The “Four Faces” counterclash, seen in the September 1999 Millennium 25-cent coin, presents a ghostly version of the leftmost child’s face within the rightmost child’s body.
The Type II counterclash is one of the rarest and most desirable forms of die damage.
It transpires when a hard object is struck on one or both faces. Afterward, the object remains behind in the striking chamber but comes to rest in a different location. When the object is struck again, the raised design produced during the first strike is transferred back to the field portion of the die, leaving a set of incuse, mirror-image design elements. Every planchet struck thereafter carries an extra set of raised, normally oriented design elements in an unexpected location.
Only six Type II counterclashes are known among U.S. coins (see the Aug. 9, 2012, and September 29, 2008, columns). These consist of a 1969-S Lincoln cent, two 1983 cents, a 1985 cent, a 1999-P Delaware quarter dollar, and a 2000-P Sacagawea dollar.
Canada has produced three Type II counterclashes, all of which are found in the first year of the Millennium 25-cent coin series, which ran from 1999 to 2000. Twelve reverse designs were produced in 1999 (one for each month), with three of those designs affected.
The clearest, best known and most abundant of these errors is the September 1999 “Four Faces” counterclash. The reverse design features stick figure representations of three children holding hands. The face of the leftmost child — a boy — appears a second time within the body of the rightmost girl.
The February 1999 25-cent coin features a set of ancient petroglyphs (rock paintings) consisting of a stick-man on the left, a horse and a spoked wheel. The four fingers of the stick-man’s left-positioned hand are duplicated in the field to the left of the normal hand. The image is very faint.
The most extensive counterclash is found in the July 1999 issue. The design consists of six highly abstract faces arranged in a circle around a central maple leaf. Individual faces are positioned at approximately 11:00, 1:00, 3:00, 4:00, 6:30, and 9:00. All or part of the faces occupying the first four clock positions listed are translocated to the center and upper left quadrant of the reverse face.
The object responsible for damaging the dies is unknown, but the feeder/ejection mechanism has often been implicated. It’s certainly true that mistimed feeders do get struck on occasion. Moreover, the wide expanse of the July 1999 counterclash suggests that the object was relatively large and flat, which would be consistent with a feeder. On the other hand, feeders are typically composed of metal that is softer than die steel or, alternatively, metal that is weak and brittle and that is designed to break away on impact. It’s difficult to see how this soft/weak material could receive an impression and transfer it back to the die face.
What is the correct diagnosis?
One feature of these Canadian counterclashes is quite unexpected and calls into question the favored diagnosis. In U.S. counterclashes, the extra elements are confined to the field. This is to be expected, as it is the field portion of the die that is most vulnerable to impact damage. The situation is quite different in the July and September 1999 Canadian counterclashes. In both cases, the extra design elements continue on top of the raised design. In the September counterclash, there is no diminution in strength or clarity as the extra elements cross from the field to the raised design.