Paper Money

Results from ABNC durability tests surface at show

One of the more fascinating discoveries  revealed at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Anaheim, Calif., was found a few weeks earlier in Ottawa at the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association event by PCGS Currency vice president Laura Kessler.

It is a June 14, 1938, laboratory report from the American Banknote Company to “A.A. Wittenebel” on tests for various paper currencies — a Barbados $1 note, three Mexican 1-peso specimen notes, three Brazilian 10-milreis specimen notes, and most interestingly, three regular issue U.S. Series 1935 silver certificates.

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The laboratory report is titled “Durability Tests” and referenced the testing dates for each note as well as the amount of time for which they were tested and the results. 

Although it does not specify what the tests were, it is obvious from examining the notes that they were subjected to exposure to moisture. There are notations that the Mexican ones were dry printed and the Brazilian notes wet printed. Although no designation was mentioned for the American notes, it is known that Series 1935 silver certificates were printed through the wet process, in which the paper is moistened prior to being printed.

Accompanying the report were nine of the 10 notes tested, including all three silver certificates. 

An examination of the notes themselves shows various degrees of wear and tear as a consequence of the tests. Compared to the others, the silver certificates show the least amount of damage from the testing process.

An Internet search for A.A. Wittenebel (listed as “manager” on the report) reveals that in 1940 he was granted a patent for the “Wittenebel Inking Mechanism for Rotary Steel Plate Printing Machine.” This leads to speculation that the testing was a part of the development of that machine and that the firm was testing the ink in a wet versus dry environment.

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