A few weeks ago die-variety authority and dedicated roll-searcher
Robert Piazza sent me a 1984-D Lincoln cent with an unusual planchet error.
On each face (mainly on the left side) a partial ring of metal
extends in from the design rim and terminates internally at a narrow
fissure. On the obverse face the half-ring extends clockwise from
approximately 4:00 to 11:30. On the reverse face it extends clockwise
from 6:00 to 12:30. The presence of the fissure, and the fact that the
ring is flush with the interior field, indicates that the ring was
struck into the coin.
Occasionally the thin copper plating (present on cents from 1983
to the present and some 1982 cents) will crack just inside and
parallel to the design rim. But I quickly rejected this prosaic
explanation when it became clear that the planchet was originally
thicker at the site of the ring. The increased thickness resulted in a
locally stronger strike. This is best seen in the letters of STATES.
The upper parts of the letters, which overlap the ring, are very
well-struck, while the lower parts are weakly struck. The
aforementioned fissure separates these two areas.
Pre-strike damage a culprit
A scenario involving pre-strike damage best explains this coin’s
appearance. The edge of the planchet (or blank) was battered or
squeezed, causing some of the metal to be relocated onto each face in
the form of a thin apron that was later struck into the coin. The
damage probably occurred prior to plating; otherwise some of the zinc
core would have been exposed.
This type of damage usually occurs after the strike and is most
often seen in abused coins that have tumbled around the fins of an
industrial dryer. An example of such a “dryer coin” is shown here in
the form of a 1962-D Jefferson 5-cent coin. The obverse and reverse
designs have been pummeled into mush. Some metal has been relocated
from the edge and design rim onto the field and peripheral letters in
the form of a thin apron. The apron forms a complete ring that lies
loosely on each face.
I doubt that the planchet represented by Piazza’s coin tumbled
around a clothes dryer before it returned to the production stream to
be plated and eventually shipped to the Mint. Some other piece of
machinery must have been responsible.
I am aware of at least one precedent for Piazza’s coin. It is an
off-center Jefferson 5-cent coin struck some time in the 1980s.
Although its size, weight and density are unremarkable in comparison
to other copper-nickel 5-cent coin planchets, its appearance is
bizarre. The color is a leaden gray, and the interior has a fine,
uniform, matte texture that is devoid of tumbling marks. A thin,
pleated apron of metal extends in from the planchet’s proto-rim on
The proto-rim itself is quite odd, and I suspect both it and the
apron formed simultaneously. The proto-rim shows no damage. The
internal margin is sharp and its upper surface takes the form of a
wide, flat, gently sloping plane that almost appears to be machined.
The sloping surface meets the planchet’s smoothly rounded edge at an
It might be that this is not a proto-rim at all. Instead of being
generated by an upsetting mill, it might instead be circumferential
damage produced by a very different mechanism.
I have no confidence that this planchet was even intended for a
Jefferson 5-cent coin. It might well be an orphan off-metal/wrong
planchet error, struck on a planchet of uncertain purpose.
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