There's something odd at the Santiago Mint: Collectors' Clearinghouse

Bolivian 50-centavo design struck over unlisted Chilean pattern trial strike
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 11/28/15
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In recent years, the South American nations of Bolivia and Chile have provided error collectors with a wealth of exotic planchet, die, and striking errors. Some are so outlandish that it strains credulity to think that they are the product of human error or spontaneous equipment malfunction.

Brought to light by error dealer Jon Sullivan, the in-collar double strike described here undoubtedly had one or more assists along the way.

Each of its two strikes is from a different country. The design of a stainless steel 2010 Bolivia 50-centavo coin was struck over an unfamiliar and undated Chilean coin. The host Chilean coin is clearly not a circulating issue, although the obverse design bears some similarity to the 100-peso coin that was struck from 1981 to 2000 (see photo). 

A normal 100-peso coin is composed of aluminum-bronze, weighs 9 grams, and has a diameter of 26.8 millimeters. It also bears a lettered edge that consists of the motto POR LA RAZON O LA FUERZA (translating to “BY REASON OR FORCE”).

The nonmagnetic host coin appears to be composed of brass or aluminum brass. With a weight of 5 grams and a diameter of 24.7 millimeters, it is much smaller, thinner, and lighter than the 100-peso piece. The edge of the host coin is also reeded rather than lettered.

The host coin’s obverse design incorporates the Chilean coat of arms, which consists of a plumed shield flanked by a deer and a condor. The coat of arms is encircled by the legend REPUBLICA DE CHILE. While these elements are shared in common with the 100-peso piece, the host coin’s obverse face lacks the dentils and Mint mark of that denomination (the Mint mark of the Santiago, Chile, mint consists of an S surmounted by a small letter O). The host coin’s obverse design is also smaller than the 100-peso coin in order to fit the smaller planchet. It’s likely that the host coin was originally a bit smaller than its current 24.7 millimeters, as the inevitable expansion failed to flatten some of the reeding against the smooth face of the Bolivian 50-centavo coin’s collar.

The reverse face of the host coin carries only a single enormous Mint mark that is centrally positioned and oriented in standard coin alignment. 

This isolated symbol would never have been contemplated as a prototype design. It must be the product of a “nonsense” die whose only purpose was to provide resistance to the impact of the obverse die.

The host coin must be considered an unfinished pattern trial strike on an unknown and possibly experimental planchet. The reeded collar may have been fabricated specifically for this pattern strike, or it could have originally been intended for another domestic or foreign denomination. The Santiago Mint strikes coins (and gaming tokens) for many other countries, including Bolivia.

Since it is unlisted, I have no way to determine whether this is a legitimate pattern trial strike or a chimaera cobbled together after hours from available odds and ends. I have little doubt that the obverse design was struck by a legitimate pattern die, as the amount of effort required to fabricate such a die would stymie most extracurricular ambitions. I also suspect that the nonsense die used for the reverse was originally fabricated for legitimate purposes. However, the pairing would not necessarily have been authorized by the government or mint supervisors.

While it’s possible that the planchet was produced specifically for this pattern strike, there are many other possibilities. It could have been intended for another Chilean issue, a foreign denomination, or a token. 

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