Banknote vignette proofs

Discussion in 'Paper Money' started by gsalexan, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    RickyB compelled me to hit the scanner again and post some of the golden oldies from my vignette collection. I'm going to roll these out slowly, as time allows. The first batch are all early vignettes that seem to share a common theme of maidens and eagles. I haven't identified the bank note companies that produced these, but I know I've seen several of them on pre-Civil War obsolete currency. If you have details on any of them let me know.

    Incidentally, if you appreciate vignettes, you might like this thread, too:

    Attached Files:

  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. krispy

    krispy krispy

    The choices should be: Like | Share | Drool!

    If you have info on the vignettes as post these it would be nice to read titles, dimensions, printers/engravers, and if known where they appeared, if stocks, other certificates, annual reports, etc.

    This is going to be a great thread to read and learn from and I know it will be fun to see what you pull out to share with us. Thanks.

    Penny Pincher Coins likes this.
  4. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Excelsior Bank Note Co.

    Round 2: Here are four sample vignettes from a very obscure bank note company: Excelsior BNCo. It was founded circa 1876 by John Wellstood, a former partner of Wellstood, Hay & Whiting which was one of the seven firms that united to form American Bank Note in 1858. But Wellstood apparently preferred to be his own man. He left ABNCo to launch Columbian Bank Note in 1867. This company apparently failed sometime prior to 1880. (Another Columbian was reinvented in the early 1900s.)

    Apparently Excelsior was Wellstood's next project, but little work is known from the company. Soon after its founding (and perhaps the reason for it) Excelsior submitted a number of paste-up designs to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the backs of $1, $2, and $5 National Bank Notes. But ultimately Excelsior was deemed too small to be a reliable supplier.

    These vignettes were probably salesman samples. I have yet to find them on any bank note or security. Judging by the die numbers below the titles (3, 4, 7, and 8), these were among the first and possibly only vignettes engraved for the company.

    Attached Files:

  5. krispy

    krispy krispy

    Very interesting pieces and with the background you painted, I'm curious about things like why Wellstood was so discontennected to an industry he was clearly a part of but unable to meet the demands and win the contracts working for. I wonder if there was more to his story, his personality, burnt bridges in the prior companies, personal politics or something more that kept him from finding sustainable work to remain in business. That owl is quite a looker, literally! And I wonder if there is a way to identify that cityscape in the last vignette, the cotton themed one. What cities may have looked like that in his era, bustling with smokestacks cranking out material textiles. There is a little bit of crudity in these pieces, in that the designs have the slightest of unblanced perspecitive or distorted ovoid shapes tilted against the picture plane. They are both charming and different from the work that we have come to know did make it on to certificates, notes and other related security engraved papers.

    Thanks again for another round. Thoroughly enjoyed seeing these!
  6. RickieB

    RickieB Expert Plunger Sniper


    Those are simply wonderful proofs. I love them all!!

    I am growing rather fancy on these type of engravings of late. One day I will let you know of the special one I hold from a very revered friend!
  7. USS656

    USS656 Here to Learn Supporter

    More like: Drool! | Drool! | Drool Some More!

  8. Dave M

    Dave M Francophiliac

    Very nice images Greg, and the story of John Wellstood is fascinating - you write well. Question though... those four vignettes, are they intaglio printed? They look more like lithographs from here.

  9. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Nope, they are all intaglio -- that's all I collect. Thanks for the feedback guys! Seems to be a lot of slobber on this thread. ;)

    I think Wellstood would make an interesting biography. He was either bad at business or competition from the big banknote companies was just too powerful. More research is in order...but too tired tonight. I'll post more images tomorrow!
  10. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Some more tiny works of art for you -- in fact the wee landscape is about the size of a postage stamp, only about 2 inches wide. But the detail is remarkable.

    The image of Mercury may be familiar to you -- it shows up on many bank notes and I've seen it on a number of early U.S. Treasury Notes, printed by Rawdon, Wright and Hatch in the 1840s (well before greenbacks). This one has an identifiable engraver: in tiny letters below one foot it says "Drawn and Eng. by Geo W. Hatch"

    The next one has a title: "Gen. Marian inviting British troop to dinner" -- which is also engraved in miniscule letters at the bottom, along with "painted by John B. White." You can see the original painting and read the story that inspired it here:

    Lastly, we have a couple Civil War vignettes. My favorite, though I've never seen it used on any security, is the two workman punching holes in cannonballs, so the hollow balls could be packed with gunpowder. Rough work! You can even see a cannon being prepared in the background.

    Attached Files:

  11. krispy

    krispy krispy

    Terrific! I quite like that second to last one of the women and column of marching soldiers.
  12. Shoewrecky

    Shoewrecky Coin Hoarder

  13. afox

    afox sometime collector

    Is block printing a form of intaglio?
    Wood block?
    Is intaglio limited to certain tools (to get a finer - more detailed print)?
  14. krispy

    krispy krispy

    No, block printing is done on a substrate of wood or linoleum and is a form of 'relief printing' in which ink is typically applied by a roller over the surface of the substrate. The areas of the design cut away, the negative space, does not get printed, while the flat raised (in relief) areas holding ink transfer ink to the paper when pressure is applied. There are significant differences to traditional hand printing methods from Western and Eastern (moku hanga & Ukiyo-e for example) styles of wood block prints, but both carve into a flat plane creating negative and positive zones which print a design or hold no design.

    Intaglio is primarily a Western invention, and is a process of printing engraved or chemically (acid) etched plates, usually copper, zinc or (electro-chemically) steel plated metal sheets (plates). Damp paper is then laid over a flat metal plate affixed or positioned on a press, then significant heavy pressure is exerted by a press which rolls over the press bed. As the surface of the plate has a shallow etched or gouged (engraved) design in it, when sticky ink has been wiped across the surface of the plate, this ink is caught in the grooves and shallow areas. The unetched/unengraved flat surface of the plate has the ink wiped cleanly away, prior to placing the plate on the press. The damp paper then is forced down into the grooves and lifts the ink from the plate and transfers the design to the paper. The ink can appear raised from the surface of the paper in intaglio printing.

    What I have described is the basic differences and traditional processes of relief and intaglio printing. There have been scores of innovations which have modernized and industrialized the printing process. In modern note printing in the US, since the early 1950s, US notes which are intaglio printed, are printed on dry (not damp) papers. There are many many innovations to printing techniques and advancing the production capabilities of intaglio processes which go far beyond traditional processes. Too many to detail quickly here. You can search these terms online, on the B.E.P. web site or by simple keyword searches in Google for instance to find out more. To see examples of traditional printmaking techniques, that simplify these processes, poke around on YouTube and you can find artists in printmaking studios demonstrating tools and techniques.

    As for tools, one uses various knives and chisels to carve wood. For metal engraving one uses burins. For intaglio, there are many many techniques for achieving different surface treatments that hold ink: drypoint refers to scratching thin lines on the surface of a plate, aquatint describes a fine resin powder that helps to create a granulated even tone, various tar based grounds may be painted on plates to resist acid, or waxes applied and drawn into to expose lines of metal which acid may etch into these lines. Again, just keyword search some of these terms to get some examples of different types of print techniques.
  15. afox

    afox sometime collector

  16. krispy

    krispy krispy

    No problem. :thumb:
  17. Dave M

    Dave M Francophiliac

    Here's a close-up image of a French note that contains both intaglio (purple) and relief (blue & yellow) printing. You can see the difference of fine detail in the intaglio.


  18. RickieB

    RickieB Expert Plunger Sniper

    The 3rd proof down is featured on the South Carolina $5 State Issue Note and the vignette is also known by "Sweet Potato Dinner"


    These are beautiful proofs and thanks for sharing these and the others!

  19. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Fantastic, Rick! Thanks for posting that note -- I'd never seen the vignette used before. I think it was engraved long before 1872 and ABNCo pulled it from their archives.

    @Shoewrecky - Sometimes you can find these proof prints on eBay or in auctions, but they seem to be getting scarcer and pricier. The bulk of my collection was purchased 20+ years ago when a dealer at the Memphis paper money show offered me an album with more than 50 vignette and portrait proofs from both the BEP and private bank note companies. I think I paid around $250, which was a lot for me then, but I'm so happy I did! I've added to the collection slowly, but I still keep it in the original album. :)
  20. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    And so, this evening's presentation -- ships and architecture:

    The first I've titled "City Hall" but truthfully I'm not sure what it is. Love all the Victorian gingerbread ornamentation on the building. I'm fairly certain this is an ABNCo vignette. Can anyone identify the building?

    Next is "U.S. Water Shops, Springfield, Mass." which has an American Bank Note imprint. This was a vast U.S. armory that did heavy metal forging, machining and gun stocking shaping, using the hydro power of the Mill River alongside it. The original building was built in 1858 and was partially destroyed by fire in 1988.

    "The Iron Steamboat Co." was produced by ABNCo. I've seen the Iron Steamboat vignette used on that company's letterhead. They ran passenger ferry's between Manhattan and Coney Island from 1881 to 1932. Each ship in the fleet was named for a constellation: Cygnus, Perseus, Pegasus...wish I could have taken an excursion on one of them!

    I'm sure I've seen "The Ferry" vignette on a stock or bond, but haven't pinned it down yet. It has a National Bank Note Co. imprint.

    Lastly the harbor scene, another ABNCo vignette, was engraved circa 1880. It appears on a 100 share stock certificate of the Cincinnati New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway Co.

    Attached Files:

  21. RickieB

    RickieB Expert Plunger Sniper

    l love the detail in those engravings..just superb! Our friend Bob Connor (deceased) had a few of those I believe.
    Thanks again for sharing these with us...
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page