US Coins

Collectors’ Clearinghouse: Impaled die cap spawns unique series of Roosevelt dimes

On Jan. 30 of this year a complex error I’ve tangled with in the past appeared on the message board of the Error Coin Information Exchange.

The coin is an off-center, weakly struck Roosevelt dime with an early-stage brockage that occupies the entire obverse face. The brockage was generated by a die cap, which in this case started out as a newly-struck dime that attached itself to the obverse die.

The die cap proceeded to strike a succession of planchets, leaving each with an incuse, mirror-image version of the reverse design on the obverse face. This coin is one of a series of dimes produced by the same malfunctioning press and is identical in appearance to the second example portrayed in this column.

I first encountered these dimes in the January 1983 issue of Error-Variety News. Four of the dimes were featured in that issue, but no conclusion was reached at the time as to their authenticity or their precise nature and origin.

It’s possible that the dime that surfaced last January belonged to this original quartet since they were all examined by “Lonesome” John Devine, who was editing EVN during the 1980s.

Some time later I discovered that error dealer Fred Weinberg had three of the dimes in his vault. He generously allowed me to study and ultimately purchase them. I suspect that these three dimes belong to the original quartet reported in EVN, although Weinberg isn’t as sure. This leaves the total number of known examples produced by this malfunctioning press at between four and eight.

The reverse face of each dime shows three cuds (marginal die breaks) with surrounding die damage. The two larger cuds are quite tall and were originally even taller. However in every example the apex of each cud has been scraped off. All three cuds were clearly caused by an impact.

When these dimes were struck, the objects responsible for the impacts were still present, sandwiched between the obverse die and the die cap. Although the die cap prevented the objects from leaving a direct impression on the dimes, their continued presence behind the die cap is readily apparent. On the obverse face of each dime, opposite the two larger cuds, the brockaged surface has been dramatically pushed in by a corresponding bulge on the working face of the die cap. Each bulge was, in turn, pushed up by the protrusion behind it.

At least two scenarios could account for the hidden protrusions on the obverse die face. It’s possible that three tall pressure ridges or burrs were pushed up by severe blows to the side of the obverse die neck at its junction with the die face. A second possibility involves three hard foreign objects falling into the striking chamber and settling against the collar. When the two dies came together (in the absence of a planchet), the foreign objects chipped the reverse die and simultaneously embedded themselves in the obverse die face. This left the two dies with a peg-and-socket arrangement that was ideal for impaling the next planchet to be fed into the press. That planchet became the die cap responsible for the brockages.

The dimes can be arranged in logical sequence that likely represents a true progression. The sequence is characterized by three trends: (1) the strike, along with the brockage, becomes increasingly weak; (2) the strike becomes increasingly off-center toward the southwest (reverse perspective); (3) indifferent to the movement of the planchet, the brockage instead drifts slightly northward, perhaps pointing to a growing misalignment of the obverse (hammer) die.

No expansion of the brockage is seen through this short series; evidently the light impacts were not great enough to flatten and distort the raised design on the working face of the die cap.

All but the first coin of the progression show a thin groove that arcs across the brockage. It would appear to be some sort of struck-through error, perhaps the impression of a thin metal shaving.

More can be found in the January/February 2004 Errorscope.

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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