US Coins

Odd gouge may have explanation on 1921 Peace dollar

About VAMS column from Nov. 23, 2015, issue of Coin World:

Research by Roger Burdette in his work A Guide Book of Peace Dollars reveals production of the 1921 Peace dollar commenced on Dec. 28. The Mint managed to manufacture a little over a million pieces before closing on New Year’s Eve.

With a tight schedule and a largely untested design, some problems with dies were only natural. When working dies developed flaws, the Mint lacked sufficient time to replace them before the end of the year. The Mint’s headaches have proven to be a boon for variety collectors.

One of the marriages that has an odd feature that it apparently picked up during its run is the VAM-1B 1921 Peace dollar. It was first reported by David Close in May 2002 and is cataloged in Wonders of Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen. The variety has a bold dotlike gouge above the N of ONE. This “dot” can be seen with the naked eye, but under magnification its irregular shape is clearly apparent. The odd shape would seem to support a nondeliberate origin. If this was the only noteworthy characteristic on the piece, its root cause would seemingly defy explanation.

However, the dies have bold evidence of a strong clashing strike and subsequent polishing. The field next to the eagle’s shoulder has a fairly sizable depressed area with the outlines of Liberty’s lower hair. This itself is a little unusual as later Peace dollars typically have a bold spike from the back of Liberty’s neck in this area. Since the 1921 Peace dollars used a higher relief design, their clashmarks simply look different.

Portions of the reverse rays may also be seen on the obverse, protruding from the back edge of Liberty’s neck. These rays have been partially effaced by subsequent polishing.

Clashing occurs when the dies strike each other without a planchet between them. If the strike is hard enough, a portion of the opposing die’s design will be coined into its mate’s face. The clash itself doesn’t explain the “dot” that defines the VAM-1B die marriage, because there is no feature on the obverse that would correspond to this mark. The polishing job the Mint did to partially remove them might though. It’s easy enough to imagine an errant slip of the hand while trying to grind away at another part of the die face. While we can guess at a cause, we may never really know.

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