The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 54, December 25, 2005, Article 6


The topic has already been adequately covered in the
numismatic press, but here's an excerpt from an article
in the mainstream press on the American Bank Note
Company printing plate archives (New York Times,
December 19, 2005):

"Steve Blum has been spending his days locked up alone
in a silent warehouse in central New Jersey, sorting
through boxes of what looks like scrap metal.

But to him, the dusty shingles are buried treasure.
These old dies and plates were once used to print items
of great worth: bank notes, stock certificates and bond
coupons, as well as postage stamps, tickets, playing
cards and other types of paper ephemera.

The slabs, about an eighth of an inch thick and ranging
from an inch square to poster-size, lie in boxes stacked
on more than a hundred pallets. Some of them date to
the 1830's.

This 200-ton trove once belonged to the American Bank
Note Company, a major New York securities printer whose
clients included governments, universities, banks and
railroads, from captains of industry to humble savings
and loans. As demand for steel and copperplate engraving
fell, the company merged with or acquired many of its
competitors, often picking up their old plates as well.

"You're looking at the archive of an entire industry
here," explained Mr. Blum, 49, a rare-coin dealer from
Westfield, N.J., one of the two investors who bought the
plates last year for a few million dollars. Mr. Blum is
cataloging them in preparation for their eventual sale
to the public, the first time this kind of material has
left the vaults of any bank note company in significant

Q. David Bowers, an authority on coins and bank notes
who is preparing a history of American Bank Note and
other bank note printers, said getting at the archives
was "like opening King Tut's tomb."

"Douglas Mudd, curator of exhibitions at the American
Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs,
said such sales could be controversial among collectors
since in theory the plates could be used to reprint old
notes. But he said that federal law protects collectors
from new reprints being sold as authentic prints and
acknowledged the archive's historical value.

Mr. Blum said he is awed by the plates' historical
significance. "It was the financial power made possible
by this printing that made America great."

To read the complete story, see: Full Story"

>From the original press release:
"Over the years, the firm acquired other companies and
their archives, according to researcher Q. David Bowers,
Numismatic Director of American Numismatic Rarities of
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire and a former President of the
nonprofit, 33,000-member American Numismatic Association.
He is writing a massive reference book about the art,
history and financial aspects of 19th century U.S. paper
money with American Bank Note Company as the prime focus."

"In addition to creating a reference book about the
material, we plan to exhibit some of the printing plates
at collectors' shows around the country, and we'll donate
some to various museums. Eventually, most of the archives
will be offered for sale to collectors."

To read the complete press release, see: Full Press Release

[So start making shelf space for another Bowers book!
I'm looking forward to Dave's treatment of the subject.
Most books on obsolete paper money simply catalog the
notes; few go into much depth on the history of the
notes or their issuers.  If Dave's research is only a
fraction of what he typically does when writing about
coins or tokens, his new book will be groundbreaking.

This isn't Dave's only new book on paper money.  He and
David Sundman coauthored "100 Greatest American Currency
Notes" the latest entry in Whitman's "100 Greatest" series.
The 144 pages hardcover coffee-table size book lists at
$29.95 plus shipping.  The pre-publication price is just
$24.95.  See for more information.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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