1998-P Kennedy half dollar has a steel nodule embedded in its edge

Collectors' Clearinghouse column from the Sept. 22, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 09/11/14
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On Aug. 18, 2014, Daniel Lucak posted photos of a 1998-P Kennedy half dollar on the Coin Community Forum

He drew attention to a black nodule embedded in the coin’s edge at 5:30 (reverse clock position). The nodule has well-developed reeding and is strongly attracted to a magnet.

The object is clearly composed of a very hard, ferromagnetic metal (probably steel). While heavy circulation has blunted the reeding on the soft copper core, the reeding on the nodule appears undamaged.

Nodule origin uncertain

While we probably can’t establish the origin of the nodule, we can at least take a crack at figuring out when and where it embedded itself in the coin. Let’s start out by eliminating those scenarios that are least likely.

Since part of the nodule is hidden, one might speculate that this is the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” and that a significant portion extends deep into the copper core. If so, it could be an intrinsic metallic inclusion that originated when a steel fragment fell into a crucible of molten copper or the still-molten ingot. Or it could be a bit of iron-rich slag that wasn’t skimmed off the top of the molten copper.

A deeply penetrating foreign element that doesn’t disrupt either clad layer could also represent a foreign object that was rolled into the copper core strip before bonding. 

Both hypotheses can be dismissed because the magnetic signature doesn’t extend into the body of the coin. The magnetic pull is essentially restricted to the visible portion of the nodule.

Later introduction likely

The nodule must therefore have been introduced much later in the production process. I suspect it was squeezed into the edge of the blank during the upsetting process. An earlier example of such an error was reported in the Sept. 6, 2010, Collectors’ Clearinghouse. 

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