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Smithsonian Institution > An Introduction to the Smithsonian Collection
Bureau of Engraving and Printing Certified Proofs
NBNC
04/01/2012
   From its inception during the Civil War, it has been the practice at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to lift one proof from every intaglio printing plate so that the proof could be examined in order to prove that the plate was perfect before allowing the plate to be placed in production.
   This process became formalized in late 1877 during the tenure of Bureau Chief Edward McPherson when he began signing the bottoms of the proofs to certify his approval. He further formalized the certification process on January 15, 1878 by including the handwritten certification date adjacent to his signature.
   These proofs were saved at the Bureau until the early 1970s, when they began to be transferred to appropriate Smithsonian Institution museums. Some 45,000 proofs from postage stamp plates made for the Post Office Department were accessioned into the National Postal Museum, whereas Treasury and other items were housed in the National Numismatic Collection, at the National Museum of American History.
   All the intaglio proofs made from 1863 through the mid-1980s were turned over to the Smithsonian museums, except for a few that were cut up for distributed in presentation books or consumed by Bureau employees who used them as models. The result is that the Division of Numismatics holds a virtually complete collection that provides an invaluable research resource.
   The scope of the holdings in the Division of Numismatics encompasses approximately 350,000 proofs of currency, bonds, revenue stamps, checks, commissions, awards, food stamps, and food coupons. Included are Treasury items made for our insular possessions.
   The holding of National Bank Note proofs encompasses all plates made for the Series of 1875, 1882 and 1902. Original Series proofs generally were not saved because those plates were made by private bank note companies. Similarly proofs of Series of 1929 national bank notes showing the bank overprints were not made because the overprints were made from typographic plates, the proofs of which were not saved by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
   The proofs featured in this section are part of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Collection in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

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