Wrong planchet and off-metal errors can usually be traced back to the
original purpose of the planchet or stock involved. When a planchet
can’t be linked to a known domestic or foreign issue it is considered
An orphan may represent any of the following:
(1) A planchet/blank intended for an
undocumented foreign coin.
(2) A blank punched out of stock
intended for a foreign coin.
(3) A planchet intended for a token,
medal, or other nonmonetary item.
(4) A slug or a circular hardware item
like an unperforated washer or spacer.
(5) Improperly fabricated strip,
blanks, or planchets.
(6) A planchet altered beyond
recognition by chemical, thermal, or physical damage.
Newly arrived at the orphanage is a pair of near-identical 1971-D Washington quarter dollars struck on
solid copper-nickel blanks (normal blanks have a copper-nickel clad
composition). The first coin comes from error dealer Jon Sullivan and
weighs 4.81 grams. It is distinguished by the presence of two very
thin, partially worn-through patches of embedded copper-colored
material on the reverse face. The second coin comes from error dealer
Jim Cauley and weighs 4.77 grams.
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The composition of the first coin was analyzed by Roger Paulen of
the Geological Survey of Canada. The coin (including the
copper-colored areas) consists of an alloy that is 75 percent copper
and 25 percent nickel — the same composition as a 5-cent blank. But
I’ve ruled out the latter attribution because the weights are too low
and the diameters too large, especially given that neither coin
received a particularly forceful strike.
quarter: The Washington quarter dollar, which has been
circulating since 1932, was born out of the Treasury Department's
desire to produce a coin to mark the bicentennial of the birth of
the first president of the United States. How much
are Washington quarters worth?
The first coin shows well-developed reeding around the edge, except
from 5:30 to 7:30, where the obverse-adjacent portion is incomplete.
On the second coin, reeding gradually weakens toward the northern end
and is absent between 11:30 and 1:30. The weakly struck and unstruck
edges respectively show the cut-and-tear texture of a blank rather
than the smooth surface of a planchet. The blank either bypassed the
upset mill or was too small to be affected by it. Any blank that
passes through an upset mill set up for a larger denomination will be
too small to be rolled and squeezed in the horizontal plane. As a
result, most wrong planchet errors are actually struck on blanks.
Numerous design elements at the periphery of both coins display
significant metal flow — another indication that the blanks were
slightly undersized. A normal-sized blank that is thinner than normal
will show little or no metal flow in its peripheral elements. The
weakly-struck periphery of each coin is undoubtedly related to the
blank’s thinness and the absence of a proto-rim along its margin.
The specifications of these coins do not match that of any foreign
coin being struck at the Denver Mint or any other domestic facility,
either in 1971 or the years that bracket it. Interested readers may
verify this assertion by consulting Numispedia’s list of foreign coins
produced by the U.S. Mint.
It is easier to say what these coins are not than to say what they
are. The undersized blanks were clearly not punched out by a quarter
dollar blanking press. Therefore they cannot be foreign stock errors
or bonding mill errors (specifically “solid clad” or “coreless”
quarter dollars). The original cut-and-tear texture along the edge
further tells us that the blanks were not resized or subjected to
circumferential pre-strike damage that might have reduced their diameter.
Since the U.S. Mint was producing all of its blanks in-house at the
time, these two blanks could not have come from an outside supplier.
They might represent token or medal blanks that entered the production
stream accidentally or intentionally. Stranger items have entered our
coining presses, including arcade tokens and foreign coins never
associated with the Mint. However, I think the most likely explanation
is that these blanks were prepared for a foreign issue that was never struck.
Most orphan off-metal errors are one-off events. The presence of two
identical examples suggests there may have been some planning
involved, either official or unofficial.
This isn’t the only mystery from this place and time. In 1971, the
Denver Mint produced a number of puzzling off-metal and wrong planchet
errors, such as a 1971-D Jefferson 5-cent coin struck on a blank
apparently punched out of copper-nickel clad dime stock and then
subjected to significant thermal and physical damage, and a 1971-D
quarter dollar struck on a quarter-sized straight-clipped blank that
was punched out of obsolete silver-clad half dollar stock (or
contemporary Panama half balboa stock) rolled to quarter dollar thickness.