We often receive advance warning of die failure. It can be in the
form of a shattered die (a network of large intersecting die cracks).
A large section of one die face can be cordoned off by an arcing
rim-to-rim or “pre-cud” die crack. A large, retained marginal die
break (retained cud) or a wide split die can also portend wholesale,
It’s equally common to encounter the aftermath of brittle failure.
A coin with large cud (marginal die break) would be a typical outcome.
Very seldom are we lucky enough to capture a die at the moment of
failure or immediately afterward.
Tom DeLorey recently reported on a 1975-D Lincoln cent with a
large cud and matching die fragment (www.ngccoin.com/news/viewarticle.aspx?IDArticle=3185).
Both wound up together in the same $50 Mint-sewn bag (see photos).
It’s clear that this coin was struck shortly after the fragment broke
away. DeLorey speculates that the thin fragment may have temporarily
adhered to the last coin it struck. In this way it would have hitched
a ride with one of the 4,999 normal cents found inside the bag.
Our next example is a Roosevelt dime with two off-center strikes.
The larger strike was delivered by a shattered reverse die that
features numerous intersecting bi-level die cracks. A bi-level die
crack is characterized by vertical displacement that leaves a “step”
on the coin’s surface. A conventional die crack involves lateral
spread that leaves a raised line on the coin. Both faces of the larger
strike carry multiple sets of heavy clash marks. The repeated die
collisions probably contributed to the crack-up of the reverse die.
The smaller strike was received as the obverse die was breaking
apart. Only a small area of die-struck design containing the words IN
GOD is present on the obverse face. The impact that generated this bit
of design was delivered at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. The
reason the die-struck area is so small is that it was delivered by a
tiny portion of the obverse die. This strike may have been delivered
by an obverse die with an enormous (more than 50 percent) cud. Another
possibility is a strike from a floating die fragment trapped between
the intact portion of the obverse die and the planchet.
The reverse face of the smaller strike is featureless, but it is
not a “uniface strike.” A uniface strike occurs when one die is
blocked by an intervening planchet. Here an unidentified foreign
object (possibly a feeder finger) blocked the reverse die. The reverse
face is decorated by numerous fine raised lines that follow a curved
trajectory, travel in two different directions, and intersect
extensively. A planchet would never leave this pattern, but a flat
piece of machined, unpolished steel certainly could.
It’s impossible to determine if the steep angulation of the
smaller strike is due to a tilted die or die assembly or if it
represents the random orientation of a trapped die fragment.
Since no common areas of design link the two strikes, it’s also
unclear whether the smaller strike was delivered by the same die pair
as the larger strike. I suspect it was, since there’s a low
probability that two adjacent die pairs would break up simultaneously.
Finally, one can’t be certain that the smaller strike followed the
larger strike. I suspect it did, for two reasons: (1) the portion of
the obverse die preserved in the larger strike shows no evidence of
brittle failure, and (2) the larger strike shows no evidence of die tilt.
Our last coin comes from error dealer Jon Sullivan and features a
two-coin progression that captures the breakup of a quarter dollar
obverse die. The first strike was delivered off-center by a damaged
obverse die that had already lost the area containing the date. During
the second strike, the portion of the obverse die containing the motto
IN GOD WE TRUST and Washington’s chin broke off on impact, leaving
this portion of the design wildly displaced. At least one intervening
strike resulted in the two dies clashing very heavily, leaving both
dies with extensive clash marks that appear only on the second coin.
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