Peripheral letters that terminate prematurely at their outer
margins appear surprisingly often among coins struck inside the
collar. But the causes are many and varied.
First of all, one must distinguish between letters that fade out
versus letters that are abruptly truncated. One must also distinguish
between letters that are cut off at the edge of the coin versus
letters that lose their outlying components within the body of the coin.
Letters that “run off” the edge of an in-collar strike are most
often caused by a horizontal misalignment of the hammer die. On rare
occasions, a first-strike counterbrockage will include peripheral
letters that are cut off along the edge of the coin.
Fadeout of peripheral letters within the body of an in-collar
strike has many causes — an abnormally hard planchet, a weak strike, a
tilted die error (vertical misalignment), a thin or tapered planchet,
a “grease” accumulation just inside the die’s rim gutter, an
uncentered planchet struck against a stiff collar, missing or
inadequate upset of the blank and excessive die convexity. The last
two factors are responsible for the notoriously poor strike on many
1985-D Roosevelt dimes.
Abrupt truncation of letters within the body of an in-collar
strike is rarer. The two most common causes are the presence of a
thin, crescentic cud (marginal die break) and various forms of
peripheral die damage. Both result in abrupt or gradual loss of the
The best characterized form of peripheral die damage is the die
attrition error, an example of which is shown here in a 1983 Lincoln
cent. In a die attrition error, a misaligned hammer die smacks
repeatedly against the beveled entrance to the collar. This gradually
wears away the field portion of the die and often the rim gutter as
well. Here the words IN GOD are abruptly truncated and replaced by a
raised, featureless crescent.
Roll-hunter Shane Lonitz recently came across a 1982 Lincoln
copper-zinc cent with an unfamiliar form of peripheral letter
truncation. The letters on both faces abruptly terminate within the
body of the coin right next to a well-defined design rim (see photos).
This clearly represents a type of die deterioration/deformation
error, as evidenced by abundant signs of advanced die wear. But die
deterioration has never previously been known to result in peripheral
letter truncation. Instead letters become bloated and stretched-out as
they migrate toward an increasingly indistinct design rim, as shown in
the accompanying 1955 Lincoln cent.
What happened to the dies that struck Lonitz’s cent is very
different. Here each die face expanded and extended beyond the medial
wall of the rim gutter, forming a thin shelf that was immediately and
continuously worn away by the act of striking coins (see drawing). A
less advanced level of erosion is seen on another 1982 copper-alloy
cent struck by a different die pair and representing a later die
state. I have given the name “peripheral die expansion and erosion” to
this apparently overlooked phenomenon.
I suspect that there was either an intrinsic flaw in the die steel
or that the dies were improperly prepared during annealing, tempering
or quenching. The improper preparation resulted in an abnormally soft
die face surrounded by a rim gutter of normal hardness.
This error is closely related to another rare die
deterioration/deformation error that I’ve labeled “design creep.” Here
the entire die face (including the rim gutter) mushrooms out like the
head of a railroad spike. This carries the rim gutter and the design
beyond the collar, resulting in truncation of letters at the edge of
I’ve seen some impressive examples among fractional euro coins.
Among U.S. coins, design creep is most likely to be detected among
issues with a very thin design rim and where letters and numbers touch
the design rim. These would include the 1982 Washington quarter dollar
obverse and the 1979 Roosevelt dime obverse. I’m still waiting to find
a truly convincing domestic example.
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