For a die to leave an impression on a planchet, its impact must be
resisted by a countervailing force applied to the opposite face.
Admittedly, a few error types do manage to circumvent this rule.
In stutter strikes (Types II and III) and extrusion strikes, the
necessary resistance is applied indirectly (Collectors’ Clearinghouse,
Oct. 24). Ejection impact doubling — a form of post-strike design
transfer — also steps around this requirement (Collectors’
Clearinghouse, Aug. 1 and Aug. 29, 2005). But no such end around can
be invoked in the case of an unusual double-struck Lincoln cent
recently sent to me by a collector who operates under the name “Chef Ito.”
The coin is a saddle strike (tandem strike). The planchet received
simultaneous off-center strikes as it straddled the gap between two
striking chambers. Both off-center strikes were very weak and only the
obverse face shows die-struck design elements.
The larger of the two strikes shows the top of Lincoln’s head and
the words WE TRUST. The smaller strike is located at the opposite pole
and is confined to the planchet’s proto-rim. Parts of the letters TRUS
are visible. No die-struck design elements appear on the reverse face
at either pole.
As weak as these two obverse impressions are, an equal amount of
resistance must have been applied to the reverse face. And indeed, a
closer look at the area opposite the larger off-center strike reveals
a series of faint, raised impressions that resemble the billowy top of
a cloud bank. They do not resemble any part of the reverse design. The
section of the reverse proto-rim lying opposite the smaller off-center
strike shows no disturbance at all. And yet, something must have
resisted the light impact of the obverse die here as well.
While there is no way to securely establish the source of
resistance to the impact of the two obverse dies, it’s possible to
come up with some plausible scenarios.
Any scenario ought to assume the planchet was backed by an object
or substance softer than die steel. It should also assume that the
material that blocked the reverse die was of similar thickness in each
striking chamber. A strike this weak would almost certainly have been
due to insufficient die approximation (excessive minimum die
clearance). Die clearance would likely be similar in each striking
chamber as the two die pairs operate in synchrony.
It’s possible that both reverse dies were clogged with a compacted
mixture of metal dust, dirt and lubricant, a material hobbyists refer
to as “die fill” or “grease.” If soft enough, the grease would tend to
preserve the proto-rim of the planchet and the latter’s streaky
surface appearance. Firmer areas of “grease” can leave odd textures on
a coin, which might account for the cloudlike impressions.
A second possibility is that both reverse dies were blocked by
planchets. In other words, we could be looking at two off-center
uniface strikes. A saddle strike involving two uniface strikes is
rare, but they have been recorded. Ordinarily, I would have expected
any planchet lying beneath the larger of the two off-center strikes to
have left a weak impression of its proto-rim in the form of a shallow,
curved groove. However, this would not be the case if the planchet was
imperfectly aligned with the edge of the reverse die but instead
extended farther into the striking chamber. The cloudlike impressions
are a sticking point, but could reflect damage to the upper surface of
A related scenario would have one or both reverse dies blocked by
weakly struck coins. If very little of the design was present, the
effect would be similar to that of a uniface strike. I don’t view this
as likely, since the raised cloudlike formation is incompatible with
any sort of brockage.
A final possibility involves foreign objects blocking each reverse
die. It doesn’t seem likely that two foreign objects of similar
thickness would block two adjacent reverse dies, but stranger things
have happened. This scenario at least provides a reasonable
explanation for the irregular pattern seen on the reverse face
opposite the larger strike.
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