World Coins

Backroom minters continue to strike

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.

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