100 Greatest American Currency Note Series: Series of 1886 and 1891 $1 Martha Washington Note Silver Certificate

Federal paper money featured several women allegorically speaking and as part of historic scenes. This included goddesses and general depictions of real women; no one specific or “real.” However, that all changed in the late 1880’s with the first silver dollar certificates issued. Not only did it feature a “real woman,” but a woman that holds incredible significance in United States history. With help from authors Q. David Bowers and David M. Sundman, we will look at this top 50 pick as part of Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest American Currency Notes publication.

#50 – Series of 1886 and 1891 $1 Martha Washington Note Silver Certificate

The beginning of the $1 denomination silver certificates started with the Series of 1886 and was succeeded by the Series of 1891. Both of them, however, feature the portrait of Marth Washington on the face. This was the first time that a first lady of the United States was featured on federal paper money. Real women were not really depicted, although there are some depicted on state-chartered bank notes. The only other woman considered “real” was Pocahontas before Martha Washington. The Series of 1896 “Educational Note” also featured Martha Washington in addition to George Washington. They were both featured in separate portraits on the back of the notes.

Over 72.7 million Series of 1886 $1 notes were printed in addition to the over 65.4 million printed from the 1891 series. Thousands are said to still exist today with typical grades being in Very Good to Very Fine condition. Uncirculated notes are available but are scarce compared to those in lesser condition.

In 1960, the historic market value for a Gem Crisp Uncirculated $1 note was $60. By this publication (2006), that same note went up to $2,500.