A random or accidental pattern that is misinterpreted as a
meaningful pattern is known as a simulacrum. Seeing an image of the
Virgin Mary in a scorched tortilla would be one example, or a demon’s
head in the hair of Queen Elizabeth II, as occurred on some 1954
Seeing a letter or number where none exists is another form of a simulacrum.
Being fooled by letter and number simulacra is an occupational
hazard for die variety collectors. These dedicated coin-hunters
doggedly look for the slightest die imperfection as thousands of coins
pass beneath their loupes and microscopes. Much of their effort is
directed at finding familiar types of die varieties such as repunched
Mint marks, misplaced Mint marks, over Mint marks, dual Mint marks and
False positives are inevitable since die imperfections often
develop as the result of normal wear and tear. Once in a while, a spot
of die damage — a die dent, die gouge or impact scar — will be
mistaken for a letter or a number. Likewise, a patch of die erosion
will produce a raised “bleb” on the surface of a coin that can look
like a letter or numeral.
Our first photo shows a formerly well-accepted dual Mint mark
variety. It is a 1980-D Lincoln cent with what was once considered to
be the lower loop of an “S” Mint mark between the date and the normal
“D” Mint mark. Early die state examples eventually turned up that
conclusively showed that the alleged “S” Mint mark was nothing more
than a small, irregular die dent. Subsequent die wear smoothed out the
irregularities, leaving an S-shape.
A well-known, but highly dubious misplaced Mint mark variety is
seen in the accompanying 1959-D Lincoln cent image. What appears to be
the back of an accessory “D” Mint mark is seen peeking around the tail
of the second 9. Some see it as having been punched in upside-down.
Inverted or not, its status as a letter can be disputed on several
grounds. The purported D Mint mark is thicker and more irregular than
most genuine errant Mint marks. More tellingly, a rather similar
looking spot of irregular die damage is lying very close by, just
inside the design rim. Despite these problems, it is still listed as a
legitimate (or at least potential) die variety by many authorities.
Two controversial dual Mint mark varieties (D and S) are listed
among 1956-D Lincoln cents — a year after the San Francisco Mint
stopped producing cents for general circulation (production would
resume in the years 1968 to 1974). The better-known variety is shown
here. It features a faint, incomplete S-shape beneath and between the
1 and the 9. The upper, middle and lower segments of a suspected S
Mint mark can be identified, but they are not connected to each other,
even in early die state coins.
While most classification systems list this as a genuine dual Mint
mark variety, Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of
America attributer James Wiles is skeptical. He sees the “upper loop”
of the S as being nothing more than the convergence of two die
scratches. The rest of his rebuttal can be found on the Variety Vista
The second claimed dual Mint mark variety from this year shows an
S-shaped elevation just to the right of the normal D Mint mark. This S
is complete, but it only makes a full appearance in later die states,
leading some to suspect it is merely an odd pattern of die flow lines.
Repunched dates were supposed to have ended in 1908. Up to that
time the digits (the last two, at any rate) were punched into each
working die by hand. After that date, the digits were part of the
master hub or were punched in or engraved into the master die. And yet
two alleged repunched date varieties have been identified among cents
produced decades later. One consists of a 1956-D cent with an alleged
What looks like the upper portion of a second 5 can be seen
protruding from the top of the horizontal bar and from the back of the
vertical bar. Defenders of its status as a repunched date variety
speculate that this was originally a fouled-up master die that was
recommissioned as a working die.
I’m skeptical. Not only is a repunched date highly unlikely in
this time period, the letter trace doesn’t look convincing. The
horizontal bar is unaccountably thin, while the vertical bar flares
slightly at its base and has an odd crease in it.
The other purported Lincoln cent with repunched date is found in a
1957-D cent with a suspected repunched 7. The supposed extra 7
manifests itself as a squared-off elevation that protrudes from the
tip of the normal 7. Such a tiny imperfection could be almost anything.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or to
800-673-8311, Ext. 172.