US Coins

'Cuds' look very different when coins are struck

In the peculiar parlance of error collectors, the term “cud” has a specific connotation. A cud is a die break that incorporates the rim and at least a little bit of the adjacent field and design. The vast majority of die breaks of any size are cuds, since the corner of the die is the area most prone to breakage.

Some cuds are smaller than a sesame seed while others may carry off most of the die face. A cud takes the form of a featureless lump on the coin itself. The design on the opposite face is weakly-struck or absent due to the lack of resistance to the impact of the intact die. If a cud is large enough, the featureless zone on the opposite face develops a scooped-out appearance. This results from coin metal flowing into the void in the die face and simultaneously withdrawing from the intact die.

A large obverse cud and the opposing puckered reverse are shown in a 1975-D Lincoln cent.

The characteristic appearance of a cud hinges on the coin being struck within the collar. When a coin is broadstruck or struck off-center, a cud takes on a very different appearance. The familiar lump fails to form when a coin is struck out-of-collar. Instead, the design ends abruptly at a cliff-like margin. The design on the opposite face terminates almost as abruptly.

A representative example of an off-center cud is seen here on an undated 5-cent coin. The planchet was struck about 70 percent off-center by a broken obverse die. The break passes through the top of Jefferson’s head. It’s difficult to say exactly how large this cud was. The margin of the break shows a gentle curve that suggests its other end might have met the rim somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00. This suggests a break that encompassed about 25 percent of the obverse die face. But this estimate is very uncertain because the broken margin of a cud can be very irregular.

The obverse and reverse faces of this undated 5-cent coin show numerous sets of strong, overlapping clash marks. They are so closely spaced that the individual clash marks are difficult to discern. It’s quite possible that the numerous collisions caused a large piece to break off the obverse die.

An even more unusual off-center cud is seen on an undated, double-struck Roosevelt dime. The larger of the two strikes is about 70 percent off-center and die-struck on both faces. The reverse die is badly shattered, though still intact. A network of severe die cracks — both conventional and bilevel — cross the reverse face. Heavy, multiple clash marks similar to those seen on the undated 5-cent coin are present on both faces.

The other off-center strike was delivered by a broken obverse die. Only the obverse face is die-struck. The reverse face is featureless, but probably not from being struck against a planchet. The surface is relatively flat instead of convex, and is marked by numerous fine raised lines that travel in two directions. I suspect that the reverse face of the planchet rested against a feeder finger or other machine part.

It’s not clear if the broken die was the same one that delivered the larger strike. I suspect not, since the area below Roosevelt’s throat shows no clash marks.

The left end of the break meets the design rim at the 7:30 clock position, right next to the word in. The break travels in a northeasterly direction but cannot be followed beyond Roosevelt’s throat. If the break continued in the same direction, it would have carried off more than 50 percent of the obverse die face.

The most unusual feature of this broken die strike is that it was delivered at a 45-degree angle. In other words, the obverse (hammer) die was vertically misaligned (a tilted die error). Such severe tilts are always accompanied by a major horizontal misalignment of the hammer die, but that assumes this portion of the die was intact. It’s possible that this little bit of design was instead delivered by a die fragment that was trapped between the intact portion of the die and the planchet.

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