The minting process places many constraints on a coin’s final appearance. When a coin violates these constraints promiscuously, you can be confident that a government coinage press wasn’t responsible. Veteran collector Joe Koelling recently sent me a copper-plated zinc cent labeled as a “struck fragment” by a third-party grading service. Initial inspection left no doubt in my mind that its odd appearance is largely or entirely due to post-strike damage or intentional alteration.
At Joe’s invitation, I cracked the coin out for a closer look. It weighs 2.02 grams (normal is 2.5 grams) and its diameter varies between 20.80 and 22.05 millimeters (normal is 19.05 millimeters).
The coin has an extensive list of minting process violations:
Violation 1: Curved notch. The concave deficit is not a curved clip as the zinc core is exposed and the pinched edge lacks the cut-and-tear texture of a true clip.
Violation 2: Complete absence of the planchet’s proto-rim in the “unstruck” area. There’s no sign of upset along the coin’s perimeter. Instead, the obverse surface slopes down toward the edge.
Violation 3: Uneven surface topography. Extensive areas on both faces (especially the obverse) show a lumpy and dented surface topography. This uneven topography is especially well-developed in the “unstruck” portions of the coin.
Violation 4: Surface luster abnormal. The coin has an abnormal gleam to it. The “unstruck” areas lack the slightly dull, streaky appearance of a normal planchet.
Violation 5: Two-thirds of the “die-struck” reverse design is crushed flat. This is an unambiguous sign of post-strike damage.
Violation 6: The right one-third of the “die-struck” reverse design occupies a shallow recess and is riddled with odd textures and patterns. It’s certainly not an original die-struck surface and may be the product of a counterfeit die. I suspect that whatever flattened the left two-thirds of the Lincoln Memorial design also pushed in the right one-third. This could be interpreted as a struck-through error on the second strike, but there is no independent evidence of more than one strike.
Violation 7: The coin has no sign of a die-struck obverse design or a normal uniface strike opposite the “die-struck” reverse. There’s also no indication of a struck-through error. It’s unclear what provided resistance to the impact of the reverse die.
Violation 8: A “partial brockage” consisting of the corner of the Lincoln Memorial and the incuse, mirror-image letters F AMER occupy a mound on the obverse face. The irregular internal margin of the mound is doubled, along with the letter F. Partial brockages — impressions forced into a planchet by a coin — should never be elevated above the rest of the coin’s surface. They’re typically recessed. The doubling is also highly suspicious in appearance.
Violation 9: The recess on the reverse face that carries the raised letters OF AMERIC lies opposite the “brockaged” mound on the obverse face. Furthermore, the positioning and contents of the two designs don’t match up in vertical space. Any explanation consistent with the minting process would be incredibly convoluted and involve numerous strikes and planchets.
Violation 10: At least four sets of incuse design elements are divided among both faces that represent contact marks from other coins. These constitute additional evidence of post-strike damage.
While I can’t say exactly what happened to this coin, it’s clear that most or all of the events transpired outside of a coinage press.
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