What is the 'U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)'

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) is the government agency responsible for printing paper currency, Treasury securities and specialty documents for the United States.

Breaking Down 'U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)'

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing develops and produces all U.S. paper currency. It prints billions of dollars, referred to as Federal Reserve Notes, each year for delivery to the Federal Reserve System. The Federal Reserve operates as the nation's central bank and ensures that adequate amounts of currency and coin are in circulation. The BEP is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The BEP does not produce coins. All U.S. coinage is minted by the United States Mint. The BEP also advises other federal agencies on document security matters such as for passports and identification cards. In addition, the BEP processes claims for the redemption of mutilated currency. The BEP's research and development efforts focus on the continued use of automation in the production process and counterfeit deterrent technologies for use in security documents, especially United States currency.

BEP History and Production

The BEP was founded in 1862, with workers signing, separating and trimming sheets of United States Notes in the Treasury building. The BEP then produced currency, revenue stamps, government obligations, and other security documents for several federal agencies. In 1877, the BEP was deemed the sole producer of all U.S. currency. The addition of postage stamp production to its workload in 1894 established the BEP as the nation's security printer. The BEP no longer produces government obligations or postage stamps, but remains the largest producer of government security documents with production facilities in Washington, DC, and in Fort Worth, Texas.

The production of U.S. currency involves craftspeople, specialized equipment, and a combination of old world printing techniques and modern technology. BEP banknote designers develop the look, layout, and details of U.S. paper currency. The Secretary of the Treasury approves all final designs. Engravers then engrave fine lines and grooves into steel dies, transforming designers' models into three-dimensional engravings. In siderography, individually engraved elements such as the portrait, border, counters and text are combined to form one complete face or back of a note using a transfer press. Plastic master plates are transferred using siderography and used by plate makers to create hundreds of identical printing plates in the electroplating process. Brown paper-wrapped loads of paper sheets come to the BEP for printing. Currency paper is 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen. Each sheet is tracked and accounted for. Offset and plate printing processes produce sheets of currency, which are then trimmed and inspected. The currency is cut and shrink-wrapped, then transferred and stored in the Federal Reserve Vault for pickup and distribution by the Federal Reserve Banks.

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