The 1882-1890 New Bank Note Issue included the first genuinely original engravings completed by the American Bank Note Company since the inception of its contract with the federal government. ABNCo had previously made some slight changes to frames and portraits that were primarily National Bank Note Company’s design. The stamps of the 1881-1882 Re-Engraved Issue are a case in point. The NBNCo printing plates had been used by three printing firms. The soft copper plates were quickly worn by continuous printings. The pressure from the roller against paper and plate caused the engraving—especially the finer, shallower lines—to lose considerable sharpness. Printing plates either had lines re-engraved where needed or were burnished smooth before having the transfer roll re-applied. In the case of the New Bank Note Issue, new designs were created to totally replace the old, unusable plates.
The use of traditional portraits continued, though that of President James Garfield was an exception. His image had never previously appeared on a stamp. His assassination in September 1881 prompted the release of the Garfield issue in spring 1882.