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Various colors for $1 paper money

When coin collectors think of small-size dollars, they probably think of the Anthony dollar or the Sacagawea coin that followed it. That’s logical, but in this case, not the topic. When the first small-size $1 dollar notes appeared in circulation in 1929, they were called small because they were indeed smaller than the notes used up until then.

When coin collectors think of small-size dollars, they probably think of the Anthony dollar or the Sacagawea coin that followed it. That’s logical, but in this case, not the topic.


When the first small-size $1 dollar notes appeared in circulation in 1929, they were called small because they were indeed smaller than the notes used up until then. This size is still used today.

There is no doubt it created a good deal of interest and the need for redesigned wallets. Of course back on July 10, 1929, when the new notes were released, the country was not the place it is today. Then the thinking was that the United States had found the secret to perpetual prosperity.

Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was considered a financial wizard for funding the massive World War I debt and lowering income tax rates. The stock market was soaring. Herbert Hoover was just starting his term of office as the third President to be guided by Mellon.

The U.S. dollar was not quite the same dollar we have today either in terms of appearance or in terms of impact. That makes a collection of small-size dollar notes a fascinating one as you are tracing not only the history of the dollars of the United States, but also the country itself. As collections go, you can probably find no better or more interesting a way to start than with small-size notes.

In all probability, the Americans receiving those first small-size dollars were not totally convinced that they were the wave of the future. Replacing the old large-size notes, which in the case of $1 notes could have been any number of items including Silver Certificates, United States Notes, emergency Federal Reserve Bank Notes from World War I or even older Coin Notes or National Bank Notes. To suddenly receive a smaller $1 note might have caused anyone to pause. Of course, there were still silver dollars. Peace dollar mintages had just been suspended after the final 1928 mintage totals meant that the federal government had replaced ever last silver dollar melted under the terms of the 1918 Pittman Act.

The change to small-size notes had been part of a long process that stretched all the way back to the Taft administration when the Secretary of the Treasury Franklin MacVeagh had named a committee to study the idea of a change to small-size notes. That committee had responded positively, but nothing was done as MacVeagh received the report and promptly left office. The years that followed would see no movement toward a change in size until 1925.

In 1925 Mellon revived the idea of switching to small-size notes. Mellon, however, was already convinced it was a good idea so his committee was established simply to determine what needed to be done to bring about the change. His view was determined in part because the smaller notes had been successfully introduced in the American colony of the Philippines.

The new committee reported in 1927 and Mellon gave the order to start making the changes to American paper money.

It appears that Mellon’s committee had ideas beyond size change. The designs had been becoming more similar but with the advent of the new small-size notes except for wording and the color of the Treasury seal and serial numbers the design of different types of notes of the same denomination would basically become uniform.

There was a less obvious change and that is that the role of the different types of notes potentially in production would be changed. The $1 Silver Certificate became the standard note for the denomination in the new small size.

Other kinds of paper money were printed in other denominations. It was intended that United States Notes with red seals would be $2 and $5.

The role of Gold Certificates would remain basically the same and the lowest denomination would be $10 while Federal Reserve Notes would see an expanded role, but the lowest denomination was $5 while Federal Reserve Bank Notes were not produced at all.

National Bank Notes were slowly being eliminated as their charters expired and these had not been printed with $1 denominations since the 19th century.

The elegant plan left the Federal Reserve Note as the most diverse type, but as the only $1, the Silver Certificate would be very important. Average Americans would regularly have and use $1 Silver Certificates more so than the larger denominations.

The stock market crash in October 1929 and the financial improvisations of the early Franklin Roosevelt years altered this plan. However, looking at the $1 notes of the new small-size means we start with the Silver Certificates.
The first small-size $1 was the Series 1928 $1 Silver Certificate with a Tate-Mellon signature combination. How can that be when the notes were issued in 1929?

Well, the dating of American paper money is quirky compared to coins. Dates don’t change every year and notes with older dates were released as was the case with Series 1929. They were actually printed in the first half of 1929.
As might be expected as the $1 was the most heavily used note, the printing was large and that makes a Crisp Uncirculated Series 1928 $1 Silver Certificate a relatively inexpensive note today as many were saved. To obtain an historic Series 1928 today is $85 in CU-63 and $125 in CU-65. There is a constant demand to keep prices steady or rising. A star replacement note for the Series 1928 is around $375 in CU-63 and $900 in CU-65. The stars on these notes appear at the end of the serial number. Circulated star note examples are readily available for less.

The next Series 1928A and 1928B are also available reflecting continued heavy printings. The 1928A was created to note the change from H.T. Tate as Treasurer of the United States to Walter O. Woods. The 1928B arrived to mark Mellon’s replacement as Treasury secretary with Ogden L. Mills.

The 1928A is $85 in CU-63 and $125 in CU-65. The 1928B is a little more expensive at $110 in CU-63 but it has the same price in CU-65.

Stars are naturally tougher with a CU-63 Series 1928A at $350 and the Series 1928B $950.

The next series would be tougher reflecting smaller printings. The Series 1928C saw only 5,364,348 released and that translates into a CU-63 listing now above $600 for a regular note while a star replacement note is likely to be $25,000 or more in CU-63.

The printing of the Series 1928D was higher at nearly 14.5 million pieces but even so that is still not a large printing and that puts CU-63 examples of the Series 1928D at $425 while a CU star is likely to be more than $$27,500.

The most elusive of the early series is the Series 1928E, which had a printing of just 3,519,325. There is reason to believe the Series 1928E might be tougher than even the small printing suggests as it is $1,700 or more for a regular CU-63 while a star is virtually impossible in CU-63 with suggested prices being $75,000 or more.

There is a possible reason why the Series 1928E is tougher than expected as it along with the Series 1928C and 1928D were the final three to carry the wording that they were payable in one silver dollar. That wording would be changed to ONE DOLLAR IN SILVER PAYABLE ON DEMAND starting with the Series 1934 and there is reason to believe there might have been a faster than normal retirement of the earlier series, which would have cut the time in circulation and perhaps even the release of the 1928E more than others. Also the last three series of 1928 were printed starting in 1933 and running to 1935 even as the new Series 1934 was started in the middle of 1934.

The new Series 1934 Silver Certificates would be a one series type as the back was changed for the Series 1935. It is readily available at roughly $100 in CU-63 and $650 for a CU-63 star.

The Series 1935 $1 Silver Certificates and those that came later might be called the readily available $1 Silver Certificates. In general a CU-63 from any series can be found for $35 and in some cases for under $20.

The CU-63 stars start with the Series 1935 now around $350 and the Series 1935A is $200, 1935B is $185, 1935C is $150, 1935D is $80, 1935E is $25, 1935F is $35, 1935G is $50 and 1935H is $60.

In 1955 a law was passed to place the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on all the notes and the first notes to carry the motto were the Series 1957 and some examples of the Series 1935G, which were being printed at the same time.

There are also a couple special $1 Silver Certificates as with the start of World War II there were very real fears that the Japanese might invade and capture Hawaii. That would mean the capture of large amounts of notes. To be able to spot captured notes and not honor them a special HAWAII overprint was placed on special Series 1935A Silver Certificates. That idea seemed successful as the notes were used for a couple years in Hawaii and also saw use in other islands as they were taken back from the Japanese.

The idea seemed to work but the war was taking place in other locations. Fearing large amount of currency would be captured when American forces invaded North Africa in November 1942, it was decided to make special Series 1935A $1 Silver Certificates with regular blue serial numbers but a yellow Treasury seal for use by the troops.

Anyone wanting a complete $1 Silver Certificate type collection needs examples of both the Hawaii and North Africa notes, but fortunately they are available. A CU-63 Hawaii is $125 while an African note is $250 in the same grade. Stars are $2,500 and $3,000, respectively in the same grade.

Another special World War II issue is not quite as clearly identified with the fighting. There was a fear at the time that the supply of security paper might become exhausted. It was decided to test an alternative so 1,184,000 notes of a special test paper were produced with a red overprint “S” while an identical number was made from the regular security paper but marked with a red overprint “R.” The small printing meant the so-called “R” and “S” experimentals are tough with a CU-63 of either being $450. Stars of either are very elusive with a current listing of $7,000 for each.

In the case especially of the more recent $1 Silver Certificates it should be noted that prices having been moving upward. After being phased out in the 1960s, the later series were saved in large numbers in countless usually small accumulations. The potential impact of all those notes coming on the market kept prices in check.

Now over 40 years after being assembled, it is safe to assume that most accumulations and hoards have come on the market and been absorbed and prices can move without fears of added numbers suddenly appearing. That has been especially true in the case of CU examples which in some cases were moving faster to higher prices than the price guides were reflecting as supplies were clearly decreasing and dealers started raising prices even before the price guides could reflect the change in attitude.

Most of the notes hoarded by the public, as might be expected, were in circulated grades, which means any collector can assemble most of the dates for less than $10 each. The exceptions are the star notes and the rare 1928 issues.

The silver shortage of the 1960s saw the Silver Certificate $1 come to an end. They were replaced by the Federal Reserve $1 of Series 1963. They have already become a major collection simply because every new series can potentially include notes from 12 districts as well as star replacement notes for each. While sizable in terms of the number of potential notes in a complete collection, the Federal Reserve $1 notes are not expensive as few whether a regular note or a star replacement note even top $10 in CU-63, especially if they are purchased in groups. It should, however, be pointed out that those prices apply to the more available type notes as there are in some cases districts or stars from certain districts that are tougher and more expensive.

While available the $1 Federal Reserve Note includes some very interesting notes like the Series 1963B with a Granahan-Barr signature combination. In fact, the Series 1963B is one of the better $1 Federal Reserve Notes with prices of $8 or more for a regular CU-63 while a CU-63 star is $20 or more. The reason is that Joseph W. Barr was appointed to his position with just one month left in the Lyndon Johnson administration.

In theory with only a month for the production of notes bearing his signature, it was thought that Barr notes would be better. They were, but not to the degree expected as they were printed for a number of months after he left office for a grand total of 525 million of them from five Federal Reserve districts. In addition, there was heavy saving of notes with Barr’s signature at the time so the supply is better than usual. That said, printed only for New York, Richmond, Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco, Barr notes are still tougher than average but not as elusive as some had originally predicted.

The one exception to the general rule of $1 Federal Reserve Notes being available are are the web press notes. The web press was a long-running government experiment or soap opera depending on your point of view.

It was a logical idea as it was a constantly fed press with paper in a continupous web as opposed to the traditional sheet-fed press. Each sheet contains 32 notes. After years of experimenting, however, the idea was dropped but not before there was a limited production of notes from the web press.

The first web press notes were Series 1988A and they can be identified because of the different location of the check number on both the face and back. The web press notes were made in small numbers for Philadelphia, Richmond, Boston, Atlanta and Chicago and those from the Series 1988A while tougher are generally available. Any star replacement note from the web press is tougher with recent listing showing the Atlanta star in CU-63 is now at least $750.

Additional web press notes were made from the Series 1993 from New York and Philadelphia while the Series 1995 were made for New York, Boston, Cleveland and Atlanta. All can be found but web press supplies are poor in some cases and prices can be volatile.

The key is the Series 1988A New York, which is valued at $2,000 in CU-63.

Another $1 note has a peculiar story and supplies are not good. It is the $1 United States Note with the red seal.This is perhaps the least known but one of the most interesting of all small-size $1 notes. The Series 1928 $1 United States Note was not issued in 1928 as it was not even printed until April and May of 1933.

There had been no plan for a $1 United States Note but the Great Depression changed thinking in many areas as Gold Certificates required gold reserves and they were rapidly decreasing. The Gold Certificate then had to be discontinued, but a question arose as to what issues could help take their place. The ideal was something that required no gold or silver backing and originally the United States Note looked like a good choice. What officials did not realize was that there were legal limits on the number of United States Notes.

The plan appears to have been to issue $1, $10 and $20 United States Notes, but only the $1 was ever produced as the $10 and $20 were exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair, but never produced when the legal restrictions on United States Notes were discovered.

As it turned out, a total of 1,872,012 $1 United States Notes were produced but only 5,000 of that total were released immediately around Washington, D.C. with the rest apparently being placed in the vault. Years later the rest of the printing started appearing in Puerto Rico in 1948 and 1949. It was an interesting choice as the island was outside of the normal Federal Reserve System. Whatever the reason, with virtually no collectors in Puerto Rico at the time the notes issued were quickly circulated.

The result of the odd low printing and even more unusual release pattern is that the $1 United States Note is tough with a regular note listing for roughly $500 in CU-63 while a CU-63 star replacement note is virtually impossible with only a couple reported and a listed price of $25,000 in CU-63.

With all the possibilities and those numbers growing every time there is a new $1 series of Federal Reserve Notes, the small-size $1 note is already a large and interesting collection. It is also historic and extremely popular as many like to start their collections with the lowest denomination. We have, however, seen the impact of that popularity with rising prices and with suspect supplies for some types, it would appear that now is the right time to start a small-size paper dollar collection while there are still adequate supplies to enable you to acquire the notes you want in the grade you desire.

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