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The Coin Geek

Martha Washington

US currency is rife with famous political figures. From Presidents to Secretaries of State to Generals, there are many men to collect. Many of these figures  you probably have never heard of unless you are a political junkie or history buff. Most of the women on US notes are allegorical, that is to say they are not real people but a figure representing a concept or a belief.

The exception is Martha Washington. She was prominently placed on the left hand side of the 1886 United States Silver Certificate. The portrait used is the famous Charles Francois Jalabert painting. It was engraved by Charles Burt. The front design for this note was used for 10 years. The back of the note was changed halfway through, in 1891. The 1886 note is very popular and is often simply referred to as a “Martha”.

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Martha Washington on US 1891 Silver Certificate

I think it speaks to the spirit of the times when you look at who is on the currency – both in the past and present. Here is a list of the other people featured on the 1886 Series Silver Certificates.

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  • $2 General Winfield Scott Hancock, Union General – Civil War
  • $5 Ulysses S Grant, 18th President and Union General – Civil War
  • $10  Thomas  Hendricks, Vice President March 4, 1885-Nov 25, 1885.  Died in office.
  • $20 Daniel Manning, Secretary of the Treasury from 1885 – 1887

Although higher denominations circulated at the same time, they were not from the 1886 series. When a knew series came out in 1896 (the so-called Educational series) Mrs. Washington was on the back of the note opposite her husband, president Washington. They are the only husband and wife together on a US note. Together the 1886 and 1896 Silver Certificates are among the most popular with collectors.

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Back of the 1896 US Silver Certificate

Posted in: Currency, Education

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