Shock as Customer Pays With Rare Silver Certificate Bill From 1930s

A hardware store employee from upstate New York has wowed the internet after a customer paid with a $5 bill from 1934.

Austin, 26, works at the store where they received the 88-year-old bill.

"I was taken aback by its design, not having seen one like it before," Austin told Newsweek. "Looking closer at it, I noticed the date printed being 1934, and that took me by surprise more. The bill-checking marker showed that it was a real bill, so I was immediately intrigued by it."

Every year, billions of dollars of U.S. currency are printed and engraved, and while most of these change hands with little thought, there are bills that are worth more than their face value.

Silver certificate $5 bill
The front of the rare $5 bill from 1934. A hardware store employee from upstate New York has wowed the internet after a customer paid with a $5 bill from 1934. window-fly/Reddit

In December, a woman discovered a very rare $1 bill while sorting through her late father's belongings. The dollar bill featured the serial number 00000001, meaning it was the first bill released in the B series of $1 bills released in 1969, printed in New York. The new owner of the unusual bill explained that they would likely sell it on eBay, with similar bills being listed for resale for as much as $1,999.99.

With more than 72K upvotes on Reddit's r/mildlyinteresting forum, the unusual $5 bill gained some serious attention. Before long, viewers of the post pointed out something that even the hardware store workers had missed—the bill was a silver certificate.

A silver certificate bill represents a unique part of American history. First issued by the U.S. government in the 1800s, the holder of a certificate could redeem it for a certain amount of silver. One certificate allowed investors to hold silver without having to buy the precious metal itself.

In 1963, the House passed a bill to repeal the silver certificate, and the redemption period for the certificates ended in June 1968.

"I didn't know it was a silver certificate until it was pointed out in the comments of my post. Seeing some of the auctions of similar bills surprised me as well," Austin said.

While silver certificate bills can no longer be exchanged for precious metals, they have value as collectors items. Similar bills on auction site eBay are listed for upwards of $200.

"Keep that," said one Redditor in the comments on the viral post.

Others were frustrated that the bill had been tested with a counterfeit pen: "Oh man I would have loved to get that without the counterfeit pen lines," said one reply.

"One of my first thoughts after seeing the bill was this could do well on r/mildlyinteresting," said Austin. "I've had relative vitality and popularity in some previous posts of mine, but even 50K plus upvotes for it shocked me. I didn't think it would surge quite like this, but I'm pleasantly surprised and of course owe gratitude to everyone who liked it."

Back of rare $5 bill
The back of the rare $5 bill that was accepted by a hardware store in upstate New York. window-fly/Reddit