It never hurts to get a second opinion when a coin has been
rejected by a grading service as being of “questionable authenticity.”
Such was the determination of Numismatic Guaranty Corp. when
confronted with two Canadian double-denomination errors that were
submitted by James Zimmerman. Each coin consisted of a 25-cent strike
over a 5-cent coin. Upon my invitation, Zimmerman sent both coins to
me along with two other 25-cent/5-cent errors that had not been
subjected to professional scrutiny.
In each case the 25-cent strike was strong enough to obliterate
most of the host coin’s design. Reeding appears normal and the several
weights approximate that of a normal 5-cent coin (officially 4.54
grams). Two overstrikes are dated 1974 and two are dated 1975. The
host coin’s date can be discerned on only one piece.
After examining all four coins I came to the same conclusion as
NGC. While the host coins were presumably genuine, the 25-cent strikes
appear to have been delivered by rather sophisticated counterfeit dies.
The example with the visible underlying date was inspected by NGC
and is shown here. Surprisingly, the 5-cent coin is dated 1975 even
though the 25-cent design is dated 1974. This immediately raises suspicions.
Both faces of this coin show fine, closely-spaced concentric lines
that are unfortunately difficult to photograph. Appearing in both the
field and the design, they appear to be concentric lathe marks.
Concentric lathe marks are an uncommon die error that occurs when the
face of a blank working die is not completely polished after machining.
It would be odd indeed for such an uncommon die error to occur in
conjunction with a double-denomination error. Furthermore, I’ve never
encountered a coin in which concentric lathe marks appear on both faces.
Queen Elizabeth II’s bust and the caribou’s face on the reverse
show what at first appears to be heavy intentional die abrasion.
Low-lying portions of the design are lost. However, I don’t think that
we’re looking at intentional die abrasion. If the die had been
abraded, then the concentric lathe marks in the field would have been erased.
Instead, I strongly suspect that we’re looking at an incomplete
hubbing of a counterfeit transfer or impact die. Transfer and impact
dies are created by driving a genuine coin into a blank cylinder that
has been annealed (heat-treated) to soften it. The false die is then
tempered to make it harder than the coins it is intended to strike.
If the coin is not pressed deeply enough into the metal cylinder,
low-lying portions of the design will not be transferred.
The second example inspected by NGC is dated 1975. It shows no
concentric lathe marks but does show the same pattern of design loss
in the low-lying areas of the queen’s bust and the caribou’s head (see photo).
The unsubmitted 1974 example shows strong concentric lathe marks
on both faces. The now-familiar pattern of design loss in low-lying
areas is well-displayed.
The unsubmitted 1975 piece (not photographed) displays no
concentric lathe marks but does maintain the pattern of design loss
seen in the other examples.
The evidence would seem to indicate that the counterfeit 25-cent
coin dies that struck these 5-cent pieces were fabricated by the same individual.
Why they were fabricated is a matter of speculation. Zimmerman
purchased each of these coins as a simple wrong planchet error
(25-cent piece on 5-cent planchet). The purchases took place over many
years and were acquired from different dealers. All of the coins have
circulated to a greater or lesser degree.
Regardless of the striking error, Canadian 25-cent strikes should
henceforth be inspected for the warning signs exposed in this column —
concentric lathe marks on one or both faces and the loss of low-lying
areas of design.
Coin World’s Collectors’ Clearinghouse department does not accept
coins or other items for examination without prior permission
News Editor William T. Gibbs. Materials sent to
Clearinghouse without prior permission will be returned unexamined.
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