Crane & Co.

Crane & Co. is a privately held, family-owned company that is based out of Dalton, MA with an international facility in Tumba, Sweden. It is the sole provider of special currency paper for the US Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Crane also plays a role in the international security printing industry, providing paper, printing, and security features to several countries outside the US. In the past two decades, Crane has acquired several subsidiary companies related to its development of cutting-edge security technology. The company is also known for its fine business papers and stationery.

Origin story: Crane & Co. traces its roots back to 1770, when Stephen Crane bought the Liberty Paper Mill. There is a much-remarked-upon connection to Paul Revere, who had Crane print colonial currency to finance the Continental Army at the beginning of the American Revolution. The company itself was founded in 1801 by Zenas Crane (son of Stephen) and two non-Crane-family business partners. They began printing currency paper for a regional bank in 1806, and were introducing anti-counterfeiting technologies as early as 1844.

In 1879, Winthrop Crane (later to become 40th governor of MA, as well as a state senator) won the contract to manufacture paper for the printing of US Currency, a contract that has been renewed continuously up to the present day.

Crane’s apparent lack of competition for this contract is a little bit problematic, given that it verges on monopoly. In 1998, the General Accounting Office reported that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was put in a weak negotiating position by Crane’s hundred-plus-year monopoly, and had been forced to accept prices that were too high simply because it had no other option. Efforts have been made in the past to introduce more competition (subsidies, restrictions) but have never been passed.

Crane has a huge advantage for two reasons. First, it takes significant investment to prepare a mill for making the specific paper that US currency is printed on, and thus most companies do not even have the technical capability to do so. Second, as the only company to produce US currency paper since 1879, Crane has been instrumental in the introduction of a significant number of security features to American currency, many of which are entirely its own intellectual property.

Crane’s currency business outside of the United States is much more diverse. It’s based out of a facility in Tumba, Sweden, which was acquired by the company in 2002 and renamed Crane AB (subsidiary of Crane & Co.). At the Tumba plant, the entire security printing process can occur, from design to production to distribution. Crane calls this “absolute supply chain integrity” and suggests that it is the most secure way of producing currency. We’ve seen this production integration tactic with other security printers, namely ABnote.

Internationally, Crane produces paper for the currencies of Mexico, Thailand, India, and Egypt. It supplies paper and printing for Tanzania, Sweden, and Chile. South Korea, Costa Rica, and Lebanon are all purchasers of security elements from Crane. Crane’s security technologies are at the forefront of the field, and the most high-tech are used only in high-denomination bills. The new US $100 bill, for example, uses Crane’s trademark MOTION technology, which is not found in any of the other denominations.

In 2009, Crane purchased Visual Physics (renamed Crane Micro Optic Solutions), a subsidiary of Nanoventions, in order to maintain exclusive control of that MOTION technology. In order to finance this purchase, a 20% minority share of the company was sold to investment firm Lindsay Goldberg. A business partnership with Neenah Papers was also solidified – all Crane fine business papers are now produced by Neenah, and marketed and distributed by Crane.

Crane participated heavily in a conflict between proponents of switching entirely to the dollar coin and those defending the paper dollar bill. They lobbied, as well as sponsored a grassroots-style organization called “Americans for George.” The debate quieted down after the GAO released a report that said huge government savings would not be an effect of switching to a dollar coin, as well as after Crane pulled sponsorship of Americans for George as a cost-saving maneuver. Also, in December 2011, the mint actually began to curtail production of dollar coins.

As a privately held company, Crane does not release quarterly earnings and it can be hard to find any very specific information about the workings of the company. According to a March 2012 Berkshire Eagle article, Crane employs 876 workers in the Berkshires and 1,365 worldwide. In a July 2011 Boston Globe article, then-CEO Kittredge stated that between 25 and 30 percent of their revenue comes from paper for US currency.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Associated Press. “GAO says Crane & Co. should lose monopoly on currency paper.” Worcester Telegram & Gazette.24 July 1998.

—. “Crane Still Ahead in Paper Chase.” Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 19 November 1998.

Cunningham, Kelly. “Good on Paper.” Bostonia. Fall 2006.

Dobrowolski, Tony. “New Crane CEO from outside family.” The Berkshire Eagle. 17 October 2011.

Lahr, Ellen G. “Crane Shares the Wealth.” The Berkshire Eagle. 10 July 2008.

—. “Crane & Co. is Going Global.” The Berkshire Eagle. 28 January 2008.

Levinthal, Dave and Anna Palmer. “Dollar Bill Lobby Disappears.” Politico. 25 May 2012.

Lublinn, Joann S. “Bringing a New Business into Fold.” Wall Street Journal (Online). 20 April 2009.

Mangouri, Kaivan. “Still Making Money: With the US ordering less paper for bills, Crane & Co. has branched out.” Boston Globe. 09 July 2011.

Mitchell, Kathleen. “The Secrets To Making Money.” BusinessWest. 19 July 2010.

NPR. “Where Dollar Bills Come From.” Planet Money. 15 May 2012.

O’Brian, Hugh. “Recessions are good for banknotes!” RISI. 9 August 2009.

Olsen, Patricia. “At the Helm: Charles Kittredge.” Family Business Magazine. Spring 2009.

—. “Changing Times for a Maker of Very Important Paper.” New York Times. 6 February 2009.

Saunders, Jamie. “Neenah Paper and Crane & Co. Announce Partnership for Fine Business Papers.” Neenah Paper, Inc. 27 August 2009.

Sparshott, Jeffrey. “The Buck Stops Here: $1 Coins to be curtailed; Dead presidents go way of Sacagawea.” The Wall Street Journal (Online). 14 December 2011.

for more, see Crane.com, “History of Crane Paper Company“, “Crane and the Environment“, Crane Currency

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Comments
2 Responses to “Crane & Co.”
  1. dem says:

    Notes we found somewhere regarding family names: the Cranes and the Kittredges are both old Dalton families and have been intermarrying for generations. So both family names, it seems, can be considered “in the family” regarding Crane & Co. [Can’t remember where we found that, could just have been a passing reference somewhere.]

    The current CEO, Stephen P. DeFalco, is from outside the family (and only the third time that has been the case.) Charles Kittredges remains as Chairman, I believe.


    Dobrowolski, Tony. “New Crane CEO from outside family.” The Berkshire Eagle 17 Oct 2011.

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