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Exploring US Currency Variations and Color Seals

Posted on February 25th, 2020 by Joe G

Whether you’re curious about the value of a particular bill, or simply pondering its intricate details, you might have noticed that the seal on your United States currency comes in a variety of colors. Ever wondered why these seals vary and what stories they hold?

Over the past two centuries, the landscape of U.S. currency has seen various styles, each marked by distinct features. While today’s currency bears the title of Federal Reserve Notes, the annals of history reveal silver certificates, gold certificates, national currency notes, and even emergency issues during times of war.

Diving into the World of Colorful Seals

National Currency Charter Bank Notes (Maroon Seals)

National currency came in different forms, marked by the state in which the issuing bank resided. These notes were categorized into four classes – Charter Banks, spanning 1862-1881; the 1882-1908 series; the 1902 series featuring blue and red seals, along with the Maroon seal. Many rare and valuable notes emerged from various banks, including obscure and scarce institutions.

Emergency Notes of Hawaii & North Africa (Yellow, Blue, and Maroon)

Hawaii’s emergency notes, issued from 1942 to 1944 during World War II, bore the HAWAII imprint in maroon across the reverse side, alongside a maroon seal. This was a precaution against rendering the bills worthless should Japanese forces invade Hawaii. These emergency notes are collectible, with higher denominations commanding greater value.

Similarly, North African notes flaunted yellow seals on the right with a blue number on the left, spanning 1934A and 1935A $1, $5, and $10 notes. These were produced by the U.S. government amid concerns of a potential German takeover and currency devaluation.

Yellow Seal US Dollars (Gold Certificates)

Introduced in 1863, yellow seal U.S. bank notes embodied gold certificates. These notes represented a denomination backed by an equivalent amount in gold from the U.S. treasury. This connection to the Gold Standard allowed certificate holders to exchange them for physical gold at local banks. The Gold Standard, however, faced suspension during World War I, leading to a free-floating currency similar to today’s fiat system.

The Gold Standard finally dissolved in 1933, making gold possession illegal, only to be lifted in 1964. While blue seal silver certificates and gold certificates became collector’s items, they could no longer be exchanged for their precious metal value.

Blue Seal US Dollars (Silver Certificates)

Beginning in 1878, U.S. silver certificates were distinguished by their blue seals. These notes were backed by the nation’s stockpile of silver bullion and could be redeemed for their silver value. They evolved from exchange for silver dollar coins to an exchange for actual silver bullion. Mainly available in $1, $5, and $10 denominations, these notes were discontinued in 1963, with a redemption deadline of 1968 for their silver value.

Red Seal US Dollars (US Notes)

Red seal dollars emerged during the Civil War and maintained their presence for a century, standing as a testament to their longevity in circulation. These notes represented a direct obligation of the U.S. government, implying ownership of a fraction of the national debt. Though they ceased as legal tender in the mid-’90s, they are still valid currency.

Green Seal US Dollars (Federal Reserve Notes)

Present-day bills are known as Federal Reserve Notes, backed by the U.S. government and the 12 Federal Reserve banks. Introduced in 1914, these notes are rooted in the Federal Reserve system, with a quest to thwart counterfeiters leading to various security features. Although they’ve undergone transformations, the older versions remain valid. While speculation exists regarding their imminent devaluation, it hasn’t materialized yet and these notes are still spendable.

Bring Your Old US Currency in for Evaluation

If you have some old bills (or coins) and you would like to find out what they’re worth and possibly sell them so you will have even more modern dollars in your wallet, stop in and let our knowledgeable team provide you with an accurate valuation.

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