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1928E $5 Legal Tender

Late-Use BP #629 Mules

Five-dollar plate 629 was finished in normal fashion on December 29, 1933, as one of the last old-gauge $5 backs made by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). “Gauge” refers to the width of the gutter between each column of subjects on a printing plate. From the onset of small-size production in 1928, plates had narrow gutters and the cramped space was causing high spoilage rates during sheet printing. The BEP began increasing gauges of small-size plates starting with $1 faces in July 1934. The wider gutters on new gauge plates gave plate printers more tolerance when mating printed backs onto face plates.

$5 Backplate #629 Proof

Image Courtesy of Jamie Yakes

All $5 back plates were new gauge starting with back 630, which was certified on January 31, 1935. The BEP typically rushed new gauge plates to press and earmarked unused old-gauge plates for cancelation. Five-dollar backs 575–628 met that fate, but 629 was saved as a model of the former design. It had never been sent to press.

Beginning in 1938, the BEP started salvaging master plates for conversion into production plates. These salvaged plates, also known as late-finished plates, included varieties such as $1 back 470 and $5 back 637, among others. To finish them as production plates, plate technicians etched plate serial numbers into each of the twelve subjects on the plates, certified them, and sent them to the plate vault for eventual use. Because of when they were finished, salvaged plates carried plate serials that were out of sequence with contemporary plates, and in some cases etched in the micro style that was current when the plates were produced.

Back 629, though, was not a true salvaged plate. All other salvaged plates were new gauge plates, and because 629 wasn’t means it was used by mistake. In fact, a BEP employee had penned in large letters "Do Not Send To Press" at the top of the plate ledger page for the plate. Regardless, 629 went to press for one short press run from November 17, 1947, until February 2, 1948, fourteen years after it was certified. Its short production run shows someone quickly realized it was an old-gauge plate and promptly removed it from service. It was canceled on February 17, 1948.

Micro-size Mule

Late-Used BP #629

Sheets from back 629 were mated with $5 Legal Tender Series of 1928E faces only, bearing Julian-Snyder signatures, and only serial numbered in the H-A block.  It was also mated with Series of 1934C Silver Certificate faces and Series of 1934C Federal Reserve Note faces (some, but not all districts). Star notes with back plate 629 are possible for all three classes.

Written by Jamie Yakes

1928E $5 LT Mule; Macro FP #572, Micro Late-Use BP #629

Image Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

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