Interesting BEP Souvenir Cards|
August 12, 2013
Two very interesting souvenir cards issued by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing feature the faces of $10 and $20 Series of 1882 National Bank Notes.
These are: (1) a mock-up of a $10 Series of 1882 note from The Farmers National Bank of West Chester, Pa., charter 2857, made in 1985 for the International Paper Money Convention in Cherry Hill, N.J. and (2) a reproduction of $20 Series of 1882 face die 2681 without a bank title block or charter numbers made in 1997 for the Bay State Coin Show in Boston, Mass.
They were made from a pair of Series of 1882 full-face master dies hardened the first week of April 1900. The $10 was from BEP die 2988 completed March 30, and the $20 was from BEP die 2681 completed April 2, 1900.
The new full-face dies began to be used together to make all new 10-10-10-20 Series of 1882 plates after mid-April 1900. Included were replacement plates for older banks required after mid-April 1900. $10 die 2988 also was used to make 10-10-10-10 plates when that combination was introduced in 1906.
Hidden stars were incorporated into the designs in the borders of both dies so that notes printed from plates reproduced from them could be distinguished from those from earlier dies.
$20 Souvenir Card
The $20 souvenir card allows a glimpse into the plate-making process. The image that is reproduced on the card was duplicated from the new full-face master die used to make plates. From it you can see that just about everything except the bank specific information was included. Only the bank title block, the charter numbers, plate letters and the lines under the bank signatures were omitted.
Three versions of the Battle of Lexington vignette were used at various times on the Original Series, Series of 1875 and Series of 1882 $20s. Each was on a different die used to made the plates. They are readily distinguished from each other by the absence or presence of the numerals 75 above the foot of the prostrate wounded man as shown on the detail. The 75 is a vestige of a date that appears on the painting from which the vignette was copied.
The 75 is found on two of the varieties, and they are easily distinguished by how heavily the numerals are printed. The bold variety—variety 3—occurs on die 2681, so it is the one on the souvenir card.
$10 Souvenir Card
The more interesting of the two cards from a technical and production standpoint is the $10 mock-up of the West Chester, Pa, note. The story behind it is that collector Nelson Aspen loaned bureau director Robert Leuver a high grade $10 from the A plate position, so BEP personnel obtained a high resolution negative of it to use as a model.
The plate from which Aspen’s note had been printed was made in 1883, and the subjects on it were made from an earlier die. That die carried the American Bank Note Co. imprint in the lower border.
Bureau personnel used their full-face $10 die 2988, with BEP imprint, as their starting point to make the souvenir card. From it, they made a one-subject nickel plate using the modern electrolytic duplication process. Using old rolls, they next rolled the American Bank Note Co. imprint over the BEP imprint to match the proof, and added the “printed at” statement inside the upper left border.
This plate had everything except the bank title block, treasury signatures and plate letters. The dies and rolls containing those elements had been destroyed long ago. Consequently, they used the negative of the Aspen’s note to make a photolithograph plate containing the missing elements. The fidelity to these details reveals that they were being extremely careful to replicate the original.
The resulting plate was used to print the card. Once that image was printed, they overprinted a photo reproduction of the entire title block along with the treasury signatures and plate letters using a photolithograph plate. These overprinted items can be distinguished from the intaglio items because they are smooth to the touch.
Like any photolitho counterfeit, the quality of the overprinted items is not particularly good. For instance, the lines comprising the shading of the letters in the title block have bled together a bit and appear too dark, a common problem with counterfeits.
One detail was inadvertently omitted from the mock-up. The lines under the bank signatures were accidentally left off!
More fun for this discussion is that the image on the souvenir card contains a hidden star, the star that was added to die 2988 before it was hardened in April 1900 to distinguish subjects reproduced from it. The West Chester plate that was being copied was made in 1883, 17 years before die 2988 went into production with its hidden star.
All that this shows is that even the masters can’t perfectly counterfeit their own product. One thing I especially like about the card is the brown overprint consisting of the series, charter number and treasury seal. It duplicates the early overprint variety, which is characterized by a vertical charter number and high placement of the treasury seal. The change from vertical to horizontal charter numbers was made in September 1890. The mock-up was made to simulate an early printing for the bank, which was identical to the note supplied by Aspen.
Incidentally the brown overprint is a photolitho job as well. The charter number is not embossed into the paper, and both it and the seal are smooth to the touch.
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