also a candidate for general circulation.
The Series of 1882 was the first series that was payable to the bearer; it was transferable and anyone could redeem it for the equivalent in gold. This was the case with all gold certificate series from that point on, with the exception of 1888, 1900, and 1934. The series of 1888 and 1900 were issued to specific depositors, as before. The series of 1882 had the same portraits as the series of 1875, but a different back design, featuring a series of eagles, as well as complex border work.
Gold certificates, along with all other U.S. currency, were made in two sizes—a larger size from 1865 to 1928, and a smaller size from 1928 to 1934. The backs of all large-sized notes and also the small-sized notes of the Series of 1934 were orange, resulting in the nickname “yellow boys” or "goldbacks". The backs of the Series of 1928 bills were green, and identical to the corresponding denomination of the more familiar Federal Reserve Notes, including the usual buildings on the $10 through $100 designs and the less-known abstract designs of denominations $500 and up. With the 1934 issue, the promise to pay was amended with the phrase "as authorized by law", as redemption was now restricted to only certain entities. The phrase "in gold coin" was changed to "in gold" as the physical amount of gold represented would vary with changes in the government price. Both large and small size gold certificates feature a gold treasury seal on the obverse, just as U.S. Notes feature a red seal, silver certificates (except World War II Hawaii and North Africa notes) a blue seal, and Federal Reserve Notes a green seal.
Another interesting note is the Series of 1900. Along with the $5,000 and $10,000 of the Series of 1888, all 1900 bills ($10,000 denomination only) have been redeemed, and no longer have legal tender status. Most were destroyed, with the exception of a number of 1900 $10,000 bills that were in a box in a post office near the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. There was a fire on 13 December 1935, and employees threw burning boxes out into the street. The box of canceled high-denomination currency burst open. Much to everyone's dismay, they were worthless. There are several hundred outstanding, and their ownership is technically illegal, as they are stolen property. However, due to their lack of intrinsic value, the government has not prosecuted any owners, citing more important concerns. They carry a collector value in the numismatic market and, as noted in Bowers and Sundermans' The 100 Greatest American Currency Notes, the only United States notes that can be purchased for less than their face value. This is the only example of "circulating" U.S. currency that is not an obligation of the government, and thus not redeemable by a Federal Reserve Bank. The note bears the portrait of Andrew Jackson and has no printed design on its reverse side.
|Notes from this first issue are extremely rare in lower ($20 and $100) denominations. A single $1,000 and $5,000 are reported to exist in a government collection, and an issued $500 or $10,000 has never been seen. In addition to the two engraved signatures customary on United States banknotes (the Register of the Treasury and Treasurer of the United States), the earlier issues of Gold certificates (i.e., 1865, 1870, 1875, and some 1882) included a third signature of one of the Assistant Treasurers of the United States (in New York or Washington, D.C.). Known as a countersigned or triple-signature note, this feature existed for all Series prior to 1882 (and the first printing of the Series 1882).|
|Series 1870 notes introduced portraits to gold certificates. Both Series of 1870 and Series of 1875 are countersigned notes. Between the two series, the $100 is extremely rare, the $500, $1,000, and $10,000 are unique (in government collections), and the $5,000 is unknown.|
|The Act of 12 July 1882 authorized denominations “not less than $20”.|
|Series 1888 notes were intended for bank use to balance accounts without having to transport large volumes of gold bullion or currency. They have all been redeemed.|
|1900||$10,000||Canceled -- Not legal tender. Several hundred notes exist and examples occasionally appear for sale. See above.|
|Value||Issue||Series||Fr.||Image||Portrait||Signature & seal varieties|
|$20||1st||1865||Fr.1166b||Image pending||Vignettes of eagle with shield||1166b – Colby and Spinner – small red|
|$100||1st||1865||Fr.1166c||Vignette of eagle with shield||1166c – Colby and Spinner – small red|
|Vignette of eagle with shield||1166d – Colby and Spinner – small red|
|Vignettes of eagle with shield, and justice with scales.||1166e – Colby and Spinner – small red|
|Vignettes of eagle with shield and female||1166f – Colby and Spinner – small red|
|Vignettes of eagle with shield||1166g – Colby and Spinner – small red|
|$100||2nd & 3rd||1870–75||Fr.1166h||Thomas Hart Benton||1166h – xxx and xxx – large red (1870)|
1166m – Allison and New – large red (1875)
|$500||2nd & 3rd||1870–75||Fr.1166i||Abraham Lincoln||1166i – Allison and Tuttle – large red (1870)|
1166n – Allison and New – large red (1875)
|$1,000||2nd & 3rd||1870–75||Fr.1166j|
|Alexander Hamilton||1166j – xxx and xxx – large red (1870)|
1166o – Allison and New – large red (1875)
|$5,000||2nd & 3rd||1870–75||Fr.1166k|
|James Madison||1166k – Allison and Gilfillan – large red|
|$10,000||2nd & 3rd||1870–75||Fr.1166l|
|Andrew Jackson||1166l – xxx and xxx – large red (1870)|
1166q – Allison and Wyman – large red (1875)
|$10||9th||1922||Fr.1173||Michael Hillegas||1173 – Speelman and White – Gold|
1173a – Speelman and White – Gold, small serial numbers
|$20||7th||1905||Fr.1180||George Washington||1179 – Lyons and Roberts – small red|
1180 – Lyons and Treat – small red
|$20||9th||1922||Fr.1187||George Washington||1187 – Speelman and White – Gold|
|$50||9th||1913||Fr.1199||Ulysses S. Grant||1198 – Parker and Burke – Gold|
1199 – Teehee and Burke – Gold
|$50||9th||1922||Fr.1200a||Ulysses S. Grant||1200 – Speelman and White – Gold|
1200a – Speelman and White – Gold, small serial numbers
|$100||4th||1882||Fr.1202||Thomas Hart Benton|
|$100||4th||1882||Fr.1207||Thomas Hart Benton|
|$100||9th||1922||Fr.1215||Thomas Hart Benton||1215 – Speelman and White – small red|
|$500||9th||1922||Fr.1217||Abraham Lincoln||1217 – Speelman and White – small red|
|$1,000||9th||1922||Fr.1220||Alexander Hamilton||1220 – Speelman and White – Gold|
|James Madison||1222 – Rosecrans and Hyatt – large red|
1222a – Rosecrans and Nebecker – small red
|Andrew Jackson||1224 – Rosecrans and Hyatt – large red|
1224a – Rosecrans and Nebecker – small red
|Value||Series||Fr.||Image||Portrait||Signature & seal varieties|
|$10||1928||Fr.2400||Alexander Hamilton||2400 – Woods and Mellon – gold|
|$20||1928||Fr.2402||Andrew Jackson||2402 – Woods and Mellon – gold|
|$50||1928||Fr.2404||Ulysses Grant||2404 – Woods and Mellon – gold|
|$100||1928||Fr.2405||Benjamin Franklin||2405 – Woods and Mellon – gold.|
|$500||1928||Fr.2407||William McKinley||2407 – Woods and Mellon – gold.|
|$1,000||1928||Fr.2408||Grover Cleveland||2408 – Woods and Mellon – gold.|
|$5,000||1928||Fr.2410||James Madison||2410 – Woods and Mellon – gold.|
|$10,000||1928||Fr.2411||Salmon P. Chase||2411 – Woods and Mellon – gold.|
|$100||1934||Fr.2406||Benjamin Franklin||2406 – Julian and Morgenthau – gold.|
|$1,000||1934||Fr.2409||Grover Cleveland||2409 – Julian and Morgenthau – gold.|
|$10,000||1934||Fr.2412||Salmon P. Chase||2412 – Julian and Morgenthau – gold.|
|$100,000||1934||Fr.2413||Woodrow Wilson||2413 – Julian and Morgenthau – gold.|
Since the time of the gold recall legislation, the United States Treasury has issued gold certificates to the Federal Reserve Banks. The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to "prescribe the form and denominations of the certificates".Originally, this was the purpose of the Series of 1934 Certificates which were issued only to the banks and never to the public. However, since the 1960s most of the paper certificates have been destroyed, and the currently prescribed form of the "certificates" issued to the Federal Reserve is an electronic book entry account between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury. The electronic book entry system also allows for the various regional Federal Reserve Banks to exchange certificate balances among themselves.
As of December 2013 the Federal Reserve reportedholding $11.037 billion face value of these certificates. The Treasury backs these certificates by holding an equivalent amount of gold at the statutory exchange rate of $42 2/9 per troy ounce of gold, though the Federal Reserve does not have the right to exchange the certificates for gold. As the certificates are denominated in dollars rather than in a set weight of gold, any change in the statutory exchange rate towards the (much higher) market rate would result in a windfall accounting gain for the Treasury.
This is a chart of some of the series of gold certificates printed. Each entry includes: series year, general description, and printing figures if available.
|1928||$10||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||33,356,000|
|1928||$20||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||67,704,000|
|1928||$50||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||5,520,000|
|1928||$100||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||3,240,000|
|1928A||$100||W. O. Woods – Ogden L. Mills||120,000*|
|1934||$100||W. A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||120,000*|
|1928||$500||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||420,000|
|1928||$1,000||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||288,000|
|1934||$1,000||W. A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||84,000*|
|1928||$5,000||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||24,000|
|1928||$10,000||W. O. Woods – Andrew W. Mellon||48,000|
|1934||$10,000||W. A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||36,000*|
|1934||$100,000||W. A. Julian – Henry Morgenthau, Jr.||42,000*|
* Notes: All Series 1928A gold certificates were consigned to destruction and never released; none are known to exist. All Series 1934 gold certificates were issued only to banks and were not available to the public. The Series 1934 gold certificates are also distinguished from the previous gold certificates in their gold clause, which adds the phrase "as authorized by law" to denote that these notes cannot be legally held by private individuals, and by their distinctive orange reverses. Only a few museum specimens of these Series 1934 gold certificates survive today. The $100,000 note is the largest denomination of currency ever issued by the United States.
Federal Reserve Notes, also United States banknotes, are the currently issued banknotes of the United States dollar. The United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces the notes under the authority of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and issues them to the Federal Reserve Banks at the discretion of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The Reserve Banks then circulate the notes to their member banks, at which point they become liabilities of the Reserve Banks and obligations of the United States.
A United States Note, also known as a Legal Tender Note, is a type of paper money that was issued from 1862 to 1971 in the U.S. Having been current for 109 years, they were issued for longer than any other form of U.S. paper money. They were known popularly as "greenbacks", a name inherited from the earlier greenbacks, the Demand Notes, that they replaced in 1862. Often termed Legal Tender Notes, they were named United States Notes by the First Legal Tender Act, which authorized them as a form of fiat currency. During the 1860s the so-called second obligation on the reverse of the notes stated:
This Note is a Legal Tender for All Debts Public and Private Except Duties On Imports And Interest On The Public Debt; And Is Redeemable In Payment Of All Loans Made To The United States.
The United States five-dollar bill ($5) is a denomination of United States currency. The current $5 bill features the 16th U.S. President (1861-1865), Abraham Lincoln's portrait on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back. All $5 bills issued today are Federal Reserve Notes.
The United States ten-dollar bill ($10) is a denomination of U.S. currency. The obverse of the bill features the portrait of Alexander Hamilton, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The reverse features the U.S. Treasury Building. All $10 bills issued today are Federal Reserve Notes.
The United States fifty-dollar bill ($50) is a denomination of United States currency. The 18th U.S. President (1869-1877), Ulysses S. Grant, is featured on the obverse, while the U.S. Capitol is featured on the reverse. All current-issue $50 bills are Federal Reserve Notes.
The United States one-hundred-dollar bill ($100) is a denomination of United States currency. The first United States Note with this value was issued in 1862 and the Federal Reserve Note version was launched in 1914, alongside other denominations. Statesman, inventor, diplomat, and American founding father Benjamin Franklin has been featured on the obverse of the bill since 1914. On the reverse of the banknote is an image of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which has been used since 1928. The $100 bill is the largest denomination that has been printed and circulated since July 13, 1969, when the denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 were retired. As of December 2018, the average life of a $100 bill in circulation is 22.9 years before it is replaced due to wear.
Large denominations of United States currency greater than $100 were circulated by the United States Treasury until 1969. Since then, U.S. dollar banknotes have only been issued in seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.
The United States one-dollar bill ($1) since 1876 has been the lowest value denomination of United States paper currency. An image of the first U.S. President (1789–1797), George Washington, based on the Athenaeum Portrait, a 1796 painting by Gilbert Stuart, is currently featured on the obverse, and the Great Seal of the United States is featured on the reverse. The one-dollar bill has the oldest overall design of all U.S. currency currently being produced. The obverse design of the dollar bill seen today debuted in 1963 when it was first issued as a Federal Reserve Note.
Silver certificates are a type of representative money issued between 1878 and 1964 in the United States as part of its circulation of paper currency. They were produced in response to silver agitation by citizens who were angered by the Fourth Coinage Act, which had effectively placed the United States on a gold standard. The certificates were initially redeemable for their face value of silver dollar coins and later in raw silver bullion. Since 1968 they have been redeemable only in Federal Reserve Notes and are thus obsolete, but still valid legal tender at their face value and thus are still an accepted form of currency.
The history of the United States dollar refers to more than 240 years since the Continental Congress of the United States authorized the issuance of Continental Currency in 1775. On April 2, 1792, the United States Congress created the United States dollar as the country's standard unit of money. The term dollar had already been in common usage since the colonial period when it referred to eight-real coin used by the Spanish throughout New Spain.
A Demand Note is a type of United States paper money that was issued between August 1861 and April 1862 during the American Civil War in denominations of 5, 10, and 20 US$. Demand Notes were the first issue of paper money by the United States that achieved wide circulation and they are still in circulation today, though they are now extremely rare. The U.S. government placed the Demand Notes into circulation by using them to pay expenses incurred during the Civil War including the salaries of its workers and military personnel.
National Gold Bank Notes were National Bank Notes issued by nine national gold banks in California in the 1870s and 1880s and redeemable in gold. Printed on a yellow-tinted paper, six denominations circulated: $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $500. A $1,000 note was designed and printed but never issued. During the issuing period of national gold banks (1871–83), the U.S. Treasury issued 200,558 notes totaling $3,465,240. Today, National Gold Bank Notes are rare in the higher denominations with condition generally falling in the good-to-fine range. Approximately 630 National Gold Bank Notes are known to exist, and roughly 20 grade above "very fine".
The Series of 1928 was the first issue of small-size currency printed and released by the U.S. government. These notes, first released to the public on July 10, 1929, were the first standardized notes in terms of design and characteristics, featuring similar portraits and other facets. These notes were also the first to measure 6.14" by 2.61", quite a bit smaller than the large-sized predecessors of Series 1923 and earlier that measured 7.421 8" by 3.125"
This page is a glossary of notaphily. Notaphily is the study of paper money or banknotes.
The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the Coinage Act of 1792. One dollar is divided into 100 cents, or into 1000 mills for accounting and taxation purposes. The Coinage Act of 1792 created a decimal currency by creating the dime, nickel, and penny coins, as well as the dollar, half dollar, and quarter dollar coins, all of which are still minted in 2021.
Bills of credit are documents similar to banknotes issued by a government that represent a government's indebtedness to the holder. They are typically designed to circulate as currency or currency substitutes. Bills of credit are mentioned in Article One, Section 10, Clause One of the United States Constitution, where their issuance by state governments is prohibited.
The Treasury Note was a type of representative money issued by the United States government from 1890 until 1893 under authority of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 and $1000. It was issued in two series: an 1890 series with $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $100 and $1000 denominations, and an 1891 series that added the $50 denomination. A $500 note was designed but never issued. A distinguishing feature of the Series 1890 notes is the extremely ornate designs on the reverse side of the notes. The intent of this was to make counterfeiting much more difficult, but opponents of the design argued that the extensive detail would make it more difficult to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes. Consequently, the reverse designs were simplified on the Series 1891 Treasury Notes issued the following year.
Multiple types of banknotes of the United States dollar have been issued, including Federal Reserve Notes, Silver Certificates, Gold certificates and United States Notes.
A silver certificate is a certificate of ownership that silver owners hold instead of storing the actual silver. Several countries have issued silver certificates, including Cuba, the Netherlands, and the United States. Silver certificates have also been privately issued by various mints and bullion companies. One example was the Liberty Dollar issued by NORFED from 1998 to 2009.
The United States two-dollar bill ($2) is a current denomination of United States currency. A portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States (1801–1809), is featured on the obverse of the note. The reverse features an engraving of the c. 1818 painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull.