A “die cap” is strictly defined as a coin that sticks to a die and
strikes at least one incoming planchet. The product of such a strike
is called a capped die strike.
While most capped die strikes display a brockage, a counterbrockage,
or nothing at all (in the case of a uniface die cap), the arrangement
of design elements can be much more complex. Complex design patterns
(raised, incuse, or both) are almost always produced by hammer die
caps. This complexity is inevitable because any kind of defective
planchet or error coin can stick to a die and become a die cap. Normal
and abnormal coins can flip over before adhering to the die face.
Multiple, overlapping coins and planchets can become compound die
caps. Die caps can shift laterally or rotate, producing unusual effects.
Die caps can be modified after formation by being indented by
planchets or brockaged by other coins. All this complexity can be
compounded when a die cap collides with the opposite die, generating a
fresh set of raised design elements on its working face. The planchets
struck by such “clashed caps” are called clashed cap strikes, and
these offer some of the greatest diagnostic challenges within the
broader universe of capped die strikes. Several unusual clashed cap
strikes have previously appeared in this column.
I recently came across yet another variation on the clashed cap
theme on an undated, copper-alloy cent. The obverse face displays a
centered, mid-stage brockage that consists of an expanded Lincoln
Memorial and, below Lincoln’s bust, the bottom portion of several
indistinct peripheral letters that occupy the position of the word STATES.
A second set of incuse, mirror-image letters appears on Lincoln’s
shoulder; these are easiest to read if the obverse design is inverted.
Running across the base of the bust we find the greatly expanded
letters OF AM. Below these letters (i.e., higher on the bust) we find
the letters IBUS (from PLURIBUS). These letters are off-center and
rotated about 45 degrees clockwise from their expected position
relative to Lincoln’s bust.
This second set of letters is also proportionally much larger than
the centered brockage. This can only be the case if the two areas of
raised design responsible for the two brockages formed at different
times, with those elements responsible for the off-center brockage
forming first. In other words, the off-center brockage is the
original, or primary brockage. The younger, centered brockage was
produced after the die cap clashed with the reverse die and is
therefore a secondary brockage.
Five steps were necessary to create this unusual double brockage.
The first step was the production of an off-center cent, like the one
shown here. In Step 2, the off-center cent received a second strike
while resting on top of a fresh planchet; both discs were centered
during this strike. The double-struck cent on top then clung to the
retracting obverse (hammer) die, ready for a new career as an obverse
die cap. The bottom coin was ejected.
This die cap struck a series of cent planchets (Step 3), with early
members of the group looking like the piece shown here. This undated
cent features an early-stage brockage of the reverse design on the
obverse face. The brockage is clearly off-center, even though the
entire planchet was struck by the die cap. I’ve seen at least four
other cents with this type of brockage.
In Step 4 the die cap clashed with the reverse (anvil) die when a
planchet failed to be fed into the striking chamber. This event erased
most of the original, raised, off-center reverse design and replaced
it with a fresh, centered set of raised reverse design elements. The
only portion of the original raised design to escape this fate were
the letters lying in front of a relatively deep recess in the obverse
die face corresponding to Lincoln’s shoulder. This portion of the die
cap molded itself to the recess, leaving its raised letters below the
plane of the die face and therefore protected from the clash.
The die cap — now a clashed cap — proceeded to strike a final series
of planchets (Step 5), one of which is the coin under discussion. This
coin was struck well after the clash and only after the secondary
brockage had expanded significantly.
In closing, I should mention that there are other pathways that
yield a full, off-center brockage. For example, an off-center coin can
land squarely on an unstruck planchet, without sticking to the hammer
die afterward. An early-stage die cap can come loose and shift
laterally, with its working face generating an off-center incuse
design, while its wall — crushed flat by the hammer die — covers the
rest of the planchet. A coin can enter the striking chamber beneath a
uniface die cap, and both can be struck into an underlying planchet. A
careful study of physical characteristics can usually identify the
particular scenario involved.
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