Modern sized Gold Certificates were issued in two series. The first, 1928, was issued to the general public. The second issue-that of 1934-was not circulated. In December of 1933, when the United States abandoned the Gold Standard, these notes were recalled and declared illegal to possess. The 1934 series was released only inside the banking system, and were printed with bright orange reverses (in contrast to the usual green) to differentiate them from the previous series. The restriction to hold these notes was lifted in 1964, but the notes are not redeemable for gold. They are however (just like every other piece of currency circulated since 1861), redeemable at face value. These notes were printed in $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 denominations.
Series of 1928
These were released in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000. Most of these notes command high premiums. The $500 and $1,000 notes are seldom seen, and examples of the $5,000 and $10,000 notes remain elusive, the blurry pictures shown here being the only ones available. Only the obverses are shown, as the reverses of these notes are the same as the other type notes.
Series of 1934
Only released to banks, not circulated. Printed in $100, $1,000, $10,000 and $100,000 denominations.
The $100,000 note is the largest denomination note to have been printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and no, you can't get one. The $100,000 Gold Certificate, bearing the portrait of former President Woodrow Wilson (engraved by,G.F.C. Smillie) only had one printing: series 1934, with the signatures of W.A. Julian (Treasurer of the United States) and Henry Morgenthau Jr. (Secretary of the Treasury). There were 42,000 of them printed, numbering from A00000001A to A00042000A. As you can see, this note is a bit different from most notes we see today in that it has an orange colored reverse rather than the usual green. In fact, the series 1934 Gold Certificates are the only small sized notes to have this distinction. The "legal" small sized gold certificates (those of series 1928) have the usual green printing, whereas the "illegal" 1934 note's orange color serves kind of a notice that you should not have that note in your possession! The 1934 issues also had other less noticeable differences from the 1928 issues, such as the text. The 1934 notes read: "This is to certify that there is on deposit in the treasury of the United States of America XXXXX dollars in gold, payable to the bearer on demand as authorized by law." The 1928 issues read: "This certifies that there have been deposited in the treasury of the United States of America XXXXX dollars in gold coin payable to the bearer on demand". Also, the '34 issues omit the word 'A' in the top line of the text on the left of the portrait: 'is legal tender' as opposed to 'is a legal tender'. The 1934 issue included the $100,000, the $10,000, the $1,000 and the $100. They are also different from their 1928 counterparts (except the $100,000 which has none) in that the 1934 issues of the $1,000 and $10,000 have the large numerals of the denomination to the right of the portrait, where the 1928's are simply blank there. The primary difference between these two series is, however, how they were used. The Gold Reserve Act of Jan 31, 1934 recalled all Gold Certificates only months after they had issued many of them, and made withholding any of them a crime. On April 24, 1964, this restriction was lifted for collectors' sake, but only applied to certificates issued on or before Jan 30, 1934. Gold Certificates released after Jan 30, 1934 are illegal to own still to this day. These include the entire 1934 series (the 1934 $100,000 notes were issued on January 9, 1935). These gold back notes were used to shift balances between banks in the federal reserve system (a function served today by bank computers), and were never released to the general public. The photograph above is the only photograph this author has seen of what appears to be a genuine note. All other photographs have been of specimens.
For more information about United States Currency, visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's website at http://www.moneyfactory.gov/
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