US Coins

Thinking through a dramatic dual misalignment error

Major horizontal misalignments of the anvil die are exceedingly rare. Such misalignments ne­cessarily involve the collar as well, since the latter confines the neck of the anvil die. The collar either has to break apart or break free of its moorings.

Even rarer are coins that display major horizontal misalignments of both dies. The May 18, 2015, column featured a 2000-P Virginia quarter dollar with just such an error combination (see photo). It was struck near the tail end of a riotous explosion of errors spewed forth from a deeply dysfunctional coining press. Errors produced earlier in the press run were a temporally mixed medley that consisted of major horizontal misalignments of the hammer (reverse) die, major horizontal misalignments of the anvil (obverse) die, off-center strikes, and off-center strikes combined with a horizontal misalignment of the hammer die. Oddly enough, the press run ended rather quietly, with an uncentered broadstrike (Collectors’ Clearinghouse, Oct. 17, 2016).

Now, an even more dramatic dual misalignment has emerged, this time in a 2000-P South Carolina quarter dollar.

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The obverse — struck by the anvil die — shows an 8 percent misalignment toward 7:30 (obverse clock position). The reverse — struck by the hammer die — shows an 11 percent misalignment toward 7:30 (reverse clock position). In State quarter dollars, a shift toward the southwest characterizes many misaligned reverse (hammer) dies. Since the South Carolina coin was struck in normal coin rotation, the two median axes defined by the two misalignments cross each other in vertical space at a right angle.

As with any error that incorporates a misaligned anvil die, the coin was broadstruck. While there is no trace of reeding anywhere along the edge, the northern end of the obverse face does feature a strong collar scar.

The question inevitably arises — is this really a dual misalignment or only a facsimile? After all, we have three potential moving parts — hammer die, anvil die, and planchet. Might we instead be looking at an off-center strike in combination with a horizontal misalignment of the hammer die? Such errors undoubtedly outnumber bona fide dual misalignments and include the subset of Virginia quarter dollar errors mentioned above as well as the 1999-D 5-cent coin featured in the Nov. 28, 2011, column.

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The hammer die of the South Carolina quarter dollar is unquestionably misaligned because the obverse design is missing in the area that lies opposite the unstruck crescent on the reverse face.

Proving that the anvil die is misaligned takes a bit more thought and effort. The best clue lies along the obverse periphery at the pole opposite the unstruck obverse crescent. Here the letters of QUARTER are ever so slightly cut off along the coin’s edge. If this pattern of offset were the result of an off-center strike, then the peripheral letters directly across from it on the reverse face (SOUTH) would show the same effect. Instead, those letters are located at their proper distance from a well-defined design rim. Both words are bisected by the axis defined by the anvil die misalignment (a line that runs from 1:30 to 7:30 on the obverse), and since that axis is oriented 90 degrees to the axis defined by the hammer die misalignment (a line that runs from 1:30 to 7:30 on the reverse), we can be confident that the obverse design is independently offset from the reverse design.

This approach also allows us to confirm that the anvil die misalignment on the Virginia dual misalignment error is equally legitimate, and therefore, by extrapolation, so is every other anvil die misalignment produced during that press run.

Although struck many months apart, the two dual misalignment errors share some tantalizing similarities. In both coins the misalignments are 90 degrees apart and both display numerous accidental die scratches, with the vast majority appearing on the obverse face.

The South Carolina quarter dollar shows numerous other errors that speak to a difficult history.

(1) Low-lying areas of Washington’s head and neck are lost to die abrasion (whether accidental or intentional isn’t clear).

(2) On the reverse, the field around the palmetto tree and along the right perimeter shows a patchy field-restricted struck-through error that reflects the presence of a gritty paste on the hammer die face.

(3) An irregular, interrupted reverse design rim indicates that the die’s rim gutter suffered considerable damage.

(4) Multiple impressions of the die’s rim gutter are seen within the unstruck reverse crescent at 4:30.

(5) A curved groove that cuts through UNUM and the date appears to represent post-strike die contact.

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