Silver currency is one of the oldest forms of money—it first appeared in present-day Turkey around 600 BC. It’s also one of the most prevalent forms, with recorded use in every major empire from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the colonial U.S. Before buying silver coins, explore the history of the use of this precious metal as currency in the United States.
The Establishment of Silver Currency in the U.S.
The history of silver used as U.S. currency dates back to the very birth of America. When the Constitution officially took effect in March 1789, Congress was given the power to mint gold and silver coins as currency. In 1792, the U.S. Mint was established in Philadelphia and began producing only silver coins, which at that time included the silver dollar, half dollar, quarter dollar, dime, and half dime.
A History of Silver Coin Designs
The first design for silver U.S. currency was the Flowing Hair series, minted for just two years in 1794-95. Next came the rare, prestigious Draped Bust series, which was used through 1807. Collectors have since dubbed the 1804 Draped Bust coin as “The King of American Coins.” The Capped Bust series was then used through 1839, as was the Gobrecht dollar. The Seated Liberty series, which included the last half dime, was produced through 1891. Other notable designs over the years included the Franklin Half Dollar honoring Benjamin Franklin (1948-1963) and the Roosevelt Dime honoring Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1948-1963).
The End of Silver Money
Silver currency saw its end in the U.S. with the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, which removed all silver content from nickels and dimes. In addition, it reduced the silver content of the Kennedy Half Dollar, produced from 1965 through 1970, from 90 percent to 40 percent.