The history of currency is the history of civics and commerce. As The Conservation Center learned recently while caring for an incredibly rare one-dollar bill, what can appear to be an everyday dollar can actually be a unique artifact.
The bill we treated, printed in 1963, is not impressively old, but its origin makes it a hot commodity for collectors. The Chicago-area private collector, who owns the dollar and is proficient on the subject, explained: “Shortly after the Civil War, when the United States really began to print money in volume by establishing the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), Crane Paper Company, of Dalton, Massachusetts, essentially supplied the paper on which all paper money has been printed.”
This was the case until the BEP, after nearly 30 years of experimentation with Crane, intended to improve the wear of the paper. The project was put on hiatus during World War II and did not resume until 1962 when, according to our collector, “for the first time, the BEP looked for an alternate supplier of paper. A division of Mead Paper, the Gilbert Paper Company of Menasha, Wisconsin, once an independent company that began functioning contemporary with Crane Paper, was chosen. Gilbert had already, for many years, been producing paper currency for various foreign governments. Gilbert succeeded in supplying a virtual clone of the Crane currency paper and the BEP produced a small run of 1963 series $1 Federal reserve notes, Block CA (Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank) serial numbers beginning at C60800001A and running for 640,000 notes that were in all respects perfectly suited to BEP needs.” However, this only proved to be a test-run as printing the notes was not cost efficient to Gilbert and the contract was mutually terminated.
Adding to the rarity of the Gilbert Dollar and the minimal number of notes printed, is the fact that the contract was never announced by the BEP, leaving collectors unaware of its existence. The Gilbert dollar lived out its 1–3 year life expectancy unnoticed. Today, according to our collector, less than 10 “Gilbert Dollars” are known to remain.
The one brought to The Conservation Center was, unfortunately adhered to a piece of presentation paper with a gummy 50-year-old adhesive. Our paper conservator had the challenge of freeing it without damaging the precious dollar.
Hinges, tapes, and adhesive remnants may have to be removed from a work of art on paper if they are adversely affecting the object. Pressure sensitive tapes usually have a rubber or acrylic-based adhesive, as well as plasticizers which may migrate into the support, eventually causing staining. As the various adhesives degrade, they become more difficult to remove. Often, deterioration of an adhesive leads to increased tackiness—the adhesive may flow into the paper fibers. Cross-linking during ageing results in discoloration, which will disfigure the work of art.
In this case, the process involved swabbing the sticky residue from the bill without harming its fibers and pigment. The sticky substance was eventually lifted off the paper flawlessly without any damage to the bill.
“The note is now pristine without a trace of adhesive remaining and no loss of the color or printing on the note was affected,” said our satisfied client. “The surface of the paper was perfectly left intact after the adhesive removal. The dollar bill is now preserved for posterity.”