World Coins

Transitional planchets not always what they seem

The following is the Collectors' Clearinghouse column from the Aug. 22, 2016, issue of Coin World.

A transitional planchet error is an off-metal error in which a coin is struck on a planchet intended for an earlier or later year or on a planchet intended for an older or later design. Domestic examples range in price from as little as $3,500 (for a 1965 Roosevelt dime struck on a silver planchet associated with older dimes) to well over $100,000 (for a 1943 Lincoln cent struck on a bronze cent planchet appropriate for the years that flank it).

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Even at the lower end of the price range, home-grown transitional planchet errors remain prohibitively expensive for most collectors. It therefore makes sense to seek out more affordable examples that exist among world coins. But just because there’s a discrepancy between date and composition or between composition and design, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re looking at a transitional planchet error. Other error types can produce similar mismatches.

The chaotic transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation sparked rapid changes in composition and design during the years 1991 to 1993, creating a promising environment for the production of transitional planchet errors. Indeed, a number of such errors are known, including the illustrated 1991 Government Bank 10-kopek coin struck on a copper-nickel-zinc planchet intended for a 1991 Soviet Union 10-kopek piece with a hammer-and-sickle design. A normal 1991 Government Bank 10-kopek coin is struck on a copper-clad steel planchet (see the March 28 column for additional photos).

Our next Russian coin, a 1992 ringed-bimetallic 10-ruble piece, also features the Government Bank design. The vast majority of such coins are dated 1991, but a small number carry the date 1992. Despite the date/composition mismatch, this cannot be a transitional planchet error because such an error would display on its obverse face the two-headed Imperial Eagle of the Russian Federation, a design that was adopted in 1992. This 1992 ringed-bimetallic 10-ruble coin instead most likely represents an accidental or premature release of a series that was supposed to have been scrapped after one year and replaced by the Russian Federation design. The latter design is associated with a copper-nickel-clad steel planchet.

Another transitional planchet mimic is found in a small number of Russian Federation 1992 Mint sets produced by the St. Petersburg Mint. Approximately 100 such sets contain a ringed-bimetallic 50-ruble coins that carries the date 1993. Normal 1993 50-ruble coins carry the same design but are struck in aluminum-bronze and, later, brass-clad steel. As discussed in the Jan. 20, 2014, column, the sheer number of these wrongly dated coins, their single source, and their placement within a group of older coins makes it far more likely that they are mules created when a normal 1992 obverse die was paired with a 1993 reverse die fabricated in advance of the 1993 production year.

In 1988 Ireland struck the majority of its 1- and 2-penny coins in bronze. A small minority of each denomination were struck in copper-plated steel, a composition that became standard in 1990 (no coins are dated 1989). It’s unlikely that the 1988-dated steel coins are transitional planchet errors, because there are simply too many of them. I suspect that they instead represent an early introduction of the steel planchet. Possibly struck in 1989, this release may have been intended to augment the circulating supply of these two denominations. Perhaps bronze planchets were no longer available by this time, and a decision was made to use the new steel planchets produced in anticipation of 1990 production year.

Other errors occasionally mistaken for transitional planchet errors include coins struck on foreign planchets, coins struck on experimental planchets, unauthorized issues, patterns, “backdoor specials,” and coins struck on special-purpose planchets. Special-purpose planchets are those that can be linked to a contemporary commemorative issue or a collector set (e.g., Proof set, Mint set).

With so many potential sources of misidentification, it’s imperative that one investigate every type of coin that was being struck at the time by the country of interest. Noting the specifications of the coin in question and the potential candidate planchets is also essential. Such information would include the diameter, weight, edge design (if present), and composition.

Editorial Note

A correction was made to the Aug. 15 column, where a Lincoln cent design ablation error was said to be 77 percent off-center. It is 73 percent off-center.

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