The U.S. Treasury began pulling all gold certificates from circulation in the 1930s, and the vast majority have been destroyed. However, any certificates still in private hands remain legal tender, and you can redeem them for face value. You won't get that face value in gold, however -- and the Treasury Department suggests you might be better off selling them to a collector.
Originally, a U.S. Treasury gold certificate gave you the right to present the certificate to the Treasury and receive the face value in gold. A 1934 federal law ordered all of these certificates taken out of circulation; the law allows the certificates to be swapped for currency but prohibits the government from exchanging them for gold. According to the Treasury Department, you can bring certificates to a Treasury office or any bank and exchange them for modern currency of the same face value. In other words, if you have a $10 gold certificate, you could turn it in and get $10 worth of "regular" money.
Value as a Collectible
Before turning in gold certificates for face value, you'd be wise to take them to a coin dealer for appraisal as a collectible. According to Heritage Auctions, one of the world's leading dealers of rare coins and currency, gold certificates typically sell for at least twice their face value. Depending on condition, they can be worth many times face value -- and the higher the denomination, the more valuable they are.
- Treasury Department: Buying, Selling and Redeeming
- Legal Information Institute: 31 U.S. Code § 5118 - Gold Clauses
- Heritage Auctions: Currency Value
- Office of the Historian. "Nixon and the End of the Bretton Woods System, 1971–1973." Accessed May 28, 2020.
- National Audit Office. "The Sale of Part of the UK Gold Reserves." Accessed May 28, 2020.
- U.S. International Trade Commission. "Floating Exchange Rates and U.S. Competitiveness," Page 10, 11. Accessed May 28, 2020.
Cam Merritt is a writer and editor specializing in business, personal finance and home design. He has contributed to USA Today, The Des Moines Register and Better Homes and Gardens"publications. Merritt has a journalism degree from Drake University and is pursuing an MBA from the University of Iowa.