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Constitutional Gold and Silver

Constitutional silver and gold is the term often used to describe legal tender coins issued and circulated by the United States. These coins include the American Gold Coins minted prior to President Roosevelt’s gold confiscation act of 1933 (Executive Order 6102). They also include silver dimes, quarters, and half-dollars minted before 1965. While the United States has a proud heritage of minting gold and silver coins for circulation, this isn’t a constitutional requirement.

Reasons for the Misconception

The main reason for the misconception that constitutional silver and gold is a US coinage requirement comes from several seemingly conflicting clauses in the US Constitution.

Article I, Section 8 lays out the explicit powers granted to the US Congress. Among these is the power to “coin money.” There is, however, nothing in this article that states that the coined money must be made of gold and silver.

The next piece of the misconception puzzle is the Coinage Act of 1792. With this act, Congress set the regulation for gold, silver, and copper as the only forms of legal tender. It even set forth the correct amount of metal for every coin to contain. For instance, a $10 gold coin, known as an Eagle, always contained 16 grams of pure gold. The Coinage Act of 1792 set the foundation for minting US gold and silver coins for many years. The US Constitution never specified these regulations, however.

People often say that constitutional silver and gold is mandated by the US Constitution. They quote Article I, Section 10 as evidence. This reads, “[No state shall] make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts…”. In the United States’ infancy, before the ratified constitution, many individual states struggled with issuing their own debt. This clause in the US Constitution tried to legitimize the US government to foreign lenders. It prevented individual states from taking on debt and repaying with fiat currencies.


The idea that constitutional silver and gold is mandated is incorrect. However, that doesn’t mean that proponents of sound money are wrong for wanting the US government to adhere to gold and silver. Adhering to gold and silver maintains wealth and prosperity among citizens. In the early years, when the United States used gold and silver for the basis of its currency, inflation remained relatively non-existent. The opposite is true today.