Ham-handed numerical updates often create collectible errors

Collectors' Clearinghouse: Yearly date changes on dies subject to human errors of many kinds
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 06/30/16
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Most countries change the dates on their coins every year. This update can be accomplished in several ways, depending on whether the date originates partly or wholly on the master hub, the master die, or the working die. The method most fraught with human error involves punching some or all of the digits into each working die by hand.

Die varieties arising from this method include (but are not limited to) malpositioned numerals, repunched numerals, overdates, and mismatched styles.

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Our first ham-handed numerical update is found on a 1964 Peru 5-centavo coin. The last digit is rotated in a counterclockwise direction and shifted northward. Online images of other 1964 5-centavo coins show the last digit malpositioned in slightly different ways, evidence that it was punched into each working die by hand.

Styles of digits differ

A 1949 Colombia 10-centavo piece features a final digit with different style. It is larger, thinner, and higher in relief than the adjacent numerals. Online images of other 1949 Colombia 10-centavo coins show the same stylistic discrepancy. The position of the last digit varies slightly between individual coins, again suggesting that the last digit was punched into each working die by hand.

Bungled dates go into overdrive on Colombian 1-centavo coins minted in the 1960s and early 1970s. In fact it’s hard to find a 1-centavo coin that doesn’t have a repunched date or an overdate. Similar die varieties are found on higher denominations with less frequency.

Any digit may show some effect, indicating that the entire date was punched into each working die by hand. Shown is a 1966 1-centavo coin with the last 6 wildly repunched. As is true of most repunched dates, the malpositioned numeral is much weaker, thinner, and lower in relief than its properly positioned counterparts, indicating that the initial impact of the letter punch was weak.

A 1974 Colombia 5-centavo coin shows the less common phenomenon of a repunched numeral in which both digits are equally strong. Both the 7 and the twin 4s are positioned slightly northward of the first two digits.

Expedience governs

Some mispunched dates are created out of expedience. A looming production deadline, a broken hubbing press, or a shortage of blank working dies invites shortcuts. One could potentially retrieve an old surplus die, grind out part or all of last year’s date and punch in the current date. Incomplete erasure of the old date will result in an overdate once the new date is punched in.

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