Legend Numismatics

HomeAuctionsBetter Know Your Notes: Robert Morris and the “Black Back” $10 Silver...

Better Know Your Notes: Robert Morris and the “Black Back” $10 Silver Certificates of the Series of 1880


By Brad Ciociola, Currency Specialist Stacks Bowers….
Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Summer Expo features a stunning Fr. 288 “Black Back” 1880 $10 Silver Certificate. Featured on these scarce notes is the portrait of founding father and financer of the American Revolution, Robert Morris.

Morris was born in Liverpool, England on January 20, 1734, and immigrated to Maryland at the age of 13. A quick learner, he was soon an apprentice at a banking firm in Philadelphia that would later make him a partner. By the 1760s Morris was a successful businessman. New taxes on the American colonies would pull him into the political realm. He was instrumental in resisting both the Stamp Act of 1765-1766 and the Tea Tax.

By the 1770s he was a prominent politician serving on the Pennsylvania Council of Safety, the Committee of Correspondence and the Pennsylvania legislature. He represented Pennsylvania in the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1778. Morris’ company worked with the Secret Committee of Trade in order to smuggle war supplies from France into the colonies. He personally handled financial transactions on behalf of the Congress, purchasing war supplies and buying and exporting goods in order to finance war efforts.


Morris initially rejected independence from England on July 1, 1776, and Pennsylvania voted 4-3 against the declaration. The following day, Morris and delegate John Dickinson abstained from the vote allowing other Pennsylvania delegates to vote in favor of independence. Morris and Dickinson’s decision to abstain are considered to be one of the most important votes of the Continental Congress. The final vote saw no states opposed and the Declaration of Independence was passed on July 4, 1776.

Morris would sign the declaration on August 2 stating:

“I am not one of those politicians that run testy when my own plans are not adopted. I think it is the duty of a good citizen to follow when he cannot lead.”

During the war Morris gave generously of his personal funds and properties to the new government to help sustain the war effort. He gave ships from his own private navy to the new United States Navy and is said to have funded as much as 80 percent of all bullets fired by the Continental Army during the war. He also financed nearly 75 percent of all other expenses of the new government.

From 1781 to 1784 Morris served as the Superintendent of Finance of the United States. During his tenure the first bank chartered by the United States, the Bank of North America, was founded in 1782. The bank was established with a loan from France secured by Morris the year before. Later Morris was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He served as a United States Senator from Pennsylvania from 1789 to 1795.

Morris had been an aggressive land speculator during the 1780s and his actions left him overexposed when conflicts in Europe sent financial ripples throughout the Americas. When the Panic of 1797 struck, Morris owned more land than any other American but had no cash left to pay his debts. Eventually Morris was arrested and sent to debtor’s prison from 1798 to 1801. He was released upon passage of the temporary Bankruptcy Act of 1800. Morris spent the rest of his life in humble retirement, dying in Philadelphia on May 9, 1806.

These “Black Back” $10 Silver Certificates feature an ornately printed back in black with a large round brown Treasury Seal at center and brown “X” counter below. The Fr. 288 exhibits the engraved signatures of Bruce and Gilfillan. Just 78 examples are recorded in the Track & Price census for this Friedberg number. The example in our July auction (lot 3326) is graded Choice About New 58 PPQ by PCGS and displays vivid print detail and bold color and is estimated at $12,500 to $17,500.

The live session of the currency auction will be held Thursday July 16, 2015, beginning at 6 PM EST at the Pratt Street Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. To view lots and bid in this auction visit www.stacksbowers.com.

Related Articles


  1. Thanks for the articles regarding the “Educational Notes”. I own a set and would be interested in obtaining others of higher grade.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

PCGS Set Registry

L and C COIN Shop Now

Doug Winter Numismatics Branch Mint Gold