The Doovas cards
In a series of articles published in the Souvenir Card Journal during 1982 the story of the first private issue-BEP hybrid souvenir card is laid out in detail. These cards were the brainchild of William Doovas, a collector based in Los Angeles. It's quite a fascinating tale and Doovas' tenacity in getting these cards printed is remarkable given all the difficulties he ran into. Here is an abbreviated version.

The story starts in mid-1970s, well before cell phones, fax machines, and computerized typesetting. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing had been marketing their official souvenir cards since 1969, but at that time their primary focus was on philatelic cards. The annual ANA show was the only event where a numismatic card was being issued. The BEP believed stamp collectors were the main buyers of these products (probably true at the time) and refused to budge on adding any other coin or paper money shows to the line-up.

In the bicentennial year of 1976, Doovas had printed two souvenir cards for the SPMC and the Paper Money Collectors of Michigan, showing uncut sheets of Federal Reserve Notes. These were both very large (11.5" x 16") and serially numbered (400 each), using conventional printing (non-intaglio), so he was familiar with the process of creating a private souvenir card.

The first National Paper Money Show (later International or IPMS) was planned for Memphis in June 1977. Doovas took it upon himself to create a card for the Memphis show, but this time he wanted to use an engraved image related to paper money. He eventually landed on the idea of overprinting an actual BEP vignette card (these are still sold by the Bureau today). He decided on of the "Capitol - East View" which appeared on the current $50 FRN. The original idea was to produce 1500 cards, but when he went to buy them, he learned that the Bureau had only 315 in stock. Time was short so that number had to suffice. (Only 300 were printed, with the extras kept for potential printer spoilage.)

Doovas obtained some historical information about the vignette from the BEP and crafted a lengthy caption to use on the card. The text was written up and submitted to a local printing house which set it in lead type. One last-minute error was discovered, which required a full line of type to be reset, but the end result looked good and things were moving along.

Around this time, Doovas got a long-distance phone call from James Conlon, Director of the BEP, asking what these vignette cards were going to be used for. When Doovas explained the project, Conlon went ballistic, accusing him of "bastardizing" the card for personal gain and demanding that all work be stopped and the cards returned for a refund. He threatened legal action and said he would contact the Secret Service if Doovas proceeded. Conlon also cut off any future purchases of vignette cards.

Fortunately Bill Doovas wasn't an easy man to rattle. He contacted attorneys at the Secret Service himself and then the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether any law had been broken. He was assured that if he made it clear to buyers what the card was, then there was no issue with false advertising. This led to a typed notice sheet with an extremely detailed description of "The Card." Doovas covered himself by requiring each card buyer to sign this notice as proof that they knew it wasn't an official BEP card. He even rubber stamped a disclaimer on the back of the first cards.

The cards were serially numbered 1 to 300 and sold at the show in June for $10 each. Conlon retired a month later, but Acting Director Seymour Berry continued to pursue the matter. The BEP complained to the US senators in Doovas' home state of California and he responded with a lengthy and well supported letter.

Finally Doovas got in touch with the Bureau's legal counsel directly. After another few weeks of wrangling, Doovas proposed the addition of a disclaimer on any future cards clearly stating that the vignette was BEP, but the added text on the cards was privately printed. Eventually Berry agreed to this and Doovas was allowed to buy an additional 100 of the Capitol cards, which were overprinted with the new text and sold by mail after the Memphis show.

Doovas went on to produce private cards for two more shows - and in typical fashion, he ran into trouble with both. In 1978, after years of overproduction and sales miscalculation, the BEP decided to reevaluate their souvenir card program. That year the Bureau only announced two souvenir cards — one for IPMS in Memphis and one for the CENJEX stamp show in New Jersey. None at all were issued in 1979.

Now Doovas swung into action for the 1978 ANA show in Houston, which would have no official souvenir card. He selected the BEP vignette card of the White House-South View to overprint. Having made peace with the Bureau he was able to purchase these without a problem. This time the hurdle was with the leadership of the American Numismatic Association.

In order to use the ANA's name on the card, the decision had to be sanctioned by the entire board of directors, with board members scattered across the country. No meetings were planned in advance of the show and conference calls did not exist at the time. Without a consensus and running out of time, Doovas simply took the ANA name off the card, instead using something generic as the title: "The Second Numismatic Souvenir Card, Houston, Texas" with the show dates. Not a very elegant solution, but practical. These are known as Type 1 cards.

After the show, the ANA board met and approved the name usage on the card (with 60ยข per card going to the ANA). Doovas printed additional cards, which were sold post-show, but these had the title "American Numismatic Association, Eighty-Seventh Anniversary Convention." These are called Type 2. About 180 Type 1 ANA 78 cards were printed and sold for $3.50 each. 525 Type 2 cards were produced and sold by mail for $4 each, plus shipping.

Doovas created his last card for the 1980 Greater New York Money Convention, using the BEP vignette card of Independence Hall. He had no problems with the Bureau or with the show organizers — this time his issue was with the printer. Apparently no one closely checked the text on the card, so instead of being dated 1980, text from the previous card was used and it ended up misdated 1978. 450 of the GNYMC cards were printed and sold, as-is.

In 1980 the BEP finally returned to producing souvenir cards and, acknowledging the collector demand, it expanded its annual program to include cards for both ANA and IPMS. The move opened the door for more numismatic cards, with FUN added in 1983 and other paper money shows a few years later. In 1990, 10 out of 12 of the Bureau's souvenir cards were numismatic.

You won't find Doovas cards listed in the SCCS catalog, as they are considered private cards, not issued by a national organization. The story of these first cards has become little known over time. But despite the small number of cards that Doovas produced, they made lasting impact on the hobby.

— Greg Alexander