A rare case of proportional design expansion on both faces

Published : 11/02/13
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Error coins will sometimes display an expanded, raised design on one face. It is nearly impossible to find genuine examples of coins in which both faces show a proportionally expanded raised design. This circumstance can occur if a coin is fed into a striking chamber between two planchets. It can also occur if a coin is fed in between two uniface die caps — die caps that never had a design on their respective working faces.

Given how rare such events are, collectors are justifiably skeptical of the many oversized coins in the marketplace that do show proportionally expanded designs on both faces. These almost invariably prove to be alterations referred to as “Texas coins.” Texas coins are said to be produced by placing a coin between two strips of hard leather and pounding it with a mallet.

A somewhat unusual Texas coin is presented here. The 1964 Lincoln cent shows two alterations — a counterfeit second strike on the obverse face and proportional expansion of the raised design on both faces. Numerous cents with counterfeit “obverse-only” double and triple strikes were produced in 1964. Most show a normal or nearly normal diameter. In each case, the extra elements were generated by a false die composed of relatively soft metal.

It would seem that two steps were involved in making the illustrated 1964 cent. In Step 1, the obverse was struck by a counterfeit die while the reverse rested on a smooth, somewhat giving surface. In Step 2, the coin was pounded between leather strips. This step left the coin out-of-round with an average diameter of 21.3 mm.

I’ve only encountered one seemingly genuine example of proportional, bifacial design expansion: a 2000 Lincoln cent. It has an average diameter of 21.97 mm. Although impossible to authenticate, I do find its coarse texture highly reminiscent of some struck-through errors and capped die strikes. More importantly, each face shows two observable strikes, both of which have features that are hard to duplicate outside the Mint.

It appears that the first strike was perfectly normal. The obstructed second strike left first-strike elements flattened and expanded in a very convincing manner. Peripheral elements are stretched out, unlike any Texas coin.

Second-strike elements on the 2000 cent show no expansion. They are mushy and show greater relief than the first-strike elements. These appear to be ghost elements that bled through the material obstructing each die face.

A seemingly inexplicable feature of this 2000 cent is the perfect radial alignment between first- and second-strike elements. This would invalidate both of the scenarios I presented earlier. When a coin is fed into a striking chamber between two planchets or between two uniface die caps, its position will be random relative to the designs on the two dies. Flattened first-strike elements would almost certainly be out of alignment with any ghost elements generated during the second strike.

In this coin, both strikes must have occurred sequentially within the same striking chamber and without any movement of the coin between strikes. But how can you have an unobstructed first strike and a thoroughly obstructed second strike? I can only offer a tortuous explanation that involves three strikes of highly variable strength.

After a normal first strike, the coin remained behind in the striking chamber, affixed either to the hammer die or the anvil die. (For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume it was the anvil die.) A relatively thin disc of undetermined origin was inserted above the coin and the two were struck together. This strike was so weak that no expansion occurred on the die-struck reverse face between the design rim and the tips of the peripheral letters. The coin nevertheless adhered to the overlying disc that, in turn, attached itself to the hammer die. As the hammer die (with its attached disc and cent) retracted, a second disc was inserted into the striking chamber beneath the cent. All three elements were then struck under fairly normal pressure during a final, third strike.

The discs are not likely to have been conventional planchets. Planchets are too thick to allow the formation of ghost elements in most instances.

Given this outlandish chain of events, it’s possible that we’re looking at the product of backroom shenanigans by Mint employees.

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 cweditor@coinworld.com or to 800-673-8311, Ext. 172.

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