Unless it’s unusual, severe or extensive, die damage seldom excites
much interest among collectors.
Randomly distributed impact damage is one category that typically
carries only a slight premium. The illustrated 1995 Lincoln cent is a
representative example. Its obverse face shows an array of small die
dents and impact scars inflicted when the obverse die struck a debris
field. The reverse face shows no damage, leading me to suspect that it
was either protected by a planchet during the strike or that this
reverse die was installed after the impact.
Distinct patterns interesting
Damage arranged in distinct patterns is less common and often more
interesting. The 2004-D Wisconsin, Extra Leaf quarter dollars are
among the better-known recent examples. These curved die dents were
apparently generated before installation, while the dies were in a
softened (annealed) state. Vaguely resembling vegetative structures,
they are not unique.
An even larger curved die dent impressed into a softened die can
be seen on a 1999 Lincoln cent featured in the March 3, 2008,
Circular, semicircular and concentric die gouges constitute a
distinct category of patterned damage. Often arrayed around a point in
the center of the die face, it is unclear whether they all stem from
the same cause.
Semicircular die gouges
A set of six semicircular die gouges can be seen in front of
Washington’s face on the illustrated 1998-P quarter dollar. It would
seem to have been caused by some kind of rotating mechanical device.
Although superficially similar to concentric lathe marks, they are
sharper, taller and less complete.
Concentric lathe marks occur when the cone-shaped face of a blank
working die is not polished smooth before hubbing. The shallow,
closely-spaced rings left by the lathe persist and are transferred to
each planchet (see Collectors’ Clearinghouse for Dec. 26, 2011). They
run across the field and design, while die gouges are typically
confined to the field, as in this specimen.
Swirls and sprays of die gouges and heavy accidental die scratches
are even more puzzling from the standpoint of process. I was recently
sent an excellent example by Tom Steinbaugh (see accompanying photos).
The reverse face of this 1983 Lincoln cent shows narrow “claw marks”
arrayed in several closely-spaced formations. They are most prominent
in the center of the Lincoln Memorial, but satellite patches can be
seen next to the left upper corner of the building and between the
letters of UNITED.
Both faces of the cent are covered by much finer intentional die
scratches, the result of intentional die abrasion (“die polishing”).
This action is usually undertaken to removed clash marks and other
types of damage. However, I am unable to determine if the die abrasion
was performed before or after the appearance of the “claw marks.”
Kennedy half dollar gouges
A fan-shaped array of thin, densely packed die gouges can be seen
on the obverse face of a 2000-P Kennedy half dollar. The damage covers
Kennedy’s face and neck and affects much of the field to the left of
the president’s bust.
Without the aid of a microscope, these die gouges could be
mistaken for the radial flow lines that develop in late die states.
However, the pattern of their distribution and their sharp relief
clearly distinguish them from any and all manifestations of die fatigue.
Moreover, the rest of the obverse die face and the entire reverse
face show no signs of die deterioration.
This fan-shaped array of die gouges could also be mistaken for the
still unexplained “starburst” effect that is sometimes seen on
Presidential dollars (and some other issues). However, the starburst
corona shows no relief, is more symmetrically developed and involves
much finer lines.
As the die gouges converge on a central point located somewhere
around Kennedy’s throat, they are replaced by tightly packed die dents
that present on the coin as small bumps.
This suggests to me that the damage was caused by the
disintegration of a brittle object. The resulting sharp particles
spread out upon impact, damaging the die face.
The reverse face of this coin shows no damage. Again this could
mean that the reverse face was protected by a planchet or that the
reverse die was changed out.
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Clearinghouse without prior permission will be returned unexamined.
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