US Coins

Canceled dies and cancellation dies are entirely different

Since 2003, the United States Mint has been crushing its Mint errors between heavy, knob-studded rollers, leaving the coins with a distinctive “waffled” arrangement of ridges and valleys. Other mints, like those in the eurozone, do the same thing.

Bulk destruction of defective coins makes economic sense. And yet some mints use a much more laborious process in which a pair of cancellation dies is employed to destroy each coin individually. In the March 25, 2013, “Collectors’ Clearinghouse” column I provided photographs of Indian silver-alloy coins (1-rupee piece and fractions thereof) that were defaced by studded dies that left each coin with a pattern of closely spaced diamond-shaped indentations.

Modern Egyptian coins are also defaced with a pair of special cancellation dies. The illustrated 2010 Egyptian £1 coin appears to have received a normal first strike. The design was almost obliterated by the next strike, which was delivered by a pair of identical cancellation dies. The motif consists of two pairs of cancellation symbols arranged around a central raised ring. After cancellation, the coin was returned to a coinage press where it received three very closely-spaced off-center strikes from a pair of £1 dies.

This coin is one of a prodigious number of intentional and assisted Egyptian errors that have appeared on the online auction site eBay over the past year. 

As defined here, an assisted error is one that is given help at some point in the production and distribution process. For example, an error coin can be generated by accident but is then smuggled out of the mint. Alternatively, a mint error can be created as a lark by mint employees, after which the coin is inserted into the production stream to be distributed through normal channels. Intentional errors are fabricated and released by design.

The seller I bought this coin from tells me that his inventory was minted and canceled in Egypt. Online sources report that £1, 50-piastre and 25-piastre coins are produced by Britain’s Royal Mint at a facility located in south Wales. It would seem that production is therefore split between these facilities, which would certainly not be unprecedented.

It is important to distinguish between coins struck by cancellation dies and coins struck by canceled and defaced dies. A canceled die is one that was originally used in, or intended for, normal production. After the die is worn out, or once the design is retired, the die face is partly or completely destroyed so it can’t be used for minting purposes again.

In 1997 the U.S. Mint sold off 2,833 canceled Olympic commemorative coin dies. Carrying the date 1995, these dies were used to strike gold half eagles and silver dollars in honor of the 1996 Summer Olympics. Held in Atlanta, Georgia, these games marked the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics. Two deep channels that cross to form an X were incised into each die face. While no error coin was ever struck using these canceled dies, one enterprising company did strike a series of medals (see the October 14, 2013, Coin World).

Any coin struck by canceled dies can be assumed to be an intentional error. I am aware of only a few examples among world coins. One example that I was unable to acquire or photograph is a 1994 Hong Kong ringed-bimetallic $10 coin that displays two parallel ridges on each face.

I do, however, have the privilege of presenting an Egyptian 25-piastre planchet that was initially struck 80 percent off-center by 25-piastre dies. After that, the off-center 25-piastre coin was placed inside a much larger 50-piastre collar and struck by two defaced 50-piastre dies. The design on the obverse and reverse die face was almost completely ground off. Even so, the seller managed to discern a date (2010). 

In a final unexpected touch, the reverse die is rotated approximately 120 degrees counterclockwise relative to the obverse die (medal rotation is normal).

During the second strike, the minimum die clearance was great enough that only the thicker, unstruck portion of the 25-piastre planchet received an impression from the defaced 50-piastre dies. While it looks like the off-center strike came last, this impression is refuted by the presence of fully developed 50-piastre coin-style reeding at either end of the long axis of the coin. Those endpoints coincide with the normal diameter of a 50-piastre coin and therefore the diameter of the collar. The metal at the tip of the off-center strike was also pushed up by collar contact.

The 25-piastre denomination is struck on a planchet composed of nickel-plated steel while the 50-piastre design is normally struck on a planchet composed of brass-plated steel. We therefore have in this double-denomination error the rare trifecta of a planchet error (off-metal/wrong planchet), a die error (defaced), and striking error (off-center first strike and rotated die error on second strike). This is the first PDS-trifecta error coin I’ve encountered. 

The mint personnel responsible for it were quite inventive during their shift.

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