100 Greatest American Currency Notes Series: Seldom Seen In Its Own Time $500 Silver Certificate, Series of 1878 and 1880

While in the wide world of paper money, there are certain notes out there still that are difficult to find information about. That could mean a number of things like how many were printed or even how they were used. That is certainly a question about our next entry following the 100 Greatest American Currency notes series as featured in the Whitman Publishing publication. While authors Q. David Bowers and David M. Sundman may not know too much about this entry, they do happen to have a great deal of knowledge about currency, which leads us to believe that their assumption on this note makes more sense than not.

#64 - Seldom Seen In It’s Own Time $500 Silver Certificate, Series of 1878 and 1880

As part of the series of the first silver certificates to have ever been produced, the $500 denomination saw 9,300 produced in 1878 and just 24,000 in 1880. As of 2006, only eight notes of the Series 1878 were able to be traced. The Series of 1878 have two standard Treasury signatures plus a countersignature while the Series 1880 notes have just the two signatures. While both these series’ notes are talked about on this list, the author’s admit to having learned little about them as they are so rare. Because of this, they estimate that they were most likely used in “bulk” silver activities and did not circulate.

In a report found in Banker’s Magazine from January 1879, the author’s found that the United States Treasury received $11,600,000 for customs in silver certificates between June 30th and November 30th, but noted that some of them were paid out and received more than once. It is also likely that while the government received many of the silver certificates back, they made it a matter of destroying them once they were viewed as obsolete.

The life cycle of silver certificates really became a part of American everyday life when The Act of August 4, 1886, was authorized which issued small denominations all the way down to $1 that would be printed in large quantities. Silver certificates became very familiar even though they were not considered legal tender. They could only be exchanged for minted silver dollars that were legal tender which made them unique in their own right.

The $500 silver certificates from Series’ 1878 and 1880 depicted Charles Sumner on the face. He was a well-known United States senator from the state of Massachusetts.

The historic market value on this note appears to be unknown dating all the way back to 1960 through the years. However, a Very Fine condition example sold for $483,000 in October of 2005 and was considered a bargain at the time.