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A Small Study on the Cause of 1955-1964 Proof Hairlines

FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,483 ✭✭✭✭✭

At the request of a few board members here, I ran some experiments with some junk silver proofs from 1964 as well as a cent and nickel. I wanted to find out if the cellophane packaging used form midway 1955 to 1964 had any effect on the cause of hairlines. As all good science teachers want you to do, I first formed a hypothesis (My chemistry teacher would be glad to learn I took something from his class and applied it). For those of you wondering, these proofs were leftovers from sets that had contained 1964 Accented Hair halves. I've gotten quite lucky with how some of those halves have graded. This is long, but I recommend not skimming or you might miss the subtle nuances. Also, watch for the descriptions between photos!

My hypothesis was this: While the proofs are contained in their cellophane and sealed, the sliding of the coin in that plastic will not cause hairlines.

I then used a quarter cellophane sleeve cut from a 1964 proof set.

It was unfortunately not sealed on all sides, but it was the best I could do. I split it so I could cause some friction with my fingers.

I first started by imaging my first trial coin, this had been done earlier, so I have no before photos. I had used some heavy friction on this coin and tried to cause hairlines. I had graded the coin 67 with no hairlines earlier, the coin's obverse mirrors matched the reverse mirrors before the trail. The cello did nothing but impart a harsh haze to the coin. This would prove to be an outlier until the last trial.

I then used a different quarter and took before photos, I graded this coin 66 with slight hairlines on the obverse before the trial.

I then mistakenly applied pressure (note pressure, I did not use the natural sliding I would use later by mistake) to the coin, and it did yield some very faint hairlines, the coin was still a 66 in my eyes, but had some haze now:

I then applied heavy pressure to the obverse and the results were immediate, I got myself some heavy hairlines that dropped it to a 63, as well as some haze (no reverse, but it was unaffected, I seem to have neglected to take a picture):

Then I moved on to the nickel. This coin was nice with some minor haze before hand but had one main striation over the dome of Monticello and carrying through the building, you can see my thread on striations for more info about those. I graded it 66, sorry reverse is so blurry, bad day with multiple pictures not turning out and a missing photo :neutral: :

I applied a sliding technique that the coin would likely see if it slid around in the packaging (no pressure), and this trial would prove my hypothesis correct. No hairlines, still the same coin:

Heavy pressure, heavy hairlines (reverse this time), down to 64:

On to the cent, I graded it 66:

I applied the sliding technique with no pressure, and no hairlines:

Light pressure, light hairlines, since this coin was originally a borderline 66, these dropped it to a 65, also the fingerprints that are on the coin are my doing I was kinda careless with my rubbing in the cello and it was easy for it to come in contact with the coin:

Heavy pressure and a double result with the first quarter above: NO HAIRLINES! It imparted a harsh haze. Now I had really gotten into the pressure on this one, and really went for it. I did a harsh angle with my light to show the haze:

This haze may be related to the crazy toning seen on some nickels and cents of this era, but I doubt it. An example of this toning is one nickel I sent for grading after I cut it from a set. I do distinctly remember a harsh smell of what I would describe as "rotten crayons" coming from the package once it had been cut. I think this smell, and by relation chemical or material causing the smell, is the cause for toning on these crazy proofs:

RESULTS: All results are purely theory based on evidence above.

I conclude that my hypothesis was partly correct: hairlines cannot and will not be caused by natural sliding of the coin in cellophane. However, if pressure is applied to the coin while it slides - if someone presses and holds it to the package and forces the coin to slide, then light hairlines will be created. These will likely not affect grade. The heavy pressure that I applied will not be possible to achieve while the coins are sealed in all sides.

So I conclude that: the idea that hairlines are caused by a coin sliding naturally during movement in cellophane by the force of gravity, is for at least these proofs, a myth. I am also aware that the package changed slightly throughout the years 55-64, I do not have the resources to test all of these variations. Thank you for reading this and make of this data what you will. I encourage you to make your own conclusions, and share them below! Also, apologies for any missing info or typos, like the missing picture above. I kinda threw this together, but I tried my best to provide objective data with photos. Where there are discrepancies with the pictures, I did not either notice it or view it as any different form the time before I took the different photos, namely that it didn't matter.


  • shorecollshorecoll Posts: 5,445 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My theory was always that hairlines on proofs of this era was the heavy use of albums with acetate slides. Whitman, Dansco, etc. all had this issue and the bigger the coin, the more likely you were not to have the coin properly seated below the slide level.

  • ThreeCentSilverFLThreeCentSilverFL Posts: 1,655 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I’m not interested in the nickels. However, I hope you are gainfully employed. You have the yearning to figure things out. That is generally lacking today. Please Proceed!

  • FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,483 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ThreeCentSilverFL, Thank you! I just threw the statement about the toned nickels in there because I found it interesting that the cellophane seemed to relate to a haze. I just thought it was a connection I should mention, even if most won't find it interesting.

    @shorecoll , That is an excellent point and very much so true, especially as a lot of these get put into Capital holders. I wanted to do a study on just the cello along with that theory to see how it lined up as a lot of these proofs have hairlines right away as they are cut out. Thanks for the new theory!

  • 7Jaguars7Jaguars Posts: 7,080 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It seems that it is rather difficult to separate sliding from pressure in the real world and since both likely occur synchronously that is is hard to separate.

    Love that Milled British (1830-1960)
    Well, just Love coins, period.
  • CoinscratchCoinscratch Posts: 7,410 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for your experiment as this is something I have always and will now remain to believe is in fact PMD.
    And with your results I would have to conclude that hairlines are indeed caused by but not limited too the cellophane packaging.

    Although the hairlines were not present after a soft and limited shaking of the package but we’re in fact obvious after applied pressure and friction is simply an undeniable proof positive and case closed scenario.

    One must assume that over the course of 60 years that these packages were often stored and sometimes stacked together. A full but small box of mint packs will easily way over 10 pounds which would easily equate to the amount of thumb pressure that you applied.
    Not to mention packed in a U-Haul truck, attic, sometimes under other boxes and moved across State lines multiple times. The results of your applied pressure with a thumb would only be representative of three or four speed bumps while stored under two other boxes of weight.

    AnyWho how I find your science project interesting and slightly entertaining although your hypothesis I would conclude to be incorrect :)
    Therefore B-

  • rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for the details and pictures of an interesting experiment. Though I am not surprised at the results, it is informative to see it documented as you have done. Cheers, RickO

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