This Pile of Scrap Once Cast a Fortune in Notes





Steve Blum has been spending his days locked up alone in a silent warehouse in central New Jersey, sorting through boxes of what looks like scrap metal.

But to him, the dusty shingles are buried treasure. These old dies and plates were once used to print items of great worth: bank notes, stock certificates and bond coupons, as well as postage stamps, tickets, playing cards and other types of paper ephemera.

The slabs, about an eighth of an inch thick and ranging from an inch square to poster-size, lie in boxes stacked on more than a hundred pallets. Some of them date to the 1830's.

This 200-ton trove once belonged to the American Bank Note Company, a major New York securities printer whose clients included governments, universities, banks and railroads, from captains of industry to humble savings and loans. As demand for steel and copperplate engraving fell, the company merged with or acquired many of its competitors, often picking up their old plates as well.



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