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July 18, 2018 

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GOLD CERTIFICATES:

Paper currency issued and authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury that is, in principle, backed up by, and exchangeable for, an equivalent value of gold. Gold certificates were in circulation as a medium of exchange for the U.S. economy during two periods, 1865 to 1922 and 1928 to 1934. A similar form of paper currency is silver certificates.
Gold certificates are a type of currency that is, in principle, tied to a given quantity of gold safely stockpiled by government, it can be, in principle, exchanged for gold. The certificates merely represent, or give title to, the actual gold. As such, the gold certificates are as good as the gold itself as a medium of exchange. If the gold functions as the medium of exchange, then so too does the gold certificates.

From Commodity to Fiat

Gold certificates, along with silver certificates, represent a transition between commodity money and fiat money. With commodity money the silver or gold metal is used as the actual medium of exchange. This money has value in exchange AND value in use. With fiat money, however, currency has value in exchange but little or no value in use.

Gold certificates, that is the paper currency itself, has little or no value in use, but it can be, in principle, exchanged for the gold that DOES have value in use. In theory, ideally, in principle, the gold with its value in use is the ultimate medium of exchange. However, in practice, in reality, the paper certificates with little or no direct value in use are the medium.

If the general public never exchanges the paper certificates for the metal, if the public loses track of how much metal is actually stockpiled to back the certificates, then the certificates need not be backed fully by the metal. This moves the certificates several steps closer to fiat money.

Two Sets of Gold

Gold certificates were issued and circulated during two periods, 1865 to 1922 and 1928 to 1934.
  • The first period, 1865 to 1922, produced large-sized bills (about 25 percent larger than modern currency) in nine denominations ($10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000). The 1907 $10 gold certificate contained a gold Roman numeral "X" on the face, giving rise to the "sawbuck" nickname for the ten-dollar bill. The 1906 $20 gold certificate had "XX" and generated the "double sawbuck" nickname.

  • The second period, 1928 to 1934, produced small-sized bills that came a lot closer to the look of modern currency (at least before Federal Reserve notes were redesigned in 1996). This more recent set of gold certificates came in nine denominations ($10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, $50,000, $100,000). Because the ownership of gold by the public was outlawed in 1933, after than time gold certificates only circulated among Federal Reserve Banks.

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Recommended Citation:

GOLD CERTIFICATES, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia, http://www.AmosWEB.com, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2018. [Accessed: July 18, 2018].


Check Out These Related Terms...

     | currency | silver certificates | Federal Reserve notes | monetary aggregates | M1 | M2 | M3 | L | checkable deposits | near monies | plastic money |


Or For A Little Background...

     | money | money functions | money characteristics | fiat money | commodity money | medium of exchange | liquidity |


And For Further Study...

     | money creation | fractional-reserve banking | banking | Federal Reserve System | monetary economics | monetary base | monetary policy | debit card | monetary economics |


Related Websites (Will Open in New Window)...

     | Federal Reserve System | Federal Reserve Education | U.S. Department of the Treasury | The Currency Gallery | Bureau of Engraving and Printing |


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