US Coins

Inter-strike damage on 5-cent coin mistaken for edge

A few weeks ago I received an excited email from a collector by the name of Troy Moxley. He was pretty sure that he had a triple-struck 2000-D Jefferson 5-cent coin, with one of those strikes being an edge strike.

That would be an impressive error, as edge strikes are seldom encountered on denominations higher than a cent. Having purchased the coin for a modest sum on the auction site eBay, Moxley was hoping for a major score.

Upon viewing some attached photos, I could readily appreciate the source of his excitement. There was no question that the coin received a normal first strike and a 95 percent off-center strike.

A close inspection later revealed that the off-center strike was a “flip-over” strike. In other words, the coin flipped over between strikes. The base of Jefferson’s bust is visible on the die-struck obverse face of the off-center strike.

The only task that remained was to determine whether the coin really did have an edge strike. An edge strike occurs when a coin or planchet is struck on-edge. The impact of the dies flattens out the edge at opposite poles. Indeed, the edge of Moxley’s coin is conspicuously flattened at 12:00 and 6:00 and shows clear contact facets.

Closer examination revealing

However, examination under a microscope showed that the two flat facets were actually a type of damage. Neither facet shows any die-struck design elements. Furthermore, the facet located at 6:00 shows closely spaced, oblique parallel ridges. Neither die face carries such a texture.

While a diagnosis of damage was certainly disappointing news, it wasn’t entirely bleak. The damage turned out to be a rare error in its own right. It was inflicted after the first strike but before the second. In other words, it is “inter-strike damage.”

Hobbyists understand that damage can occur at any point before the strike (pre-strike damage) and at any point after the strike (post-strike damage). What few collectors realize is that damage can occur between strikes. While post-strike damage on a coin has no value, any damage that occurs prior to the final strike is considered a minting error and therefore carries a significant premium.

The diagnosis of inter-strike damage was confirmed by inspecting the small area of overlap between the off-center strike and the southern facet. The strike crimped the facet, and that could only occur if the off-center strike was delivered after the damage was inflicted. While it can’t be proven, the most likely source for the damage on the 5-cent coin is the feeder mechanism.

Surprisingly variable

Inter-strike damage is surprisingly variable. In some cases it leaves a coin badly scraped. In other cases it rolls, squeezes and pushes up the edge of a coin.

It’s possible that the damage was inflicted outside the press. This can occur if there’s a “delayed second strike.” A newly-struck coin has to pass through a gauntlet of machinery before it reaches the safety of a Mint-sewn bag or a “ballistic bag.”

This machinery can brutalize a coin. It’s entirely possible for a damaged coin to get stuck in a conveyor or tote bin and be returned to the production stream beneath a pile of fresh planchets. On its second pass through the coinage press, the dies can overlap the damage.

If it is to be recognized, a delayed second strike must be off-center and must be delivered by a different die pair. Even with the addition of inter-strike damage, it’s not a simple call in lower denominations.

However, a delayed second strike is easy to diagnose in higher denominations (25 cents and up), with or without inter-strike damage. That’s because these higher-denomination coins are never struck in multi-chambered (dual or quad) presses. Only a single die pair is employed. Therefore, an off-center strike delivered by a second die pair would have to come from a second press or the same press after a die change.

In the case of Moxley’s coin, too little of the design is present on the second strike to tell if it was delivered by the same set of dies as the first strike.

Moxley’s 5-cent coin has one other error worth noting. It carries a double set of clash marks, with the clash marks farther to the right being produced by a misaligned hammer (obverse) die. In other words, a misaligned die 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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