A cud (marginal die break) occurs when a piece breaks off from the
“corner” of the die face (where the die face meets the die neck). Cuds
vary enormously in size and shape. Even so, the maximum distance any
cud intrudes into the design is almost always less than its maximum
width. It’s therefore quite unusual to find a cud that extends well
into the design but that happens to be narrow where it meets the die’s edge.
An example of such an elongate cud is seen here on the obverse face
of 1994 India 5-rupee coin. Shaped like the number “1,” the flared tip
of the cud is defined by two sharp points connected by a slightly
concave slope. The two points and the intervening slope are aligned
with — and, in fact, complete — a rim-to-rim die crack that extends
from 9:00 to 12:00.
The sides of the long, thin cud are relatively straight and roughly
parallel. This feature, along with the cud’s aforementioned
termination at a die crack, makes it likely that the cud was preceded
by three intersecting die cracks that demarcated the area where a
flake would later detach.
One or both of the two parallel die cracks might have angled down
and in the direction of the facing die crack. When the propagating
cracks met within the die neck, they would have generated a
wedge-shaped flake that subsequently fell away, leaving an elongated void.
It’s also possible that a very thin flake lifted up from the area
between the two parallel die cracks. Detached die fragments can be
surprisingly thin, as documented by a cud-bearing 1975-D Lincoln cent
and its associated die fragment described in the May 20, 2013 column.
A somewhat earlier stage in the crack-induced formation of an
invasive cud is seen here in a pair of 2007-P Roosevelt dimes struck
by a shattered die. These two coins represent Stages 1 and 4 of a
progression. The Stage 1 coin shows a 50 percent retained cud, within
which lies a network of conventional and bi-level (stepped) die
cracks. Several die chips have formed along the path of the retained
cud, and one die chip straddles a subsidiary die crack. In the Stage 4
coin a large interior die break has swallowed up the lower half of
Roosevelt’s face. The interior die break is connected indirectly to
the edge of the coin by a rectangular retained cud. If this blocky die
fragment ever fell out, we would be confronted with an impressive
It’s quite common for die chips to form along die cracks. This is
not surprising, as the facing edges of the shallow crevasse in the die
face are sharp and delicate. Arranged like irregularly-shaped pearls
on a string, these die chips can enlarge and link up to form elongated
die chips. On rare occasions a string of elongated, contiguous die
chips can meet up with a pre-existing cud or simply connect to the
die’s rim gutter. In this way you end up with another form of elongate
cud that’s snake-like in appearance.
The process described above is illustrated by a 2002 India 5-rupee
coin. The left side of the reverse face shows a rim-to-rim die crack
(or possibly a retained cud) that extends from 6:30 to approximately
10:00. At least three elongated die chips straddle the die crack and
connect end-to-end. They meet up with a triangular retained cud in the
northwest quadrant. Were this triangular die fragment ever to fall
out, we would have a sinuous, elongate cud.
While pre-existing die cracks probably lie behind the majority of
invasive cuds, there’s no denying the possibility that some can form
spontaneously or as the result of an impact. For example, an impact to
the side of the die neck can theoretically drive off a flake in a
fashion similar to how a flint-knapper knocks off flakes to create a
A vertical or horizontal impact is undoubtedly responsible for the
dumbbell-shaped rim-to-rim cud seen on the obverse face of a 1998-P
Washington quarter dollar with catastrophic die damage. A rim-to-rim
cud is an elongate cud taken to its logical extreme. The die break
appears to overlie a retained cud since the last numeral of the date
is displaced toward the south and is recessed relative to the rest of
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