50 dollars, one sheet: Larger sheets of Federal Reserve notes available to collectors for first time

New uncut sheets offered to collectors much larger than 32-subject sheets offered since 1980s
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 07/22/16
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The uncut sheets of $1 Federal Reserve notes sold to collectors have gotten a lot larger.

When the first $1 notes printed on 50-subject sheets entered circulation early in 2014, it signaled the first time in over half a century that there was a change in the method of printing U.S. currency. Ever since 1957, 32-subject sheets had been the standard. 

Now, after a two-year wait, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will begin offering the 50-subject sheets for sale to collectors on Aug. 9. The Series 2013 Dallas district notes, printed at the Fort Worth facility, will be offered as a full sheet and in smaller sizes as well.

The full 50-subject sheet costs $86, a 25-subject version is priced at $50.50, a 20-subject sheet costs $43, a 10-subject version is priced at $27, and a five-subject sheet will set collectors back $18.50.

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The $1 notes have the signatures of Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew and Treasurer Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios, who just left office.

How is the 50-subject sheet different for collectors?

Use of a larger sheet of currency paper on which the 50-subject notes are printed results in some changes to the “codes” found on the faces of the notes. Astute paper money collectors have for generations used the codes to determine the exact position of any given note on its original sheet. And while noncollectors might wonder why specialists might want to know a note’s position, that knowledge has been useful for collectors of error notes.

The 32-subject sheets are printed with notes arranged in four quadrants of eight notes each, with the notes in each quadrant arranged in two vertical and adjacent columns of four notes each. Notes in each quadrant are lettered A through H, with quadrants numbered from 1 to 4. The pairing of the letter and numeral such as A2 or D1 is a “code” or plate position indicator that identifies sheet position.

The revised arrangement of the 50-subject sheets comprises 10 horizontal rows of five notes each. Starting in the top left corner, notes are numbered from A1 to A5 on the top row, to J1 to J5 on the bottom row. In addition, the individual notes can be distinguished by another important change in the identifier: On the notes from 32-subject sheets, the number is a smaller font size (half the size) than the letter. On notes from the 50-subject sheets, the letter and number are of the same font size, and both are about three-quarters the height of the letter on notes from the 32-subject sheets. 

The backs are the same.

The BEP provides a handy guide to the sheet arrangements and other differences here

New product, new machine

The sheets are printed on new Super Orloff Intaglio or SOI presses manufactured and trademarked by KBA-NotaSys SA of Lausanne, Switzerland, that can produce 10,000 sheets per hour. The presses have three plates; a computerized ink control system; and an electronic inspection system. They are installed at both the Washington and Fort Worth facilities alongside the still-used 32 subject presses.

The aggressive promotion of the sale of modern uncut sheets has been a growth industry within the BEP. It began slowly with the Bicentennial $2 notes of 1976 which were sold in sheets of 32, 16, and 4. Next came the Series 1981 $1 with the Buchanan-Regan signature combination. The first $5 and $10 note sheets were from Series 1995. Twenties made their debut with Series 1996 followed by $50 note sheets in 2004, both only in sheets of 16, 8, and four.

For additional information about BEP or to purchase products, visit the BEP website. BEP products may also be ordered by telephone (1-800-456-3408), by fax (1-888-891-7585), or mail (Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Mail Order Sales, 515M, 14th and C Streets, SW, Washington, DC 20228). 

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