Beware any coin in which one face is smooth and flat as a pane of
glass. It almost always points to post-strike damage of an intentional
or accidental nature.
The illustrated 1969-D Lincoln cent at first appears to be
double-struck, with a flipover brockage on the obverse face of the
second strike. The incuse, mirror-image letters D WE TRUS from the
motto overlap the raised letters of LIBERTY from the first strike. Any
hope that this is a genuine error is immediately deflated once you
turn the coin over. Opposite the “brockage,” the reverse face is flat
and smooth and lies at the same level as the adjacent unaffected design.
This coin was not struck against another planchet because a
genuine uniface strike would display a convex surface. It’s clear that
the reverse face of this coin rested against a flat, unyielding
surface while a cent was crushed into the obverse face.
Our next example is a cent planchet that shows on one face a
jagged internal margin that encloses a sunken area with a complex
texture. One might be tempted to interpret this as a strike by a badly
broken, badly damaged die like that seen in the Sept. 19, 2011,
column. But once again, the opposite face shows a smooth, flat surface
that lies at the same level as the unstruck portion of the planchet.
In this case the damage might have occurred inside the Mint. I have
seen a number of similarly damaged planchets with an array of weird
textures opposite the flat surface.
The lone exception to the rule
Error dealer Fred Weinberg recently introduced me to an off-center
Jefferson 5-cent coin with a smooth, flat surface on the obverse face.
It’s clearly a genuine striking error because it was struck only once
and the reverse face is die-struck.
As best as I can tell, the featureless obverse face was struck
through a flat machine part or piece of hardware that was thick enough
to prevent any of the obverse design from bleeding through. While
suspicion might naturally turn toward the feeder mechanism, impacts
from this source always seem to leave a coarse or matte texture behind.
The flat surface slopes down dramatically from the thick center of
the planchet to a thin, sharp edge. Some metal has been torn from the
planchet’s edge, leaving the coin slightly underweight at 4.83 grams.
It would seem that the impact of the obverse (hammer) die was
delivered at an angle, producing a tilted die error (vertical misalignment).
The surface is actually not completely flat; the slope is steeper
and slightly concave in the upper left corner (opposite UNUM). I
suspect that a second, smaller object was trapped here between the
flat plate and the obverse die (see the June 10 column for an
On the reverse face the die-struck design ends rather abruptly in
the middle of the planchet. The upwardly-tilted portion of the die was
not able to generate any pressure past this point. I suspect the flat
plate continued on past this point, but it failed to leave an
impression for the same reason.
A truly remarkable aspect of this coin is that the word UNUM is
noticeably displaced relative to the representation of Monticello.
This can only mean that these two parts of the design were generated
micro-seconds apart during the descent of the hammer die and that they
were pushed apart during this time interval. The gap between
inscription and building has been stretched-out and scraped clean
beneath a pressure point generated by the object trapped between plate
and die. This scraping/stretching action also destroyed the right side
of the building. I’m not entirely sure which portion of the design was
generated first (building or motto), but as soon as it formed,
striking pressure was lifted completely and this portion of the design
was pushed sideways by the expanding metal beneath the pressure point.
It would seem that the hammer die or die assembly was profoundly
unstable, a situation exacerbated by the smaller object directly
beneath it. This smaller object may have instigated a rocking movement
in the die face. It not only generated the pressure point, but
contributed to uneven, fluctuating striking pressure either side of it.
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