Several previous columns (Feb. 13, 2012; April 22, 2013) have dealt
with Jefferson 5-cent coins struck on underweight, full-diameter (or
nearly full-diameter) copper-nickel clad planchets.
Those coins struck on quarter dollar stock pose no conceptual
difficulties. Others appear to have been misidentified and are most
likely underweight, improperly annealed planchets that started out as
solid copper-nickel discs. Still others, like the 1994-P 5-cent coin
reported in the first article referenced, are difficult to categorize.
Error dealer Fred Weinberg has provided what is likely the
earliest example of such an error, a 1971-D Jefferson 5-cent coin
encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and tagged with the
understated label “struck on a clad planchet.” On both faces, gaps in
the presumed clad layers reveal interior metal that is rusty red and
uniformly grainy (see photos). The color and microscopic texture of
the interior metal are strongly reminiscent of planchets that have
been exposed to excessive heat in the annealing oven.
Improper annealing also causes the copper and nickel fractions of
solid copper-nickel planchets and copper-nickel clad layers to migrate
and segregate out into relatively uniform layers and patches, with
copper often migrating to the surface. Therefore an improper annealing
error neither confirms nor falsifies the proposition that the 1971-D
5-cent coin was struck on a nonstandard clad planchet. It simply
complicates the picture.
The picture is further complicated by circumferential edge damage
prior to the strike. The edge was rolled and squeezed, with metal
relocated from the edge to the perimeter of both faces in the form of
a thin, narrow apron. Each apron was subsequently struck into the coin
with the internal margin currently demarcated by a fissure. Similar
damage has been identified in off-metal errors and coins struck on
their proper planchets (Nov. 15, 2010; Jan. 23, 2012). The apron
appears to overlie the exposed red metal of the 1971-D 5-cent coin,
suggesting that the damage occurred after annealing. The 1994-P 5-cent
piece referred to earlier appears to have less severe damage of a
The edge of the 1971-D 5-cent coin is a uniform brown, with flecks
of nickel-colored metal. The 1994-P coin has a uniform copper edge.
Both coins therefore lack the incomplete, asymmetrical exposure of the
copper core that is seen in normal copper-nickel clad planchets.
Asymmetrical exposure results from the bottom clad layer of the
coin metal strip being dragged over the edge of the blank as the
latter is forced through a hole in a perforated base plate by the
blanking die. Absence of smeared cladding can easily be accounted for
by the edge damage. Even normal dimes and quarter dollars that have
had their edges rolled and squeezed outside the Mint show an
At the same time, it’s impossible to eliminate the possibility
that the edge was like this before the damage or is a consequence of
NGC reported a weight of 3.2 grams for the 1971-D 5-cent coin.
Seeking verification, I cracked the coin out and obtained a more
precise weight of 3.18 grams. It just so happens that the expected
weight of a 5-cent coin struck on copper-nickel clad dime stock is
3.19 grams. However, since some surface metal is missing and because
the edge damage could have subtracted additional mass, the original
weight was certainly higher.
If the original weight did exceed the expected range of variation
for 5-cent blanks punched out of dime stock, then perhaps the source
was rolled-thick dime stock. While this might sound like special
pleading, there is a precedent in the form of a 1971-D Washington
quarter dollar struck on rolled-thin, silver-clad, half dollar stock
(see previous references).
Error dealer James Essence has bolstered the case for a
nonstandard clad planchet with a 1983-D Jefferson 5-cent coin that was
struck on a defective, improperly annealed dime planchet that shares
many similarities with the 1971-D 5-cent piece. Narrow gaps in the
cladding expose reddish-brown metal, while flaking along the perimeter
has exposed a grainy interior. The edge is also 100 percent copper.
The totality of the evidence suggests that the 1971-D 5-cent coin
was indeed struck on a copper-nickel clad planchet and that it is
probably dime stock (and unique in that regard). I have yet to
encounter an improper annealing error on a solid-alloy planchet in
which every gap in the surface metal reveals underlying copper.
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