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

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

  1. RickieB

    RickieB Expert Plunger Sniper

    After seeing the Award.. I had to go dig this out..
    I do hope this will inspire some of you to dig a little deeper as it still amazes me to no end.


    Happy Easter everyone...

    Last edited: Apr 19, 2014
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  3. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Here's another portrait proof I picked up not long ago of Thomas Ewing, Treasury Secretary in 1841 and Secretary of the Interior in 1849-50. It's an unusual design for a BEP portrait in that it appears to be drawn from the bust of a statue, rather than from life.

    I wasn't sure why this one was engraved until I was thumbing through Gene Hessler's "U.S. Essay, Proof and Specimen Notes" (mentioned earlier in post #19 of
    this thread) and found the portrait an essay of a little known type -- the National Bank Circulating Note. Which, ironically, never never circulated. Thos Ewing Portrait.jpg $2 circulating note 001.jpg
  4. WingedLiberty

    WingedLiberty Well-Known Member

    Is this a vignette print? It's the Sheild of Arms for every State in the Union. I bought a print of this a few years back and had it framed.

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  5. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    This would qualify as a contemporary souvenir card. There's an extensive thread on this subject you might enjoy: And you'll find your "shield" posted there, as well. Incidentally, the Bureau of Engraving & Printing issued three of these spider press cards in 1987-88, in brown, green, and blue inks. The green one was produced for the 1988 Florida United Numismatists show (FUN).

    For the purposes this thread, the vignette prints I've posted are nearly all 19th-century originals.
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  6. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Oh wow that is outstanding!

    Great thread gsalexan and everyone else for contributing.
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  7. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    The hits keep on coming! I got some help on another currency forum that pointed me to a usage for the vignette "The Centennial." This was originally engraved for the BEP by Lorenzo Hatch, and later adapted by G.F.C. Smillie for use on the 1891 $1000 silver certificate. This note is so rare that the only collectible form is a reprint on a souvenir card (B140).

    The most interesting part of the story surrounds the actual model for the figure, Josie Mansfield, who was quite notorious in her day, which lead to the silver certificate being nicknamed "the Courtesan Note." You can read about her sordid history here:

    Centennial.jpg B140 cu.jpg B140.jpg
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  8. Timewarp

    Timewarp Intrepid Traveler

    Thanks for the Link on Josie. Interesting reading.
  9. funkee

    funkee Tender, Legal

    Ah yes, the fattie as MEC2 refers.
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  10. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    It's been a bit quiet on the forum lately, so I guess it's time to bump this thread and post a few more additions I've made.

    The first should be reconizable to most folks here -- Monticello, from the back of the small size $2 U.S. Note. The more closely I examine this one the more impressed I am with the engraving. It's a very nice piece of work. This one has a proof number on the back of 940642A. As far as I know, only the BEP stamped numbers on the reverse, so if you find others like this you can be pretty certain they are from the Bureau. The BEP's Historic Research Center keeps logs of when each proof number was pulled. This one was from Jan. 2, 1948, well after the first small $2 in 1928, so it was pulled for a different purpose. I also asked what the "A" suffix indicated and learned that the BEP started over in its numbering sequence, some time after it hit a million.

    One more interesting note is that this proof was reported destroyed a few weeks after being logged. To quote my contact at the HRC: "I guess that didn't happen!"
    Monticello proof.jpg Monticello cu.jpg
    Monticello proof number.JPG
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
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  11. krispy

    krispy krispy

    Geez! That's fantastic! This is a far superior depiction than the one used on the 5¢ nickel, too. I have often admired this engraving on my Series of 1928 notes.
  12. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    This one is just title "Female figure" - Miscellaneous Die 7761, pulled 4/26/1921. There was no information on whether this was used on anything. It has a proof number on the back that is the highest I've seen -- #1093017. I learned a lot about these numbers through corresponding with the BEP. They don't always seem to be in sequence. And the font changed not long after this one was printed. (Sorry for the low-res image). Woman with tablet proof.jpg
    Woman with mirror.JPG
    Seated lady proof number.jpg
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  13. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    In response to my own comments early in this thread, I learned something recently from the BEP's Historic Research Center. The numbers on the back are proof numbers and the Bureau has great big record books that log each of them. But only working proofs received these numbers. Prints without them would be considered "finished products" -- sold to the public, provided to officials or included in specimen books that were given as gifts to dignitaries. After examining my "proofs" I found a good number with gilt edges and no numbers, that I presume were once pages in a book.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2015
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  14. swamp yankee

    swamp yankee Well-Known Member

    Thanx for a great presentation of classic artworks!
  15. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Today I obtained a very interesting piece of literature from the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, IL. It's titled: "List of Portraits and Vignettes in the Engraved Stock of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing." This is in the public domain, so I'm not worried about posting it here. The full pamphlet is 8 pages, but I've edited out the blank ones.

    In 1880, the BEP compiled a complete list of the portraits and vignettes that could be purchased, for a nominal fee, by art associations, libraries, and government bigwigs. You may recognize many of the vignettes from early federal currency. "Plain proofs" were just a nickel each! I'm not sure what a "French India proof" might be - any ideas?

    You can see there are a number of additional titles added by hand at the end. The curator at the Lincoln library surmised these were added by the original owner of the pamphlet, perhaps a collector. I know the Robert Todd Lincoln portrait was engraved in 1887, so the additions are at least that old. I have seen a reference in another book that shows the Bureau issued an updated list in 1885, but I have yet to find a copy. Any leads are appreciated.

    BEP engravings list p1_2.jpg BEP engravings list p3_4.jpg BEP engravings list p5_6.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
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  16. midas1

    midas1 Exalted Member

    Image #1 Usually, engravings of this period tend not to show any emotion, however, the first engraving, JPJ, there's a slight smile and the rest of the engravings also show some emotion, IMO. Interesting. I suspect all of the engravings in image #1 were done by the same engraver.
  17. midas1

    midas1 Exalted Member

    That's one of my favorite American Eagles. Amazing!
  18. krispy

    krispy krispy

    French India proof, French (Chine Colle) India (actually a Chinese paper) proof,

    A printing method using a thin fine paper laid over an inked plate and trimmed to the exact size of the plate is then given a thin adhesive or none at all and the backing paper laid over this thus sandwiching the India paper between plate and backing paper before being put through the press. The result is a finer rendering of the printed lines in the finer more soft and absorbent India paper now bonded to the backing sheet. The India paper differs in manufacture from the western woven or laid papers and is known to have a smoother finish that uniquely renders a better engraved image. It also tends to be made of longer pulp fibers and is quite strong as well as coming in a variety of soft natural colors. You can often see paper that has been printed chine colle as the printed area of the plate is a soft natural color offset by the whiter backing paper.

    I think this is an abbreviated way of telling us of the type of paper and print presentation these were made on.

    Calling it India paper was a Western inaccuracy, and similar to how some continue to call traditional Asian handmade papers, "rice paper" when in fact most are made of mulberry or koso fibers, amongst others, and none are in fact made from actual, rice!
  19. Nyatii

    Nyatii I like running w/scissors. Makes me feel dangerous

    Those were amazing! Thank you for sharing. It's fun to see how the BEP put them to use.

    Your posting reminded me of a book I picked up many years ago, so I had to dig it out to see if it was from the BEP. Sadly it isn't. It's 'The White House Gallery of Official Portraits of the Presidents'. Nothing to do with engravings from the mint.
    It's a huge leather bound book (20"x16 1/2"), with a raised metal seal. Presidents from Washington to McKinley, who was the last when this was printed. I properly admonished it and sent it back to hiding.

    Attached Files:

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  20. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Chris, thanks so much for verifying this! So a plain proof was just on card stock, an India proof was on tissue alone, and French India was a combination. Not even the BEP's Historic Research Center or Peter Huntoon had this information!
  21. krispy

    krispy krispy

    See if some of the content on this page doesn't seem to confirm the same or similar:
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