A vast array of foreign material — much of it unidentified — gets
trapped between dies and planchets. If it falls out of the coin (the
usual outcome), the resulting depression is called a “struck-through” error.
Objects that leave consistent and easily recognizable impressions
are generally more desirable than irregular impressions. Within this
subset of patterned impressions, coins struck through cloth hold an
When a piece of fabric is struck into a coin it leaves a distinct
weave pattern. A typical impression covers the obverse face of a
1964-D Jefferson 5-cent coin that was sent to me some time ago by
It has always been assumed that the fabric is derived from rags
used to clean dies and coinage presses. While this is a reasonable
supposition, it is by no means a given. After all, how many rags can
you recall that have fallen apart into large pieces?
The curious nature of cloth fragments is amply demonstrated by an
undated off-metal Kennedy half dollar recently sent to me by Chef Ito.
Struck on what is probably planchet for a 5-cent coin, it weighs 5.10
grams. The reverse face was almost completely covered by a large piece
of cloth that was roughly circular in shape and slightly smaller than
the finished coin. This left a ring of unobstructed, die-struck design
encircling the weave impression.
Since cloth would presumably not expand to the same extent as a
malleable alloy of copper and nickel, it is entirely possible that the
cloth circle started out the same size as a 5-cent blank. This, in
turn, raises the possibility that the cloth was introduced well before
the planchet reached the coinage press. It may be that a piece of
cloth came to rest on one side of the coin metal strip as it was being
fed into the blanking press. The blanking die would have sliced
through the cloth as it was punching out the blank. The cloth circle
remained attached to the blank at least as far as the coinage press.
The fabric could have been introduced even earlier, right after
the coin metal strip had been rolled to final thickness. A piece of
cloth could have been trapped as the strip was rolled into a coil for
subsequent storage and transport.
Two basic textures
The density of cloth weave varies, resulting in two basic
textures. In the previous two examples, the weave was tight. When the
cloth was struck into the planchet, coin metal squeezed through the
narrow gaps between the threads, creating a grid of fine ridges. When
the weave is loose, you tend to get a checkerboard pattern of elevated
squares, separated by shallow grooves. That’s what we see on the lower
half of the obverse face of the illustrated 1976 Lincoln cent.
It’s not uncommon for cloth to fold over on itself or to develop
pleats prior the strike. The impressions of such folds are easy to
spot and enhance the visual effect of such errors.
I have seen many coins with struck-through errors that lack a
weave pattern but have nevertheless been optimistically labeled as
“struck through cloth.” Such diagnoses should be disregarded, even if
the coin has been encapsulated by a reputable grading service.
Although the illustrated 1956-D Jefferson 5-cent coin was submitted to
me as a struck-through-cloth error, it lacks a weave pattern. It
instead shows an irregular, somewhat wavy texture, leaving the
identity of the object obscure.
Struck-through-cloth errors are sometimes mimicked by forms of
post-strike damage or alteration. One of the more common categories
consists of coins that are chemically etched by bits of cloth that
have been soaked in acid or some other corrosive solution. These
gradually etch a sunken grid into the coin’s surface that can fool the
unwary collector unfamiliar with the differences between the real
thing and the alterations.
In genuine struck-through-cloth errors, the weave weakens or
vanishes over the high relief areas — not so with an acid-etched coin.
Genuine examples of the error will also usually show an elevated
“wire” rim where the cloth overlaps the rim.
Coin World’s Collectors’ Clearinghouse department does
not accept coins or other items for examination without prior
permission from News Editor William T. Gibbs. Materials sent to
Clearinghouse without prior permission will be returned unexamined.
Please address all Clearinghouse inquiries to email@example.com or to
800-673-8311, Ext. 172.