US Coins

Weakly struck, and double struck: Yes, it happens

Weak strikes caused by excessive minimum die clearance (the most common proximate cause) vary in how far the dies sink into the planchet or coin. Sometimes only the areas of highest relief are touched by the dies. Since the design rim is usually the highest point on a normal coin, it may be the only area in which a second strike delivered by insufficiently approximated dies can be seen.

Two such rim-restricted second strikes have appeared in previous columns, a 2005 Lincoln cent (May 13, 2013) and a 1992-P Washington quarter dollar (Sept. 21, 2015). Since then, two more examples have come to my attention, courtesy of error dealer Fred Weinberg. They each present familiar diagnostic challenges.

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The first coin is a triple-struck 1990-D Lincoln cent. The first strike was normal while the second and third strikes were each delivered about 80 percent off-center and in tandem (a saddle strike). One off-center strike was firmly die-struck on the obverse while resting on an underlying coin (producing a brockage).

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The other off-center strike is die-struck on both faces and restricted to the design rim that was pushed up by the first strike. Minimum die clearance may actually have been the same in the adjacent striking chamber, with the extra coin taking up the excess space between the dies.

Had the rim-restricted off-center strike occurred in isolation, it might have been mistaken for a very different striking error, of the kind shown here. This 1934 cent was first struck 50 percent off-center. The strike wasn’t particularly strong, so expansion was slight. The second strike was a perfectly centered broadstrike that completely effaced the first-strike elements beneath it. All that is left of the first strike is an outlying half-ring of die-struck design.

Two details allowed me to reconstruct the strike sequence. During the second strike, slight contact between the planchet’s edge and the collar pushed some metal above the level of the off-center reverse elements — an impossibility if this strike had been delivered last. Additionally, since a broadstrike lacks a tall design rim, higher interior design elements would have been kissed by the dies had the off-center strike come later.

Our second rim-restricted second strike appears on 1995-P Washington quarter dollar. It takes the form of a thin crescent of die-struck lettering located between 10:30 and 12:00 on the obverse and between 6:00 and 7:30 on the reverse. The first strike was entirely normal, with full reeding. The second strike was slightly uncentered. Although it caused no expansion, it may nevertheless have occurred out-of-collar, since the secondary letters hug the coin’s edge.

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If this instead had been an uncentered broadstrike followed by a centered strike, then the coin would have been too wide to fit into the collar for the second strike. Consistent with this line of reasoning (but by no means conclusive) is the absence of any trace of interior doubling.

If the coin had been struck twice in-collar under normal pressure, then we might expect to see disturbed reeding or an abnormally wide edge (the latter a consequence of a tighter fit against the collar). Neither effect is seen.

Let’s now suppose that the first strike had been exceedingly weak and restricted to the planchet’s proto-rim. The coin could then have fit inside the collar for both strikes. Moreover, it would lack interior doubling and display normal reeding of uniform height.

This scenario fails on two counts. First, the extra letters were not bowed upward by a rising design rim. Second, the obverse and reverse letters are not flattened, as would be the case had they contacted the roof of their respective rim gutters.

I also ruled out a case of rim-restricted design duplication (a form of machine doubling) and a Type I stutter strike, because both are restricted to the face struck by the hammer die (among other reasons).

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