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Without silver, just another buck

While the world was watching Ben Bernanke as he outlined his latest views on the American economy Friday, I was going about my business as usual.

The nature of money has once again become an issue in a political campaign after the Republican Party adopted what everybody is calling a gold standard plank in its platform.

By some quirk, a bit of old money came my way during the noon hour at the local bank. I needed some cash. It is a small town. Rather than use the ATM machine in the entry area, I go into the lobby and deal with the tellers.

One of them, whom I have known for over 30 years called my attention to some old money.

She was going to send them to the Federal Reserve.

“Oh, don’t do that,” I commented. “I’ll take a look at them and spend them if nothing else.”

The teller had 15 $1 Silver Certificates. They were very worn.

There were three series present in the group.

There were three Series 1957 notes. One was a star replacement note. They have the facsimile signatures of Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest and Treasury Secretary Robert B. Anderson on them.

There were seven Series 1957A notes with the signatures of Elizabeth Rudel Smith and C. Douglas Dillon. One of these also was a star note.

The final batch of five notes was Series 1957B with signatures of Kathryn O’Hay Granahan and Dillon.

These notes represent the last hurrah of the Silver Certificate. At the time of issue, the first series from the Eisenhower and Administration and the final two from the Kennedy Administration, all $1 notes were silver Certificates save for the very occasional surviving $1 United States Note from Series 1928. There were no $1 Federal Reserve Notes at the time. They started in 1963 and were replacements for the Silver Certificates.

Though Silver Certificates today are still legal tender at face value, the last time I tried to spend one I got a funny look from the clerk and then her manager, who at least recognized it and said I must be a collector.

Collector value is minimal, so I can now take the opportunity to see what kind of reactions I get when I spend them.

Oh yes, the silver backing the notes was removed June 24, 1968, the last day on which holders could redeem them for the precious metal.

If the government had not removed the backing what might the note be worth?

Well, a silver dollar has $24.86 of silver in it at this morning’s price of $32.14 a troy ounce.

That’s what the note would be worth.

Instead, it is just another buck.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."