Silver Tax Stamps

U.S. #RG1 – The first Silver Tax stamp.

On June 19, 1934, Congress authorized the used of Silver Tax stamps.

Founding Father and first secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was a supporter of a “bimetallism” money system, in which both gold and silver were used as currency. The two metals would be fixed in relative value. But by the late 1830s, it was clear that bimetallism was a failure, since the market rate of silver was higher than the monetary value of silver.

U.S. #RG38 – A 1940 overprinted Silver Tax stamp.

In the late 19th century, the ratio of gold to silver dropped to an unprecedented level. America was gripped by a post-Civil War depression, and the mine owners of the lightly populated western states were developing a power bloc.

The “Silver Bloc” wanted to bring bimetallism back. They succeeded in getting favorable legislation passed, such as the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which required the government to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver a month (as much as the total U.S. production in a full year). President Grover Cleveland repealed the act in 1893.

U.S. #RG58 – A 1941 Silver Tax stamp with overprint picturing Alexander Hamilton.

During the Great Depression, which began in 1929, the value of silver fell dramatically. To help stabilize its value, Congress enacted the Silver Purchase Act on June 19, 1934. The Silver Purchase Act allowed President Franklin Roosevelt to nationalize domestic silver mines. He ordered all U.S. silver to be delivered to the U.S. Mints to be stored or made into coins. The U.S. Treasury paid rates for silver well over its 1934 value, achieving the hoped-for result, raising the price of silver from 45¢ to 81¢ an ounce.

During this time, Roosevelt also purchased large amounts of silver from other countries, increasing the price of silver worldwide. Although most countries were on the gold standard by this time, China still used the silver standard for its currency. The dramatic rise in the price of silver forced the Chinese to abandon the silver standard.

U.S. #RG111 – A 1944 Silver Tax stamp without an overprint.

The Silver Purchase Act of 1934 also included a 50¢ tax on profits from the transfer of silver bullion. The tax was paid through Silver Tax Revenue stamps. To document the payment of the tax, the revenue stamps were applied to transfer documents.

The first Silver Tax issues were documentary stamps overprinted with “SILVER TAX.” The denominations ranged from 1¢ to $1,000. Differences in the overprints, such as spacing between the words or ink colors, caused varieties in some denominations.

In 1941, specific Silver Tax stamps picturing secretaries of the Treasury were produced. That year they were overprinted with “SERIES 1941.” The following year, the date was changed on the overprint.

Item #MA726 – Set of 18 Silver Tax imperforate pairs.

An error occurred on a small number of stamps issued in 1942. The year was replaced with “5942” on one of the 100 stamps on a sheet. About 20 sheets were printed with the wrong number in seven different denominations before the error was discovered. Some of the error sheets already produced were found and destroyed and some were never accounted for.

The overprint was no longer used after 1943. The Silver Tax stamps were discontinued in 1963.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article


  1. I would hope for clarity: President Cleveland did not repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. He signed the bill repealing the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.

    1. Boy Craig, you don’t give anyone a break do you? I wish you’d write an article so I could sharp shoot you.

      Thank you for the information Mystic…I’ve vaguely heard of these stamps over the years, but knew hardly nothing about them.

  2. Thank You, Mr Emert. Like any government since earliest times, ALL governments fear the populace of the country having more and rising higher
    than the political power in place. I remember from my economic text in college. Governments of the first world, fear other governments of the same world. Governments of the third world fear EVERYONE. Generally speaking, nothing changes. As the old adage says: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

  3. These orders not to own gold or silver seem strange. Isn’t the USA the most free country in the world? Can any other nation compare to our liberties?

  4. A fascinating article on FDR’s control and inflation of silver values. I was aware of his Gold Reserve Act (1934), but was not sensible to his arbitrary elevation of silver too. The federalized raising of the value of both “species” was, in great part, done to infuse the economy with more dollars to be backed by inflated government silver and gold holdings. For farmers — and there were 6.8 million farms, compared to .89 million currently— more dollars in circulation would increase crop prices and ease the plight of this significant workforce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *