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History of Marketable Securities Products and Programs

Marketable securities are direct obligations of the U.S. government that can be bought and sold in the secondary market. There are three types of marketable securities: Bills, notes and bonds. Marketable securities have been a part of debt financing since the Revolutionary War and one of the primary financing tools the U.S. government has used to operate throughout the years.

Marketable Borrowing Methods

Throughout Treasury’s history, marketable debt has been sold in several ways: subscriptions, exchange offerings, advance refundings, and auctions. 

  • Subscription sales involved selling U.S. debt at a fixed rate and price set in advance by Treasury.
  • Exchange offerings occurred when Treasury allowed holders of outstanding maturing securities to exchange them for new issues sold at an announced rate and price. 
  • Advance refundings were similar to exchange offerings except that holders were able to exchange their outstanding securities before their maturity date.
  • Auctioning marketable securities required purchasers of debt to submit bids based on yield or price. Issuing debt with this method ensured Treasury was selling securities at rates that reflected market demand at the time of the auction. Treasury bills have always been sold using an auction process and notes and bonds have regularly been sold at auction since 1974.

The financing of the national debt through the sale of government securities has a rich and interesting history, dating back to the 1920s. Select one of the subjects below to view important dates of our securities products and programs.

Auctions

Bills 

Bonds 

Notes

TIPS 

STRIPS

Timeline of the Marketable Securities Program

View a summary by decade on the development of the Marketable Securities Program.

Other Resources

Products in Depth