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Albanese buys ABNC archives

AlbaneseA1227.jpgTons of archived printing plates, rollers, dies and other archival materials from the American Bank Note Company have been purchased by John Albanese.

ABNC was a major paper money printer in the 19th and 20th centuries for the United States and other countries of the world.

Albanese, of Archival Collectibles, LLC, Far Hills, N.J., announced on Dec. 9 that he purchased the archives in August 2004 for an undisclosed price. He said he wants to preserve, exhibit and eventually offer to collectors many of the pieces.

Once used by ABNC and its subsidiaries to produce paper money, stock certificates, stamps, tickets and other things, the 300,000 or so items date back to the 1820s or further.

?The magnitude of the archives is astounding. There are just so many printing plates, maybe as many as 300,000, that we?ve probably inventoried only 20 percent of the items so far,? said Albanese. ?Many of them are engraved with incredibly beautiful vignettes with scenes of daily life, famous people or allegorical representations. This is art in its original form by some of America?s most skilled and famous engravers.?

The 200 tons of engraved steel was moved from a warehouse near Nashville, Tenn., to New Jersey. Researchers are cataloging one-by-one the intricately engraved steel plates and rollers.

Steve Blum, president of Archival Collectibles, has been sifting through the archives and making inventory lists since September.

?These printing plates helped fuel the Industrial Revolution. They printed the stock certificates and bonds that raised cash for companies in the 1800s,? said Blum.

Most of the plates were created over a century ago in the New York city area. ABNC was the nation?s foremost printer of paper money at a time when banks and other entities including railroads, cotton mills, cities and even restaurants and saloons issued their own money in denominations from three cents to $1,000 until 1866.

?The printing plates and transfer rollers in these archives were used for creating Gold Rush-era bank notes, postage stamps and thousands of stock certificates, tickets and engraved invitations,? said Q. David Bowers, numismatic director of American Numismatic Rarities of Wolfeboro, N.H., who currently is writing a reference book about the art, history and financial aspects of 19th century U.S. paper money with ABNC as a prime focus.

ANR plans to offer many of the items at public auctions starting in 2006.

The archives cataloged so far include plates for various denominations from 25 cents to $500 from scores of different banks.

Among discoveries are an engraved plate used for printing Hawaiian Islands Certificate of Deposit $10 notes ?Payable in Silver Coin on Demand? in the 1890s.

?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,? Blum said.

Now located near Philadelphia in Trevose, Pa., ABNC was formed in 1858 by a consolidation of eight bank note engravers and printers. Over the years, the firm acquired other companies and their archives. 

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