A new example of a coin showing horizontal misalignment of the
anvil die invites competing explanations as to the cause.
Because the neck of the anvil die is tightly confined by the
collar, significant lateral shifts of that die can only occur if the
collar breaks apart or breaks free of its moorings. Coins struck in
these circumstances are necessarily broadstruck (struck out of
collar), struck inside a split and widened collar, or show evidence of
a collar break (collar cud) of 180 arc degrees or more.
The largest recorded misalignments of the anvil die appear with a
1984 Lincoln cent that was struck within a broken and tilted collar
and a series of broadstruck 2000-P Virginia quarter dollars (see the
columns dated Sept. 27, 2010, and Oct. 31, 2011.)
A new candidate was recently sent to me by Matt Dinger of Lost
Dutchman Rare Coins in Indianapolis (www.ldrcoins.com). The first strike
delivered to this 1944 Lincoln cent was perfectly normal. The second
strike was out of collar while the anvil (reverse) die appears to have
been horizontally misaligned. But as we will see, appearances can be
deceiving (or at least ambiguous).
Horizontal misalignments on the second strike are well documented
for the hammer die, but are still quite rare. Several examples have
appeared in previous Clearinghouse columns (May 19, 2008; May 23,
2011). The illustrated 1966 Lincoln cent serves as a representative
example. The first strike has a partial collar error while the second
strike was struck entirely out of collar by a horizontally misaligned
hammer (obverse) die. In both strikes the reverse face is rotated
about 20 degrees relative to the obverse face.
The second-strike design on the reverse face of the 1944 cent is
laterally offset toward the southwest. Maximum lateral displacement
amounts to 1.3 millimeters, as measured by an ocular micrometer. No
evidence of a lateral shift appears the obverse face; the perfectly
centered obverse die generated only radial expansion. This caused the
outermost portions of peripheral first-strike elements to protrude
slightly beyond the second-strike elements.
A simple explanation involving a misaligned anvil die is weakened
by the presence of a rotated design on the obverse face. Second strike
elements are rotated about 5 degrees counterclockwise relative to
first-strike elements. This could reflect a clockwise rotation of the
coin between strikes or possibly a counterclockwise rotation of the
obverse die between strikes. No rotation is seen where the second U of
UNUM is located on the reverse. This letter is located near the
midpoint of the misalignment, where any assessment of rotation must
take place. In the absence of rotation, second-strike elements located
near the ends of the exposed crescent of first-strike design will
nevertheless appear offset, and in opposite directions.
Multiple working hypotheses
With multiple elements potentially in motion, it’s possible to
come up with several different scenarios to explain the features of
this coin. Rotational and horizontal movements of the hammer die,
anvil die, and coin can be arranged in various combinations to get the
same outcome. The first three scenarios presented assume a
misalignment of the anvil die.
Scenario 1: Both dies were unstable so that the hammer die rotated
counterclockwise at the same time the anvil die was shifting laterally.
Scenario 2: The coin rotated clockwise after the first strike
while the anvil die coincidentally underwent a rotation that precisely
matched the coin’s movement.
Scenario 3: The coin temporarily stuck to the anvil die as the
latter rotated, but separated from the die as the latter shifted laterally.
Scenario 4: It was actually the hammer die that experienced the
misalignment. The second-strike obverse design appears centered (and
the reverse design uncentered) because the coin coincidentally moved
in the same direction as the hammer die and covered the same distance.
While all this was happening, the hammer die also underwent a
All of these are low-probability events, but none are impossible.
Various kinds of die alignment errors — horizontal misalignment,
vertical misalignment, pivot, rotation — are known to co-occur. This
should not be surprising, as an unstable die or die assembly certainly
has the potential to execute complex movements.
The co-occurrence of horizontal misalignments and off-center
strikes has also been recorded, although these movements should
theoretically be independent of each other. In some cases, like the
Jefferson 5-cent coin described in the Nov. 28, 2011, Collectors’
Clearinghouse, the off-center planchet moved in the same direction as
a horizontally misaligned hammer (obverse) die. In other cases I’ve
seen, the coin and die travelled in opposite directions.
As to which scenario is most likely, I would give a halfhearted
nod to scenario 3 because it involves the fewest assumptions,
coincidences and separate movements.
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