I occasionally encounter essentially normal coins that have a
The illustrated 1964 Roosevelt dime provides an example. It was
struck fully within the collar and the only evidence of interior
weakness is the handle of the torch. It is slightly underweight at
2.41 grams (normal is 2.5 grams), but it is unlikely that, on its own,
the slightly thinner planchet would have had any effect on the clarity
and completeness of the design.
In this case, the weak-to-absent design rim and the fade out of
peripheral letters is likely due to inadequate upset of the planchet
or a complete lack of upset (i.e., a blank). The flat, unstruck
obverse perimeter is compatible with a blank. The presence of very
strong reeding and a sharp, right-angle face/edge junction is also
consistent with this explanation as both indicate a tight fit within
There are other reasons why the periphery of an otherwise normal
coin might not strike up properly. The effect may be due to a slightly
weak strike, excessive die convexity (a design flaw), or a planchet
that is too hard (perhaps as the result of inadequate annealing).
Naturally, these factors may occur in combination. For example, a
poorly-struck perimeter is pervasive among 1985-D Roosevelt dimes. It
appears to stem from a combination of inadequate upset and excessive
die convexity (primarily on the obverse die).
These genuine errors are easily confused with innumerable altered
coins that have had their perimeter abraded on one or both faces.
These coins typically show a sloping perimeter that is either
featureless or that carries indistinct letters. The letters fade out
as they approach the coin’s edge and often appear stretched out.
A sloping, abraded perimeter can be seen on the reverse face of the
illustrated 1965 Roosevelt dime. Apart from the peripheral weakness,
the coin is well-struck. The reeding is strong and the obverse face is
entirely normal. The peripheral letters on the reverse fade out as
they approach the coin’s edge. The outer tips of the mushy letters
appear prolonged as they run across the area normally occupied by the
For a coin struck within the collar, there is no aspect of the
strike that can produce stretched-out, mushy letters. Likewise,
there’s nothing in the minting process that could produce a sloping
perimeter. The perimeter of a blank is flat, while the perimeter of a
planchet is raised (the proto-rim).
Another sign of alteration is a slight reduction in weight from the
loss of surface metal. The 1965 dime weighs 2.22 grams instead of the
normal average of 2.27 grams. While it is true that genuine thin
planchet errors often have a weakly-struck perimeter, that perimeter
doesn’t slope down and the interior of the coin will also generally
show evidence of a weak strike. A final warning sign found in our 1965
dime is the great discrepancy between the strength of the obverse
design rim and the absence of the reverse design rim.
Although it’s not true of this example, many other clad coins with
abraded perimeters will show a thin copper ring along the outer margin
of one or both faces (an exposure of the copper core).
Our second example of a sloping perimeter is less easily flagged as
an alteration due to the reduced discrepancy between the two faces.
Both faces on this 1971-D Lincoln cent were altered, but the reverse
face is much more seriously affected. Like the dime, this cent is
underweight (2.94 grams instead of 3.11 grams) and the reverse letters
are mushy and stretched out. On the obverse, the L of LIBERTY and the
letters IN G are the most seriously impaired design elements.
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