US Coins

Wrong planchet errors star in Heritage Platinum night

An undated Roosevelt dime struck on a 6-penny nail and Lincoln cents struck by the U.S. Mint on the wrong planchets during World War II are among the coins to be offered by Heritage Auctions during the firm's Jan. 6 to 11 sale.

The auction is being held in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists convention at the Tampa Convention Center.

Featured during its Jan. 7 Platinum Night session of numismatic rarities are a bronze 1943 Lincoln cent, graded Professional Coin Grading Service Secure About Uncirculated 58 and stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp.; a PCGS Secure AU-55 bronze 1943-S Lincoln cent; and a number of zinc-coated steel 1944 Lincoln cents, the finest example offered being graded PCGS Secure Mint State 64; and a PCGS MS-66 Secure 1944-S zinc-coated steel cent.

The Roosevelt dime struck on a nail is slated for sale during the 1 p.m. Jan. 6 session.

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Struck nail

The undated Roosevelt dime struck on a 6-penny zinc nail is graded and encapsulated MS-65 by PCGS. The auction lot description suggests, "This zinc-coated sixpenny nail found its way into the coinage production line during the minting of Roosevelt dimes, and apparently escaped through normal distribution channels."

Since there is no date area or hint of a Mint mark in the portions of the obverse and reverse of the Roosevelt dime present, it's difficult to determine if the nail was struck before the advent of clad coinage in 1965 or after that date, or at what Mint facility.

Whether shipped to the Federal Reserve Banks or contracted coin terminals for final counting and delivery to participating financial institutions, struck coins would still have had to pass through counting machinery, or likely caught in a coinage press. Depending on the time frame of the dime on nail production, it could have been struck on a press outfitted with two die pairs, four die pairs, or the current single die pair.

There are also likely other dimes that were distributed into the circulation pipeline struck from the dies that would have been damaged from having been impressed with portions of the nail.

Other denominations having been struck on or with feeder fingers, screws, springs, and other tooling that has become loose and dislodged from the coinage press. Lincoln cents are also known struck on nails.

While screws and bolts can be part of the coining presses and thus can become detached to fall between the dies, it might seem less likely that nails would be among a coinage press' components. However, an observation from a pioneer researcher in error coins, passed along to another pioneer in the field, might explain some such pieces.

Tom DeLorey, who wrote Coin World's Collectors' Clearinghouse column from 1976 to 1978, offered this observation in a Sept. 22, 2015, discussiion at the PCGS Collectors Forum about a cent struck on a dime. "FWIW, my mentor in errors, Ed Fleischmann of Coin World's Collectors Clearinghouse, told me a story about how, not long after the first cents on nails appeared among great skepticism, he happened to be on the floor of one of the Mints (probably Denver during an ANA Summer Seminar tour, but I can't swear to that) and saw a thin nail sitting on a coining press! He asked the press operator what it was for, and the press operator said that when the feed tube clogged he used the nail to clear the feed tube, which had a slot down the side for this very purpose! So, although a cent strike on a nail is very unlikely, there does exist the chance that at least one such strike was a legitimate random error."

Lincoln cent compositional errors

To conserve strategic metals for the war effort, specifically copper, in 1943 the cent's composition was changed from a bronze alloy of 95 percent copper, 3 percent zinc and 2 percent tin, to zinc-coated steel. The bronze alloy had been used for Lincoln cent planchets from the series' introduction in 1909, through 1942.

The zinc-coated steel composition was abandoned for Lincoln cents in 1944 and a brass composition of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc was used through 1946. Some zinc-coated steel cent planchets were used deliberately for production of 25 million Belgian 2-franc coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1944.

Bronze Lincoln cents are known to have been struck in 1943 at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and zinc-coated steel cents in 1944, also at the same facilities.

It is believed the bronze 1943 cents were struck at the three Mint production facilities on leftover planchets from 1942 that were trapped in hoppers, but became dislodged when the intended zinc-coated steel planchets were poured into the hopper for deposit into the feeding channels of the coinage presses.

The same or similar scenario is believed to be the cause of the 1944 Lincoln cents struck on zinc-coated steel planchets instead of the intended brass alloy. It is believed leftover zinc-coated steel cents were dislodged from planchet hoppers and mixed in with the brass alloy planchets for production, as were some zinc-coated steel planchets used at the Philadelphia Mint for the Belgian coins.

The brass composition was used through 1946 before reverting to a 95 percent and 5 percent tin and zinc alloy that continued in use until 1962 when tin was removed from the alloy.

The bronze 1943 cent being offered Jan. 7 was once part of the numismatic holdings of Bob Simpson, co-owner of the Texas Rangers major league baseball team. It is one of 10 to 12 examples reported known. The recently PCGS-certified 1943-S bronze cent is one of just six examples known. Only one 1943-D bronze cent is reported known.

According to the Heritage Auctions' lot description, the bronze 1943-S cent was acquired by the unidentified consignor from an unnamed auction "sometime during the 1980s."

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