This experimental stamp printing plate from the American Bank Note Company is one of only two known. The dimensions of the plate are 2.5" x 3.5" and it is number 25894. The steel plate was produced by John Sellers & Sons in Sheffield, England, a company established in 1820 that manufactured engravers plates, dies and tools. The American Bank Note Company incorporated hand-engraved lettering and pictures along with geometric patterns created by a specially engineered lathe. The intricacy of the design was implemented to guard against forgery. This experimental stamp printing plate has "EXPERIMENT / A.B.N.C." hand-engraved as well as an intricate geometric design.
The American Bank Note Company was founded in 1795 (initially as the Murray, Draper, Fairman & Company) by Robert Scot, who was the first official engraver of the U.S. Mint. This company became the nation's most prominent engraving and printing firm. The company's products included superior quality stock and bond certificates, paper currency for the nation's thousands of state-chartered banks, postage stamps for the U.S. Government, and a wide variety of other engraved and printed products. In addition, the American Bank Note Company printed currency notes for many world countries.
The first federally-issued paper currency was circulated by the U.S. Treasury Department following the outbreak of the Civil War. Under contract with the U.S. Government, paper money was produced by the American Bank Note Company. In addition, the American Bank Note Company also produced paper money for the Confederacy.
The American Bank Note Company was also contracted by the U.S. Government for the private printing of American stamps. In July of 1894, the American Bank Note Company delivered its entire stamp-producing operation to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., where U.S. stamps were still printed into the 1990s.
The Benjamin Franklin Issue of 1861 from the first series of U.S. Postage Stamps was produced by the National Bank Note Company (later called the American Bank Note Company).
When the American Bank Note Company seized their printing operations, the old dies and printing plates were stored in a warehouse. In 2004, the American Bank Note Company sold its archive of old dies and printing plates to Archival Collectibles L.L.C., a company owned by two coin dealers, Steve Blum and John Albanese, for a few million dollars.
In a 2005 New York Times article, Q. David Bowers, an authority on coins and bank notes, referred to the archives "like opening King Tut's tomb." Also in the article, Steve Blum stated that "items with historic or artistic significance, in Mr. Bowers's opinion, could bring tens of thousands of dollars each. Better pieces will be donated to museums or collectors' societies." John Albanese mentioned that "they had already turned down an offer of $150,000 for the printing plate of a Walt Disney Company stock certificate showing the founder and his famous mouse."
This experimental stamp printing plate from the American Bank Note Company is one of only two known. The other experimental plate is number 25893 and has a similar design. This plate is a significant part of the history of United States stamp production.
EXPERIMENT / A.B.N.C. Hand Engraved Into Design:
Below are images of both sides of the entire stamp printing plate: