Posts Tagged ‘Government’

The History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Monday, March 9th, 2009

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The Bureau of Engraving and Printing can be traced back to August 29, 1862. It was a single room in the basement of the Treasury Building. Here, two men and four women separated and sealed $1 and $2 US notes which had been printed by private bank note companies. Now, there are about 2,500 employees working out of two buildings in Washington D.C. and a new building in Fort Worth, Texas. On April 26, 1991, the Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth had its grand opening.

Emma S. Brown was the youngest employee every hired by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. She started working in 1865 when she was almost 11 years old. She had a physically –handicapped mother and an older brother who was the main bread winner for the family. He was a soldier with the 188th Pennsylvania Volunteers and was killed in action during the siege of Petersburg in July, 1864. Emma Brown’s Congressman gave her a political appointment to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in the examination division. Ms. Brown was forewoman of the trimming section for 59 years before retiring on April 24, 1924.

1877 brought the need for a Plate Printer force which included a large number of experienced firemen who were formed into a Fire Brigade for the protection of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing property. Electric lighting was introduced to the Bureau in 1888; six years before a majority of the Bureau positions were placed under Civil Service. By 1908, all of the positions were under Civil Service. The printing of revenue stamps was taken over by the Bureau in 1876 and in 1894 they began printing postage stamps. During World War II, the Bureau overprinted stocks of regular currency notes that had certain distinguishing, identifying features which were shipped over for use in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has printed currency for the governments of the Republic of Cuba, Siam, Korea and the Philippines. The Bureau was reimbursed by each government for all the work that was done. Denominations ranging from 1/5 cent Wine Stamp all the way to the $100,000,000 International Monetary Fund Special Notes were produced by the Bureau. There were many discrepancies in the stamps and currency. This opened an investigation and a tremendous amount of time into the research. Samples include:

• A man who insisted the portrait of Lincoln on the $5 bill must have been printed in reverse because Lincoln parted his hair on the left side, not the right. After much correspondence, several trips to museums and the Smithsonian Institute including a study of the Lincoln death mask all revealed that Lincoln’s mole and part were indeed on the same side of his face, on the right.

• On the Pony Express Stamp of 1941, many have insisted that the wrong saddle was on the pony.

• Some have said that on the Gold Star Mother Stamp of 1948 showed a Russian star.

• The Little America Stamp of 1933 had the continents on it that some would argue were misplaced.

• One man insisted that the word “Anniversary” on the 1952 Gutenberg Bible Stamp was misspelled.

In each of these occurrences and many more, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing proved conclusively that the designs depicted were correct.

What Happens to Defaced Currency?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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defaced currencyIt is illegal to purposely deface, mutilate, impair, diminish, falsify, scales or lightens any coins minted or “coined” in the United States of America. However, the U.S. government will replace worn out or damaged money if three-fifths of it is still identifiable. Two-fifths will earn the bearer half the face value; less than that gets nothing. Every year, the U.S. Treasury handles over 30,000 claims of destroyed or badly damaged currency. But what happens to money that becomes unrecognizable or “mutilated” through unintentional means?

There are numerous ways that currency can become “mutilated”. The most common causes are fire, water, chemicals, explosives, animal, insect, or rodent damage, and deterioration from burying paper currency. If more than half of the money is identifiable and evidence relating to what happened to the remainder of the money indicates that it was completely destroyed, it is possible for money to be replaced however, special steps must be taken to ensure the authenticity of the currency and the condition of the remaining portions of the paper bills. Special experts are employed by the Treasury Department to examine mutilated currency. These individuals carefully investigate all mutilated money received and are responsible for okaying the writing of a Treasury check for the value of the currency as they determine to be redeemable.

It is important to note that paper money can become badly soiled, defaced, disintegrated, worn, and torn through the ordinary exchange of hands. If more than half of the original note is left and special examination of the note is not required, the money is not considered mutilated. These funds can be taken directly to a bank and exchanged for a replacement. The money is then sent to the Federal Reserve Bank to be exchanged for new bills. The serial numbers of the worn-out money are recorded and then the bills are destroyed. Damaged coins are returned to the Treasury for re-minting, meaning they melt them down to make new coins.  Mutilated currency however needs to be mailed or delivered to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., with a letter indicating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated. Special care should be taken to ensure that the bills are left in the same condition they were in when found.

While it is comforting to know that there are measures in place to protect currency from losing it’s value through unintentional mutilation or defacement, one should take every precaution possible to protect our currency. After all, as taxpayers, we do pay for the minting and printing of all currency and coinage in the United States. Try to keep money safe by avoiding letting your wallet run through the washing machine, or leaving money lying around where it can be damaged. Also, please don’t write on bills ad this may cause them not to work in vending machines or not to be accepted meaning they will need to be replaced sooner than ordinary.