Small Size Silver Certificates And Experimental Notes
Posted on 11/17/2015
Small Size Silver Certificates were printed from 1928 to 1964 in the United States as part of its circulation of paper currency. They were printed in response to silver agitation by those angered by the Fourth Coinage Act, which had effectively placed the United States on a gold standard. Hence their name, Silver Certificates were initially redeemable in the same face value of silver dollar coins and later in raw silver bullion. Since 1968 Silver Certificates have been redeemable only in Federal Reserve notes and are thus obsolete, but still valid legal tender.
Silver Certificates were not accepted for all transactions, but were more convenient than walking around with a pocket full of dollar coins. All small size series 1928 certificates carried the obligation “This certifies that there has (or have) been deposited in the Treasury of the United States of America X silver dollar(s) payable to the bearer on demand.” This required the Treasury to maintain silver dollars to back the redeemable Silver Certificates in circulation. Beginning with Series 1934 Silver Certificates, the wording was changed to “This certifies that there is on deposit in the Treasury of the United States of America X dollars in silver payable to the bearer on demand.” This freed the Treasury from storing bags of silver dollars in its vaults, and allowed it to redeem Silver Certificates with bullion or silver granules, rather than silver dollars.
Similar to today’s printed paper money, the date on the bill did not always reflect when it was printed, but rather a major design change. Additional changes, particularly when either or both signatures were altered, led to a letter being added after the date. The 1935 dated dollar bills lasted through the letter “H”, after which new printing processes began in the 1957 series. At times printing plates were used until they wore out, even though newer ones were also producing notes, so the sequencing of signatures may not always be chronological. Even though 1957 is the last date you’ll see on a Silver Certificate, some of the 1935 dated dollar bills were released as late as 1963.
Another part of Silver Certificates are experimental notes. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has frequently chosen the $1 denomination for testing of alternative printing techniques and paper compositions. With poverty rising during World War II and more potential counterfeiting of paper money, a concern with security paper supply was in demand. Any threat to this supply means the inability to print notes. Being a real possibility, potential replacement paper was found and tested; experimental notes were born.
Special runs of serial numbers were often set aside for experimental notes so they could be easily identified later to observe how well they held up in circulation. Series 1928A & 1928B were the first group of Silver Certificate experimental notes to be printed. Three batches were printed, two on different paper types and a third on regular paper as a control.
Special paper: X 000 00001 B – X 107 28000 B
Special paper: Y 000 00001 B – Y 102 48000 B
Regular paper: Z 000 00001 B – Z 102 48000 B
The second groups of SC experimental notes were printed in series 1935. This experimental group also consisted of three batches: one with a special finish, one on special paper, and the third a control group with regular paper.
Special finish: A 000 00001 B – A 061 80000 B
Special paper: B 000 00001 B – B 033 00000 B
Regular paper: C 000 00001 B – C 033 00000 B
The next-and my favorite-group are the “R” and “S” SC experimental notes. Exactly 2,368,000 from the 1935A series were produced. A large red “R” in the lower right corner distinguished notes printed using regular paper while those printed with special paper had the letter “S.” This specific series are the only experimental Silver Certificates printed in this unique fashion. With equal quantities of 1,184,000, the two groups were released June 20, 1944 and issued into circulation to test their comparative disabilities. These experimental notes make up less than 1% of all 1935A notes and survivors are considered scarce.
“R” Serial Number ranges: S 708 84001 C – S 720 68000 C
“S” Serial Number ranges: S 738 84001 C – S 750 68000 C
Despite all the worry about declining paper supply, no conclusive results were observed from the 1935A experiment. And the supply of security paper never became a problem. But the “R” and “S” experimental notes leave us with a reminder of some troubled times the US went through, along with some unique items for collectors and dealers alike.
PMG is an independent member of the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG).