In the course of my investigations I periodically come across novel
and ingenious attempts at fabricating fake errors. One was recently
sent to me by Casey Morris in the form of a 1967 Kennedy half dollar.
He received the coin from his father, who used to work at a bank.
Morris first presented his find on the Coin Community Forum
devoted to Mint errors and die varieties: www.coincommunity.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=132278.
He described it as slightly undersized, very thin and severely
underweight. Normal 1967 Kennedy half dollars are composed of two clad
layers of 80 percent silver and 20 percent copper surrounding a core
of 79 percent copper and 21 percent silver. The overall silver content
is 40 percent. The core appears light gray on most coins.
Morris posted photos of the obverse and reverse faces and these
appeared suspiciously normal. I invited him to send me the coin for a
Thin and lightweight
As originally reported, the coin is quite thin and weighs only 6.9
grams. The normal weight for silver-clad half dollar is 11.5 grams.
The diameter of Morris’ coin measures 29.70 millimeters, almost a full
millimeter shy of the normal 30.61 millimeters. The core is black in
color. Reeding is strong and essentially complete all around the edge.
When dropped onto a hard surface, the coin has a very dull ring. It is
not attracted to a magnet.
The obverse and reverse designs are well-struck, perfectly
centered, and appear to have been struck by authentic dies. The color
and the pattern of toning and spotting appear typical for this issue.
The design rim is thin and incomplete. However, where present, the
design rim seems to be of normal height and clarity.
The reverse face is in normal coin rotation relative to the
obverse face. In other words, the obverse face points north while the
reverse face points south.
Anyone familiar with the minting process and the appearance of
genuine errors should already have picked up on several fatal discrepancies.
A planchet this thin will almost always show a weak strike. A thin
planchet is closer to the minimum die clearance and will therefore not
receive as strong an impact.
A coin struck on an undersized planchet is seldom perfectly
centered. The planchet tends to settle toward one side of the striking chamber.
A coin that is significantly smaller than normal will never show
full, strong reeding all around. The final size of a coin is
determined by the diameter of the collar. An undersized planchet that
does not expand fully within the striking chamber will not reach the
working face of the collar at all points.
A coin struck on an undersized planchet will almost always show
metal flow in its peripheral letters. With no restriction on its
expansion, the coin metal “squeezes out” from beneath the dies and
fails to rise fully into the die’s peripheral recesses. The letters
become stretched out at the same time. No metal flow of this
stretched-out type appears in the peripheral letters of this half dollar.
Although the obverse and reverse designs appear to have been
struck by genuine dies, the edge was clearly not struck within a
genuine collar. The reeding is crude and the valleys between the
ridges are filled with microscopic lumps. The reeding was clearly
fabricated after the coin was struck.
Reconstruction of events
My reconstruction of events has this 1967 half dollar starting out
as a normal coin. The original reeding was mechanically removed along
with the outer portions of the design rim. The coin was then sawn in
half along the horizontal plane. This left part of the original
copper-silver core attached to each clad layer. On both discs, the
core was ground off as far as the clad layer. A layer of black base
metal (probably molten) was then fed between the two clad layers and
the three layers bonded together as the core solidified. The final
step was pressing a set of false reeding into the edge.
Final confirmation of this proposed fabrication process can be
found at 5:30 on the reverse face. Two tiny droplets of base metal
fell onto the horizontal bar of each letter L of the word DOLLAR. Each
hardened droplet stands above the field and above the letter, proving
that these were deposited after the strike.
Given the laborious sequence of steps involved, one imagines this
was an attempt to duplicate the appearance of a genuine
off-metal/wrong planchet error. However, we’ll probably never know the
actual motives and mind-set of those responsible for this clever
amalgam of genuine and false components.
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