It’s sometimes fun to speculate about wild minting errors that are
entirely conceivable but that have not yet been documented. I have,
for example, been eagerly awaiting news of the first “waffled” U.S.
coin that has been restruck with its original design or with the
design of another denomination.
In 2003 the U.S. Mint began crushing rejected coins and planchets,
leaving them with a corrugated, vaguely waffle-like pattern. These
canceled coins are then shipped out and melted down. Waffled coins are
readily available in the marketplace, as there is little attempt to
secure them once they’ve left the Mint.
While no waffled coin of recent vintage has found its way back to
a coining press, a small group of canceled Indian coins did make their
way into U.S. presses in the mid-1960s, including this 1964-D
Jefferson 5-cent coin struck on a silver-alloy 1940 India quarter
rupee. Before being struck by 5-cent dies, the coin was impressed with
a pattern of diamond-shaped indentations.
Another example can be seen on page 262 of Alan Herbert’s Official
Price Guide to Minting Varieties and Errors (fifth edition). In this
case the design of a 1964 cent was struck over a 1942 India quarter
rupee. Herbert suggests that his coin had some “help.” After all, the
U.S. Mint has never produced coins for India at any point in its
history. Still, there’s reason to think that these particular
dual-country errors are purely accidental. It’s unlikely that a
criminal conspiracy would involve employees at both the Philadelphia
and Denver Mints. There’s also no reason why someone trying to create
a valuable dual-country, double-denomination error would choose a
damaged host coin.
The distribution and depth of the indentations also provide useful
clues. The diamond-shaped indentations are strongest in the center and
become shallower toward the periphery. None reach as far as the design
rim. This peripheral fade-out is more easily seen on a canceled 1944
India 1-rupee coin.
The peripheral fade-out of indentations and their presence on
otherwise unmolested silver-alloy coins indicate that these coins were
probably defaced by a pair of government-authorized cancellation dies,
each with a convex face studded with diamond-shaped bumps. I suspect
that when these coins were declared obsolete, the Indian government
decided to make sure they never were used in commerce again.
While the use of cancellation dies would seem to be unnecessarily
complex and inefficient, it has been documented elsewhere.
I had previously been told that these indentations were produced
when the coins were squeezed in a vise with a studded surface. This
form of vandalism does produce a superficially similar pattern, as
seen here in a 1941 Lincoln cent provided by Robert (BJ) Neff. The big
difference is that the indentations do not fade out peripherally. In
fact some of the strongest indentations are seen where they intersect
the design rim (which is especially vulnerable to damage).
So what was the U.S. Mint doing with canceled Indian coins? I
suspect that they bought them from the Indian government for their
silver content. In 1964, total mintages of silver coins in the United
States reached an all-time high. The 1-rupee and fractional rupee
coins of the 1940s are 50 percent silver. By 1950 (the first year the
Indian republic started minting its own coins), silver was no longer
being used in any circulating Indian coins. All those obsolete coins
must have been a tempting source of foreign exchange for India.
It’s conceivable that bulk shipments of canceled silver coins were
received by the U.S. Mint and then transported in tote bins to
in-house blast furnaces for melting and metal separation. It’s
possible that a few of those coins were accidentally left in the tote
bins and subsequently buried under loads of planchets.
Naturally, this chain of speculation needs to be followed up by
investigation of Mint archives.
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