Error collectors are fond of assembling progressions — a series of
coins struck by the same die pair that shows a pattern of change over
time. In pursuing this worthy goal, collectors sometimes arrange their
coins in an aesthetically satisfying but entirely incorrect sequence.
An accurate progression must be based on some aspect of a die or a
coin that can only change in one direction. We start with a series of
1983-P Roosevelt dimes sent to me by error dealer Fred Weinberg. They
were struck by an obverse die that had either split along the midline
or that developed two radial, antipodal die cracks (see Collectors’
Clearinghouse, June 20). The obverse die was also covered by a die
cap. (A die cap is a coin that sticks to a die and remains in place as
a series of planchets is struck.) The split remains unchanged within
the group of eight dimes. What does change is the clarity of the
design. As the floor of the die cap became thinner, more of the design
emerged. The progression is straightforward.
In a similar fashion, any series of coins sporting a brockage from
the same source will show increasing distortion of the incuse image,
with the most distorted images coming last in the progression.
Returning to Weinberg’s dimes, if one were to come across an
example without any evidence of a die cap, there would be no way to
tell if it was struck before or after the cap formed. That is, unless
some other line of evidence would allow its temporal position to be established.
Had the split in this Roosevelt dime obverse die widened, that too
would be a reliable guide as to which dime was struck first. In
general, a pattern of brittle fracture proceeds in only one direction
— toward greater severity. Die cracks grow longer, splits grow wider
and cuds grow larger. A few exceptions occur, however. Coin metal that
rises into a deeply recessed retained cud (retained die break) may
make only light contact with the roof of that recess. The
corresponding plateau on the coin will show only a faint trace of
design. A slightly weaker strike, delivered earlier or later in the
press run, could result in coin metal failing to contact the roof of
the recess. The plateau would therefore be featureless and would be
mistaken for a cud and a later stage in the breakdown of the die. It
would also be indistinguishable from any genuine cud that would emerge
later following loss of the retained cud.
Apart from capped die strikes and brockages, most other errors are
tough to arrange in an indisputable progression. A group of
broadstruck 2000-P Virginia quarter dollars shows variable development
of a horizontal misalignment of the obverse (anvil) die and collar.
(The coins were struck with an inverted die setup.) One would be
tempted to arrange them in a pattern that shows a gradual worsening of
the misalignment. A more imaginative collector might contemplate a
gradual reduction of the misalignment. In fact, the true pattern is an
erratic pattern of growth and diminution of the misalignment.
The true sequence is revealed by a steadily growing array of die
gouges and accidental die scratches. The striking chamber was
evidently full of debris, which created at least six different die
stages defined by the swelling roster of imperfections. Had the die
markers been identical among these coins, the actual sequence would
have been impossible to ascertain. Interspersed among the six die
stages are other coins that variously show, 1) a horizontal
misalignment of the reverse (hammer) die, 2) an off-center strike or
3) a combination of 1 and 2.
While faint die markers, like fine die scratches and tiny die
dents, can be lost to die wear, the typical signs of wear, such as
radial flow lines and an orange peel texture, can themselves serve to
distinguish late strikes from early strikes.
As with misalignments, any group of errors traceable to an
unstable press component will be impossible to arrange in a
progression without helpful die markers that increase in number or
severity from coin to coin. For example, dynamic rotated die errors
can travel in one direction or can reverse direction. Weak strikes can
strengthen or weaken through a series, or show a fluctuating pattern
Coin World’s Collectors’ Clearinghouse department does
not accept coins or other items for examination without prior
permission from News Editor William T. Gibbs. Materials sent to
Clearinghouse without prior permission will be returned unexamined.
Please address all Clearinghouse inquiries to email@example.com or to
800- 673-8311, Ext. 172.