2016 Lincoln cent shows combination of errors expert has never seen on U.S. coin

Collectors’ Clearinghouse: 2016 cent features both a massive retained cud and a major die rotation
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 12/13/16
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The following is the Collectors' Clearinghouse column from the Dec. 26, 2016, issue of Coin World:

Misshapen and oversized coins are more readily intercepted by the Mint than those errors that maintain their normal dimensions. This may, in part, explain the good fortune recently visited upon Steve Smith as he was searching through rolls of Uncirculated 2016 cents obtained from his local bank.

Only normal-sized coins are likely to be found in rolls, and this has indeed been Smith’s experience as he achieved past success in spotting doubled dies, clashed die errors, and grease strikes.

Within his newest batch of 2016 Lincoln cents, one coin stood out among all the others. He knew enough about errors to recognize that the obverse face was struck by a broken die and that the reverse face was rotated 95 degrees counterclockwise relative to the obverse face. Smith contacted me for confirmation and then sent me the coin for a more detailed examination.

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The obverse face shows a large retained cud (retained corner die break) on the right side, which accounts for approximately 25 percent of the total surface area. The area demarcated by the line of fracture shows clear evidence of displacement. The lower half of the break shows lateral spread, which has left a raised line on the coin’s surface. The entire length of the break shows vertical displacement, which has left the coin with a step-up from the area struck by the intact portion of the die to the area struck by the broken part of the die. Finally, the entire length of the break shows horizontal offset, which is best seen in the 1 of the date and the first T of TRUST. Contiguous portions of both elements are out of register with each other where the line of fracture crosses them.

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As with all but the most severe retained cuds, there is no way to determine whether the displaced portion of the die was truly detached from the die neck or if its movement was caused by subsurface deformation beneath the cracked surface of the die face. Nevertheless, hobbyists grant such errors the benefit of the doubt and continue to classify most displaced die segments as retained cuds.

Moving on to the rotated die error, it is impossible to determine with any degree of confidence which die did the rotating. One can only make such a determination when the rotated die suffers from a second die alignment error or if there is evidence that the rotated die experienced a major impact. One might suspect that the obverse die of this 2016 cent did the rotating, since it is the one that is broken. But there is no sign of impact damage, so the break would presumably have been spontaneous unless there is unseen impact damage on the side of the die neck. There is also no known association between spontaneous die breaks and rotated die errors. For example, at least nine shattered obverse (anvil) dies are known among 2007-P Roosevelt dimes, and none shows a rotated die.

Since the middle of 2005 all circulation-quality strikes have been struck with inverted dies (reverse die as hammer die). Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that the broken obverse die that struck this 2016 cent was the anvil die. At the same time, we know that in cases where the rotating die can be identified, it is almost always the hammer die. This would tend to support the idea that the co-occurrence of these two errors is purely coincidental, with the hammer (reverse) die rotating and the anvil (obverse) die suffering a spontaneous break. However, if the broken anvil die was also the rotating die, this would add to the unusual nature of the error.

Since Smith’s 2016 cent is the only example known to have been struck by this die pair, there is no way to determine if the rotated die error was stable, semi-stable, or dynamic. It will take a larger sample to make that determination. Stable rotated die errors show the same degree of rotation in every coin. Dynamic rotated die errors show a constantly changing degree of rotation from coin to coin. And semi-stable rotated die errors show a restricted range of movement or a restricted number of rotated positions.

While I have not previously encountered this particular error combination in a domestic coin, I have seen it in several Indian coins, including the broadstruck 2014 5-rupee coin illustrated in this April 12, 2016, column.

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