US Coins

Collectors’ Clearinghouse: Errors and Varieties: Capped die strike carries both obverse and reverse brockages

Capped die strikes (planchets struck by die caps) are endlessly variable in their designs and design combinations. Particularly interesting are those pieces that show two or more sets of design elements. Previous columns have discussed brockage-counterbrockage combinations (Nov. 12, 2012) and multiple brockages (Sept. 26, 2010).

Recently, error dealer Fred Weinberg sent me a three-coin progression with an unfamiliar combination. The obverse face of each 1975 Lincoln cent shows an incomplete brockage of both the reverse and obverse designs.

As with brockage-counterbrockage and multiple brockage errors, a number of possible paths could result in a die cap that leaves brockaged elements from both faces.

Scenario 1: A flip-over, double-struck cent lands on top of a planchet and gets struck a third time. It then sticks to the hammer (obverse) die.

Scenario 2: A flipped-over cent intrudes partway into the striking chamber between an obverse die cap and an underlying, well-centered planchet. When struck, the intrusive cent sticks to the working face of the die cap.

A close inspection quickly eliminated these and several other relatively straightforward scenarios. The first coin in the progression shows a slightly expanded, incuse, mirror-image version of the reverse design interrupted by two significant gaps. One gap contains an incuse, mirror-image date (1975) and a faint impression of the front of Lincoln’s coat.

These obverse design elements occupy a low mound with soft margins that infiltrate the surrounding Lincoln Memorial design. A second gap appears in the middle of and above the steps of the inverted memorial. This gap is occupied by a raised ghost image of Lincoln’s head that bled through the thinned metal of the die cap from the obverse die.

All three scenarios would predict an obverse brockage that would be recessed or that would at least lie at the same level as the reverse brockage.

All three scenarios would predict a sharply demarcated boundary between obverse and reverse design elements.

Scenario 1 would alternatively predict overlap and intermingling of obverse and reverse design elements. In Weinberg’s coin, there is no intermingling. A fourth scenario is therefore needed, one that interprets Weinberg’s cent as a clashed cap strike consisting of a primary brockage (the incuse obverse elements) and a secondary brockage (the incuse reverse elements).

A clashed cap strike occurs when an obverse die cap collides with the reverse die when a planchet fails to be fed into the striking chamber. The clash generates a fresh set of raised reverse design elements on the working face of the die cap while simultaneously erasing some of the original elements present before the clash (Collectors’ Clearinghouse, Aug. 30, 2010).

A clashed cap strike consisting of an expanded, rotated (90 degrees), primary brockage and an unexpanded secondary brockage is also shown here.

The following sequence of events is likely responsible for the three 1975 Lincoln cents.

Step 1: A struck cent flips over and lands on top of a presumably well-centered planchet. The cent is inserted about 5 to 10 percent off-center or was struck off-center to a similar degree.

Step 2: The two discs are struck together, with the bottom disc possibly surrounded by the collar.

Step 3: The bottom coin is ejected and the top coin sticks to the obverse (hammer) die.

Step 4: The top coin — now a die cap — strikes a few planchets, expanding the date and Lincoln’s bust.

Step 5: The die cap strikes the reverse die directly when a planchet fails to be fed in. This obliterates much of the original obverse design on the working face of the die cap. Areas of the cap floor that are recessed avoid the impact and retain the original obverse design elements.

Step 6: The clashed cap now strikes a succession of planchets, among which are Weinberg’s cents.

Judging from the two more-degraded examples, in which Lincoln’s ghost is stronger, the mound containing the incuse date and the front of Lincoln’s coat are aligned with the die recess corresponding to the back of Lincoln’s coat. The floor of the die cap molded itself to this recess, protecting these design elements from the clash.

Similarly, the raised ghost of Lincoln’s head represents where the floor of the cap sank into the corresponding recess in the die face. We don’t see any preserved brockaged obverse design elements here because this portion of the original obverse design was presumably effaced by strikes previous to and following the clash.

Coin World’s Collectors’ Clearinghouse department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from News Editor William T. Gibbs. Materials sent to Clearinghouse without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Clearinghouse inquiries to or to 800-673-8311, Ext. 172.

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