A Silver Sign

Silver Certificate
Silver Certificate

I went out to lunch this afternoon with my wife and afterwards went to indulge my rare, but sinful desire for Aunt Annie’s cinnamon pretzel bites…hmmm, sugary buttery doughy goodness…

So I went into my wallet to cough up the $4.17…wait, $4 for pretzel bites? WTF?! I told you it was a rare indulgence, but boy has our little New England mall gotten mighty pretentious lately. Anyway, I pulled 4 dollar bills from my wallet and as I was about to hand them over, something caught my eye: a blue seal. Hold on there a second…sweet mother, a Silver Certificate! Caught in the wild! And it’s in fairly decent shape for being 57 years old. Considering that the average lifespan of a dollar bill is less than 2 years, this could only mean one thing: somebody raided grandpa’s cigar box for cigarette money. I know exactly where I got it – change from my sandwich yesterday from the deli down the street. That deli only sells two things: sandwiches, and cigarettes. Oh, and Lotto. Maybe someone thought they could cash in grandpa’s collection for some PowerBall tickets. How sad.

Anyway, I take it as a sign. I have never, in my entire life, received a silver certificate in circulation. It caused me to take a moment to stop and reflect on just how badly inflation has devastated our collective understanding of the value of real money. I stood there and imagined: What if I could actually turn in this Silver Certificate somewhere (the Federal Reserve stopped honoring Certificates in 1968) for the physical silver? I would have received 1 ounce of silver bullion. One really has to stand there with $4 pretzel bites in one hand, and a $1 Silver Certificate worth 1 ounce of silver in the other hand, to truly appreciate inflation. Suddenly the pretzel bites turn to ashes in your mouth.

It’s a useful exercise to help understand the relative value of money when you compare physical silver to other tangible goods. I used the Silver Certificate as a teaching opportunity for my daughter. She’s 10, so it’s a weighty discussion that I tried to keep light, but I asked her: What could you buy with this $1 bill today? She answered, “Not much. Maybe a candy bar?” Brilliant. I explained that in 1957, the date on this Certificate, she could go to a bank and exchange that $1 for 1 ounce of silver. I asked, what do you think you could buy in 1957 for $1? She shrugs her shoulders. I floored her when I said for this $1, or 1 ounce of silver, one could buy about 5 loafs of bread, or a gallon of milk, or 4 pounds of hamburger, or 2 dozen eggs, or 4 gallons of gas. I explained that silver is real money and that it has held its relative value all this time. If I exchanged a 1 ounce Silver Eagle today, I’d have enough paper money to buy, guess what: about 5 loafs or bread, or 2 gallons of real raw milk, or 4 pounds of hamburger, or 3 dozen local pastured eggs, or 4 gallons of gas… So I asked her, what would you rather have today – this $1 bill, or an ounce of silver? Her answer: “The silver, definitely.” That’s my girl…

1 Comment

  1. APB

    I found a Silver Certificate from the 1930s back when I worked in a convenience store.

    For those who know me personally, let the mental image of me being allowed to work with the general public wash over you for a second. The mind truly boggles…

    Anyway, somebody paid me with an odd looking bill, so I pulled it out of the till and replaced it with one of my own singles. And what did I do with my treasure? Why, I put it right into my wallet, of course. And just as naturally, I spent it without realizing it.


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