It is sometimes useful to revisit coins that have previously
appeared in Coin World.
This is especially true for highly unusual pieces whose etiology
or authenticity is uncertain. A recent case involved the
re-examination of several two-tailed Canadian cents that were
originally considered mules struck by paired reverse dies. Subsequent
analysis determined that these coins are better interpreted as
double-struck pseudo-mules (Collectors’ Clearinghouse, April 25, 2011,
March 19, 2012, April 23, 2012).
Another prime candidate for reconsideration is a very strange
1990-D Kennedy half dollar that appeared in the March 14, 1997,
Collectors’ Clearinghouse. It was sent in by Walter O’Neill and
described by Coin World news editor William T. Gibbs. The
obverse design seemed normal but the reverse design appeared to have
been struck around six times (see photos). The column offered several
possible explanations for the coin, and recommended further
examination to determine a cause and whether it was genuine or fake.
Until recently I was unaware of the coin’s existence as its date
of publication preceded my entrance into the hobby. I was introduced
to it by its current owner, coin dealer Curt Kelsey. He posted a link
to a scanned copy of the article over at the online forum that I host,
the Error Coin Information Exchange (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/errorcoininformationexchange/).
Upon seeing the black and white images, I was immediately
suspicious and invited Kelsey to send the coin to me for a closer
examination. Once in hand, it took me only seconds to determine that
the coin was a fake. The reverse face had been struck multiple times
by a false die.
Basically, someone tried to duplicate the appearance of a
“one-sided” multi-strike. Such errors occur when a loose die (or die
assembly) rotates or shifts laterally between strikes while the coin
remains affixed to the opposite die. I have seen less than a dozen
one-sided double-strikes (no triple strikes), and all but one involved
a loose hammer die. Therefore, a coin that shows six strikes on the
face struck by the anvil (reverse) die would be quite unprecedented.
Many clues attest to the fraudulent nature of this coin.
The coin is slightly oversized, with a diameter of 30.74
millimeters. The normal average diameter for a Kennedy half dollar is
30.61 millimeters. The width of the collar is held to very strict
tolerances and a difference of 0.13 millimeter is outside the range of
The reverse face bulges out slightly, a fact made clear when you
place the coin on a flat surface. The coin rocks when pressure is
applied to the obverse rim. Multiple strikes will not cause this type
While there is one known rocking Kennedy half dollar, it was
struck in 2001 at the Philadelphia Mint, is represented by many
pieces, and was caused by a die subsidence (sunken die) error
affecting the reverse die.
The reeding on Kelsey’s coin shows no disruption. While this is
not impossible, it is unlikely. The collar would have to have remained
fully deployed throughout the entire series of strikes.
The dramatic lateral offset seen between the normal design and the
extra design elements is incompatible with a genuine Mint error.
Lateral movements of the anvil die are tightly constrained by the
surrounding collar. Only slight lateral shifts are possible unless the
collar breaks apart or tears free of its moorings. Neither event
The coin generally lacks the sharp but incomplete penetrance of
previously struck design elements through the final set of die-struck
design elements. In most areas the coin instead shows the soft,
blended overlap characteristic of a coin struck by a relatively soft
The multiple sets of extra design elements show subequal strength.
In a genuine multi-strike, the earliest strikes should be largely or
completely effaced by subsequent strikes.
The genuine die-struck elements have a battered appearance. This
is also true of the reverse design rim, which is flattened and
roughened in spots.
Gibbs reported the presence of machine doubling on the obverse,
especially on the letters of LIBERTY. I concur with this observation
but am confident that it is unrelated to the counterfeit strikes on
the reverse face. Gibbs also noted some flattening of the reeding near
the obverse face. I too detect subtle flattening, but cannot determine
if it is related to the counterfeit strikes.
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.