US Coins

Large cuds on Roosevelt dimes carry unexpected

An enduringly popular category of die error is the “cud” (marginal die break).

This week’s column presents two nearly identical cuds of massive proportions on Roosevelt dimes. They were acquired sometime in the 1970s by Trish McFadden, who purchased them from legendary error coin dealer and author “Lonesome” John Devine.

Cuds form when the corner of a die breaks off. These breaks usually occur spontaneously but can sometimes form as the result of an impact. When a planchet is struck by a broken die, coin metal flows into the void in the die face, leaving a lump (the cud) on the coin. If the deficit is large enough, the entire planchet buckles into the void and simultaneously withdraws from the intact die. This leaves a pucker or hollow on the face opposite the cud. Both the lump and the pucker are well-developed on these two dimes.

Some mysteries present

Cuds usually present few mysteries, but McFadden’s dimes are an exception. The surface of the bulge on each coin, which should be smooth, shows several indentations. The indentations are stronger and more numerous in one specimen. Let’s focus on the more dramatically marked example, which I presume was struck first.

Farthest toward the left is a very deep, narrow cleft. Its left margin shows a gentle undulation that matches the contour of the cud’s edge. The left wall of the cleft is vertical while the right wall slopes. Although largely smooth, some rounded surface irregularities appear on this sloping wall.

To the right of the cleft is a shallower indentation that is narrow and slightly sinuous. The deep cleft and the shallower groove are united at the top, at the level of Roosevelt’s eye.

A relatively deep, triangular indentation is located at the edge of the cud in the southeast quadrant.

In the second dime, the cleft is much shallower and is located slightly more toward the right. The shallow groove is no longer present. Evidently the object that created the cleft moved a bit toward the right in the time between the two strikes. The triangular indentation is still in the same position but is much shallower.

Resistance encountered

On the more strongly marked dime, the objects that generated the two deepest indentations (the cleft and triangular pit) provided enough resistance to the impact of the anvil die that more of the reverse design is present than in the second example.

The resistance provided by the object that generated the cleft permitted the right side of the torch to strike up. The object that generated the triangular indentation provided sufficient resistance to allow the a of america to strike up.

Die shards responsible?

I strongly suspect that these indentations are “struck through” errors from three die shards. It would appear that, after breaking off, the right side of the die shattered into several pieces. These shards were then trapped between the planchet and the “ceiling” of the void created by the die break.

When a die breaks, the path the fracture takes through the die neck can be quite unpredictable. A ceiling of sorts can form if the fracture plane jogs abruptly to one side after diving a short distance into the die face.

I believe the cleft was formed by the left margin of the original die fragment. The fact that the contour of the left edge of the cleft precisely matches the edge of the die break supports this conjecture. The sloping right wall of the cleft shows some slight topographical irregularities and a relatively smooth surface. While I can’t match these topographical features to any specific part of the design, I suspect they were left by the working face of the die fragment. As the fragment was driven into the planchet, any identifiable features would have been smeared by the movement of the fragment.

It would seem that these die shards were trapped for a time within the striking chamber. In the case of the angular fragment, which didn’t move at all, the chunk may have lodged in the ceiling of the void.

As to why the indentations in the second coin are shallower, it may be that the shards had been vertically compressed by this time. It’s also possible that the strike itself was slightly weaker.

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