Always difficult, life in Egypt has only gotten harder since the Arab
Spring uprising of 2011. Government brutality, corruption, and
disorganization have combined with economic desperation to create
ideal conditions for the production of intentional errors by mint
employees, as well as the smuggling out of spontaneous errors. A large
number of these errors have appeared over the last few years
(Collectors’ Clearinghouse, May 12 and June 30, 2014).
It seems that these “midnight minters” lack full access to mint
equipment. The right dies, planchets, and collars are not always
available, so the backroom production crew makes do with substitute
components, fabricates necessary components on site, or modifies the
finished coins themselves to make them look more presentable.
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For coins that normally have a reeded edge, the appropriate collar
is sometimes unavailable. Sometimes the coins are struck in smooth
collars and sent out without further modification. Sometimes vertical
ridges are cut into the working face of the collar in order to
simulate genuine reeding. In still other cases, the reeding is applied
to the coin after the strike. This ersatz reeding is invariably crude,
with the spacing between ridges often irregular.
Our first example of ersatz reeding is seen on the edge of a
“two-headed” Egyptian ringed-bimetallic 1-pound coin with a design
that was produced from 2005 to 2011. Both the ring and the core are
composed of plated steel, a composition introduced in 2007. This
double-obverse mule was struck by authentic dies that had been
subjected to intentional abrasion, leaving some peripheral lotus
blossoms abbreviated. For this reason, I suspect that these dies were
retired from service before being snatched up some time later by the
crew responsible for striking this mule.
The coin was apparently struck in a smooth collar since the reeding
was applied to the coin after the strike. It’s not clear if the
reeding was applied with an automated engraving device, a hand-held
engraving tool, or if it was laboriously incised by hand. The reeding
is shallower than normal, has a rough appearance, and shows uneven
spacing. The contrast with normal 1-pound reeding is obvious (see photo).
Our next example of ersatz reeding is found on a ringed-bimetallic
1-pound coin planchet struck by a pair of flat featureless dies. The
reeding is shallow and unevenly spaced. Unlike the previous coin, each
groove is flanked by burrs and terminates in a burr at one end. This
is an unmistakable sign of post-strike application.
Our final example comes courtesy of Jeff Ylitalo. It’s a steel ring
for a 1-pound coin with an Arabic date of 2005. In that year, normal
1-pound coins were struck with copper-nickel rings, making this a
transitional planchet error. The reeding is once again rough, with
narrow ridges and abnormally wide spacing. In this case, I can’t tell
if the reeding was cut into the edge or whether the coin was struck in
an originally smooth collar that had false reeding crudely incised
into its working face.
In either case, it would seem that the clandestine coiners
responsible for this transitional ring pulled an old 2005 die out of
storage and struck a steel ring appropriate for years 2007 to 2011.