Collectors of coins and paper currency have to put a lot of puzzle pieces in place when determining the current values for items in their collections. At face value, a dollar bill may simply look like a "regular" dollar bill. But on closer inspection, that slip of currency may tip its hand in favor of something that's a little off the beaten path — such as a silver certificate dollar. And although a 1957 silver certificate dollar is more than 60 years old and represents a form of currency that's obsolete today, its value is surprisingly low.
What Are Silver Certificate Dollars?
During its 86-year run — from 1878 through 1964 — silver certificate dollar bills allowed their holders a way to redeem their certificates for silver coins or silver bullion. The paper currency represented a direct exchange for silver that was equal to the silver certificate's face value. In 1878, the Bland-Allison Act required the <st1:country-region w:st="on">U.S. government to purchase up to $4 million in silver from <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">U.S. mining companies, which was to be minted and made into silver dollars. But the coins were so heavy that the U.S. Treasury printed silver certificates that could be used instead of the coins.
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Silver Certificate Dollar Denominations
Silver certificates come in two sizes: large and small. The large certificates were issued between 1878 and 1923, and they measured more than 3 inches wide and 7 inches long. Large certificate designs depicted founding fathers, former presidents, vice presidents and first ladies.
The 1957 silver certificate dollar is one of the short silver certificates, which measure the same size as our current <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">U.S. currency (6.4 inches long by 2.5 inches wide), and they bear the images of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Alexander Hamilton.
Current Value of Silver Certificates
The value of a silver certificate depends on its condition and the year it was issued, regardless of its size. You can no longer redeem a silver certificate for actual silver, but it's still legal tender, which means you can use it as currency. You can also exchange a silver certificate for a Federal Reserve note of the same denomination. As a collectible, it's probably worth more than its face value even though its price may not fetch too much more than its face value.
Silver Certificate Value-Added Features
Of the many variables that contribute to a silver certificate's value, its grade is a large indicator of its value. Grading depends on the number it's assigned on the Sheldon numerical scale — from 1 to 70 — typically including one or two letters describing its condition including very good (VG), good (G), extremely fine (EF) and almost uncirculated (AU).
Silver certificate features that may also add value include errors. A 1957 silver certificate error that could add to its value includes anomalies such as cutting, folding or inking mistakes made during its printing.
1957 Silver Certificate Value
Silver certificates that have issue dates between 1935 and 1957 look nearly identical to the current U.S. dollar bill that features George Washington. Because this time frame represents the most commonly issued silver certificates, most 1957 silver certificates in circulation are worth only slightly more than face value, typically $1.25 to $1.50. Uncirculated certificates from this year aren't much more valuable, selling for only $2 to $4. Exceptions to these values are the 1957 silver certificate star notes, which are scarce.
1957 Silver Certificate Star Note
If the manufacturer of a currency note deems it imperfect, the note is replaced with a Star Note. Star Notes are recognizable by a star that appears before or after the serial number. Because Star Notes are not as common as regularly issued money, their value is higher.
Although 1957 silver certificate Star Notes are quite uncommon, the value of most of them is only $3 (average condition). An exception is the 1957 Series A silver certificate Star Note issue, which is valued between $12.75 and $26.00.