Data Matrix typeface?

Hello all, I am completely new to the letterpress world. I bought out a retired printer several years ago and had no use for the hundred or so fonts that came with the package. Now I am wanting to sell the type and am learning A LOT about this fascinating hobby. Anyway…. I have this one set that I cannot identify. I want to list it for sale, but have no idea how to describe it. It looks like whats used to make data matrix barcodes, but I don’t know wheat that would be called. I hope someone out there can help. Thanks so much!

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Those are MICR figures. Check imprinting is a typical use.

That’s where I’ve seen those symbols! It was driving me crazy that I couldn’t remember. Makes sense. Thank you so much!

Their proper name is E-13b and may be either to the USA Banking standard, or the UK. The USA originally only wanted still figures, and these were to be printed litho. The UK coming later to the problem, had to have a serial number ( printed from a specially made numbering box by Lethaby & Co) i.e. by definition letterpress. The IBM reader heads did’nt like letterpress ink squeeze, so here (Pat Cockman of Lethaby) redesigned the face onto a grid a tiny bit smaller, the readers were then happy.
Cheque printers in the UK had to adopt techniques quite new to the industry to produce to the standard required. I should know, its all my fault. Is there any label on the box?? .

I could bore for England on this subject, but in passing there was a UK rival, which also (just) made it into metal type.
Its called FRED, designed by EMI engineers at Hayes
by modifying Falstaff figures. FRED = Figure Reading Electronic Device. There were tests, and it worked well, but the UK banks went for big brother blue. Booo!

That is wonderful information! I love hearing from all of the experts on this site. Thank you!

A magnetic ink was used on E13B. Sample cheques had to be put through a machine that measured the tolerance. All type, numbering boxes and ink had to be accounted for and kept in a secure location.

Initially read magneticaly, MICR - Magnetic Ink Character Recognition and changed later to optical reading.

Each character is read as several strips so that the position of ink / no ink is coverted to binary 1 and 0.

As platen printer says the reading system was much akin to playing a music sound recording from a spool of magnestisable tape. Its better to call the ink magnetisable,
rather than magnetic, as the very thin printed dried image ink film only held the signal imposed on it - to make it readable - for a very short while.
‘Later changed to optical reading’ called for a quite different new type face, called OCRA or OCRB printed with ordinary ink and read optically, not magnetically. This latter work led on to optical text scanner/readers
In passing the French had their own magnetisable system - and typeface - quelle surprise - called CMC7
Metal type was briefly available both for OCRB and CMC7

I love this site! There is an expert for everything!
All of this info makes me wonder if it would be OK to sell this type. Could a fraudster use them to print checks? Based on all of your comments it sounds like that would be no easy task.

The MICR numbers are still very much used on U.S. checks. I still offer fonts of this type cast by ATF for sale—anyone can buy and and use it. The characters are read by the amount of magnetic ink based on area of ink coverage on each character, thus the odd appearance. This system was developed by the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California in the 1950s as they developed the technology for Bank of America. My brother worked on that program for SRI at the time it was being developed along with BofA’s room sized computer named Erma. See:

The cheque passed under the reading heads right hand edge leading, so effectively the printed character was scanned progressively from its right hand edge towards its left. The
electronics looked for a rise in the total magnetic signal from very little., against a regular time base. So the character we humans see as a sort of rather squared off zero,read as is blank, rise blank blank blank rise zero, which might well be understood as binary number 0100010. As to what digit that actually represented for a bank, well thats a secure matter. (All this is a sinmplification). Don’t forget that the UK and US type has a tiny construction difference, and the printed line arrangement also differs. Our paper (called CBS1) was better too.

As a matter of interest Monotype Corporation
produced hot metal matrices for electronic
reading founts in:-
E-13B, CMC7 and OCR-B many years ago.
These are still available from Monotype
Hot-Metal Ltd.