SEG Presentation: Vignette prints of the Bureau of Engraving & Printing

Discussion in 'Paper Money' started by gsalexan, May 23, 2011.

  1. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Since the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began its work in the 1860s, it has produced portraits of hundreds of political and military leaders, and public servants. Often these were included in Memorial Books, issued for well known politicians who were eulogized by Congress. Many of these engravings end up on government securities, from Treasury bonds to taxpaid revenue stamps. A few have the distinction of appearing on federal currency...

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  3. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Hundreds more artful vignettes of architecture, landscapes, allegorical scenes and figures were produced, many for stamps, but often for speculative use, perhaps in books, publications, or special invitations. The untitled building with the dome is the U.S. Naval Observatory, known at the time as the National Observatory...

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  4. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    During the 19th century and into the early 20th century, the BEP sold prints of these portraits and vignettes to the general public at a nominal fee. On occasion, the BEP would compile special books containing large numbers of these engravings as gifts to visiting dignitaries. These books are quite rare and command high figures at auction when they surface...

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  5. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Over the years, I've collected these vignette and portrait prints as I could find and afford them. I've been fortunate to obtain a few that complement some of the early large size notes. Martha Washington's portrait appears on the 1886 $1 silver certificate (and the reverse of the $1 educational note). The portrait of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton adorns the reverse of the $2 Education note. And an untitled vignette by GFC Smillie is found on the reverse of the $10 third charter National Bank Note, though the vignette in my collection shows different ships flanking the figure...

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  6. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    I've also found two taxpaid revenue stamps from the 1870s that match vignette prints from that era -- Columbia shows up on an exportation stamp for Distilled Spirits and President Zachary Taylor is featured on a distillery warehouse stamp...

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  7. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Nearly all BEP engravings bear the Bureau's imprint, but a few don't. These can also be attributed by counter numbers that appear on the back of most BEP vignette prints. "Valley Forge" and the untitled wharf scene of cotton bales are examples of this. I'm not certain whether these numbers correspond to the vignettes or were just a running tally.

    If any fellow collectors can identify instances of the images I've posted here appearing on other government documents, I'd be interested in hearing about it -- and particularly seeing a scan of the usage.

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  8. Dr Kegg

    Dr Kegg Star Note Fanatic

    Great presentation. I think it's a true wonder that you have some of those vignettes that graced prominent large-size notes.
  9. Copper Head

    Copper Head Active Member

    That is really nice. Thank you for sharing it.
  10. WingedLiberty

    WingedLiberty Well-Known Member

    Fantastic images .... Thanks for posting.
    These are very cool.
  11. SteveInTampa

    SteveInTampa Always Learning

    Awesome presentation. A couple of books I recently purchased (Bureau of Engraving and Printing 100 Years & The Story of the American Bank Note Company) have special pages printed with vignettes, like the one's you have shared with us. You can actually feel the embossing on the pages. Great job.
  12. Dave M

    Dave M Francophiliac

    Wonderful vignettes, thanks! I can imagine the thrill when you line one of these up with a banknote or other instrument where it was actually used.

    The "bales of cotton on a dock" is a common theme in African notes, but I don't recognize that particular one.

  13. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    But wait: there's MORE! :smile

    Inevitably after I post a presentation I dig through my collection more thoroughly and examine things more closely--and I always make a few more discoveries. This time I hit a couple jackpots!

    I knew I'd seen the eagle vignette somewhere and at first I thought it was from the reverse of $1 1918 FRBN, which is similar but not the same design. Then I was looking through my souvenir cards and realized my eagle actually appears on the back of the 1882 $500 gold certificate!

    I also found a portrait of Daniel Webster that I hadn't posted because it wasn't attributed to the BEP and didn't have a counter number on the back. However, as I was scanning my trusty paper money catalog, I realized the portrait appears on the front of the $10 1880 US Note.

    So two more usages -- not bad!

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  14. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    I also found a portrait of Benjamin Harrison that I'd neglected to post -- but not the same one found on 1902 $5 National. This one faces left.

    And I had hesitated to post the vignette of the Steamship Mississippi because it had no BEP imprint. But then I found the same vignette on a souvenir card from the Federal Manager's Association -- which *does* indicate it was produced by the Bureau.

    Lastly, I found one more unattributed vignette. But this one I feel pretty certain was engraved by the BEP -- it depicts the Bureau's new building, constructed in 1914.

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  15. RickieB

    RickieB Expert Plunger Sniper

    Those are simply wonderful examples of proofs! I really had a great time viewing these examples.
    Just stunning vignettes!

    Thanks for posting and sharing these.


  16. USS656

    USS656 Here to Learn Supporter

    I will second that. Great examples and a very nice write up to go with them.

    I picked up a portrait last week of McKinley that I thought looked really nice.

    Best Regards

  17. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Thanks to all for your appreciative posts! This is one of my favorite collections, though it's getting harder to find these proofs at a reasonable price. I was stunned to see the George Washington vignette on ebay yesterday, offered at $190!

    Darryl, if that's a BEP portrait of McKinley why don't you post it here? I'd love to see some images from other collectors.

    I also have a collection of vignette proofs from American Bank Note and other bank note companies that I may post another time. Alas, none that appeared on US currency but many from stocks and bonds.
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  18. USS656

    USS656 Here to Learn Supporter


    I believe this is card number is S1993D and was originally printed by John A. Lowell Banknote Co. I do not know who reprinted it for the Metro Chapter 4 show.

    I can post it in the souvenir cards thread if not in this thread.

    Best Regards ~ Darryl
  19. mpcusa

    mpcusa "Official C.T. TROLL SWEEPER"

    Just spectacular :)
  20. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Was going through Gene Hessler's book "U.S. Essay, Proof and Specimen Notes" again and found a couple more usages of my vignettes. These are not on notes anyone is likely to see in person, but I was happy to discover that Stephen Douglas was at least considered. This is the front design for a $10,000 Currency Certificate of Deposit, authorized by an 1872 Act of Congress (which was repealed in 1900). The BEP also did a front design for a $5,000 note in this series, but neither was ever issued. They were only meant for funds transfers between banking institutions.

    I found out the George Washington vignette originated from the American Bank Note Co. It appears on the front design of a $100 Interest Bearing Treasury Note, which was not used. ABNC must have turned over the printing plates, because my vignette clearly has a Bureau imprint.

    Sorry for the grainy quality of these scans -- it's a b/w book from 1979. Incidentally, I just found out the 2nd edition of this book has been released. Rick, what are the chances of getting a discount through on a bulk buy of this, if there are other interested collectors?


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  21. midas1

    midas1 Exalted Member

    Thanks for sharing a truly amazing collection.
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