The 1899 black eagle (or B.E.) $5 silver certificate is one of the most popular, and recognizable, obsolete currency notes. These $5 bills were issued as part of an effort by the U.S. Treasury to combat the high volume of counterfeit $10 gold certificates that were in circulation at the time. The black eagle series was created so that individuals would have a more difficult time counterfeiting these notes and to make it even harder to pass off a fake $10 gold certificate as a real one.
These notes are also called “eaglets” because of the depiction of a black eagle on their reverse side above the words “United States Note” and “Five Dollars.” The front of each note features an engraving of Benjamin Franklin, who previously appeared on all $10 gold certificates from 1878-1899.
History of the 1899 Black Eagle Silver Certificate
The 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate was the first official issue of the black eagle series. These notes were created to combat the high volume of counterfeit $10 gold certificates that were in circulation at the time.
A major counterfeiting ring operated out of New York City, and these fakes were so commonly passed around that they were even accepted by the government as payment for taxes and other public debts.
The idea behind the black eagle series was to create a note with a design that was more difficult to reproduce. The $5 bill was a logical choice because the $10 gold certificate had previously used the same portrait of Benjamin Franklin.
The design of the black eagle $5 note was created by James Smillie, but he was not the only artist to attempt to replicate Franklin’s image on the new bill.
In total, there were six different versions of Franklin’s portrait that were created by artists whose names are not known.
The 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate is the first of these issues and the most common of the six.
Identifying a Genuine 1899 Black Eagle Note
A genuine 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate will have a few noticeable differences from counterfeits, which are often found in circulated condition. One key way to tell a real from a fake is that the serial numbers of genuine notes always end in a “9,” but counterfeits might not have any numbers or have a “0” or “00” instead. You can also look for a break in the paper along the top edge of the note. Genuine notes are printed on the same type of paper as other $5 bills from the era, but the fakes tend to be printed on a different, thinner paper. The other difference is in the paper texture. The texture of a genuine note is more coarse, while the texture of a fake is smoother.
Values for Rare Black Eagle Notes
The 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate is the most common of the six versions of this design and is worth between $100 and $500 in average circulated condition, depending on the condition of the note.
Depending on the condition of the note, a rare 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate could be worth anywhere between $10,000 and $100,000.
Still Have Questions?
If after reading this you still have questions about the 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate, visit the NGC Coin Explorer site, or contact NGC Customer Service. Numismatic Guaranty, Inc. is the world’s largest coin authentication and grading company and has graded more than 30 million coins since they opened their doors in 1987.
They can also help you determine the value of your note if it is not listed on their price guide. They offer a variety of services, such as coin grading, coin authentication, paper money grading, and rare coin consulting.
The 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate is the first in a series of six designs used on $5 bills and is the most common of the six issues. These $5 bills were created to combat the high volume of counterfeit $10 gold certificates that were in circulation at the time. A genuine 1899 black eagle $5 silver certificate will have a few noticeable differences from counterfeits and can be worth up to $10,000.