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October 10th Type Two Proof 1942 Nickels - A Die Discovery and History

FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,844 ✭✭✭✭✭

I made this pretty cool (to me) discovery in a bit of research I was doing on the 1942 and 1942-P proof nickels. Using CoinFacts and Roger Burdette's die tables and book United States Proof Coins 1936-1942 for these two coins, I noticed a die variety that Roger pointed out carries on into the later half of 1942 proof nickel production and is used for CU-AG-MN coins.

A bit of background - 1942-P copper-silver manganese nickels were a major burden for the medal department. Only 47.6 percent of the coins struck by the dies ever made it past quality control. This is a major reduction from the 88% the CU-NI nickels had earlier in the year.The alloy of CU-NI-MN was brittle and prone to cracking. The high pressure strike of the medal press likely caused the alloy to crack more and caused more failed coins. Half the success usually meant extra dies. Dies were expensive, so if there were dies to be used, the mint would use them. The mint did just that in 1942 - it used Type One obverse dies to strike Type Two coins.

I started with what I knew. There was a proof Type One nickel obverse die with a die chip that was easily visible, circled here:

A Type Two example has the same die chip here:

I wanted to figure out what day the coins with the chip were struck on. I had little to go off of but this:

In October, the mint began striking the Type 2 nickels in proof. They used three old obverse dies from the Type One proofs, die numbers 122, 124, and 456. I'll break down what number of coins each die struck:

122- 6,385 CU-NI, 1,500 CU-AG-MN (First Used Oct 10 for silver alloy coins)
124- 5,190 CU-NI, 1,000 CU-AG-MN (First Used Oct 20 for silver alloy coins)
456- 3,300 CU-NI, 3,900 CU-AG-MN (First Used Oct 23 for silver alloy coins)

One of these dies had to be the one with the die chip. I compared how many coins of of each type one and type two proofs had the die crack. I came up with about 9 percent Type Two coins and roughly 28% Type One coins. By doing some math with the amount of coins struck with obverse dies and the percent we get:

T1 with chip - .28 * 25,895 total coins struck by an obverse die = 7250 coins with chip struck
T2 with chip - .093 * 19,550 total coins struck by an obverse die = 1818 coins with chip struck

Well, we now know a ballpark estimate of what we should be looking for. From this, we can rule out Die Number 456 as it doesn't even get close to out estimate. The other two dies are too close to call.

Now we get to the real detective work. Dies 122 and 124 are nearly identical. I believe I found examples of both dies in the Type One format, and the only difference is the die chip. They both seem to pop up at about the same rate and look very similar.

Here is where I'll throw in the comparison of Dies #122 and #124 (In my experience and opinion on #124 based on what I've seen - I could almost prove it but don't feel the need.) I will prove die #122 has the chip later on.

Die #122 (Obverse)

Die #124 (Obverse)

I couldn't match anything based on reverse die usage. Both obverse dies were paired with the same reverse dies (one exception, but I had no luck finding a coin from that exception) for the Type One format. I had to turn to the dies in the Type Two format. I knew that they were paired with the new reverse dies 387 and 388, respectively.

The 122/387 combo would prove to be the saving grace needed to identify the striking date. Both dies were condemned after one day of usage, so those two reverse dies are the only two that need to be focused on. Die 387 is noted later as condemned for being "Worn out", while die number 388 (paired with obverse 124) is condemned as "Cracked".

We immediately notice some lettering weakness on the die chip 1942 Type Two Proofs, shown here - this is suggestive of reverse die #387 and it will prove to be reverse die #387:

It's not bad, but remember - this die is brand new. Any weakness of this caliber on a brand new die is to be noted. We also know that at the time die #387 was condemned, it was paired with an obverse die that was also condemned for "Worn Out - Pig Tail." This "Pig Tail" refers to Jefferson's queue. The obverse it was paired with was used solely on CU-AG-MN coins for those wondering. I was able to find an example of that pairing (457 obverse/387 reverse pre condemnation):

You'll immediately notice the weakness is in the same areas circled above, but worse after multiple repolishes. We know definitively that the reverse die that the die chipped die (obverse) was paired with is number 387. That die is #122. Mystery solved!

To offer further proof, we know that reverse die #387 struck 5,300 coins (most of any reverse die for T2). By doing some math, I concluded that roughly 35% of the CoinFacts coins were struck by die #387. This comes out to roughly 7,000 or so coins, which corroborates what I was saying (known populations won't exactly mirror what the data should say, but it should still fit).

Secondly, if you think or scroll back to the picture I posted of die #124, you'll probably notice the similarities here to it, paired with a reverse die for a T2 nickel without any letter weakness:

I do believe the die was repolished before use as a T2 obverse, which accounts for slight detail change. However, we know that die #388 was condemned for cracking rather than weak lettering, so the sight of a coin with a strong reverse is further support. You can also see what appears to be a die chip in the upper left obverse field, as well as some seemingly minor micro-cracks in the upper reverse field. This would indicate the reason reverse die #388 was condemned - cracking.

With this information, if you have a die chipped 1942 Proof Type Two Nickel, you know it was struck on October 10th, 1942.

Yes, I did all of this for one date. :smile:

Young Numismatist, Coin Photographer.

Comments

  • dunkleosteus430dunkleosteus430 Posts: 471 ✭✭✭✭

    Wow! I just found out about the different 1938 proof Jefferson re-engraved design thingamabobs, and you just... well... did that. Keep it up!

    Young Numismatist

  • FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,844 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @dunkleosteus430 said:
    Wow! I just found out about the different 1938 proof Jefferson re-engraved design thingamabobs, and you just... well... did that. Keep it up!

    Thank you for the compliment! I think you know you're a specialist in a series when you start discovering things that have never been known before. Most of the time you're the only one who cares though :lol::sunglasses:.

    Young Numismatist, Coin Photographer.

  • NeophyteNumismatistNeophyteNumismatist Posts: 870 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Excellent work @FlyingAl. I really like your approach to numismatics in general!

    I am a newer collector (started April 2020), and I primarily focus on U.S. Half Cents and Type Coins. Early copper is my favorite.

  • GoldenEggGoldenEgg Posts: 1,922 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Is that considered a die chip? It looks more like a die dent or other anomaly.

  • rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @FlyingAl... Amazing research. You have presented the information extremely well, and that makes it easy to follow through to the conclusion. Cheers, RickO

  • MaywoodMaywood Posts: 1,884 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Good research, SmartyPants!! I have a question for you: What day was the below pictured coin struck?? :p

  • FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,844 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Maywood said:
    Good research, SmartyPants!! I have a question for you: What day was the below pictured coin struck?? :p

    Good question! I can’t tell from the pictures. I would need closeups of the obverse and reverse. At a minimum, I’d need to know if it was the Rev of 38 or 40.

    Young Numismatist, Coin Photographer.

  • MaywoodMaywood Posts: 1,884 ✭✭✭✭✭

    R.40.

  • FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,844 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Maywood said:
    R.40.

    Thanks. That’ll make it more difficult. I’ll try and get back to you later today.

    Young Numismatist, Coin Photographer.

  • FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,844 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Maywood:

    Your coin was struck September 11th, 1940. There were three new obverse dies that were paired with new reverse dies (requirement for a CAM coin for the era) for the year with the Rev. of 40, at least two produced cameo coins. Your coin was struck from the die that did not have major recutting of the queue.

    Your coin:

    I wish to point out two areas of die markers here:

    Here is a different coin from the same die pair (note the same markers) that was used for quite some time. It was then put back into service with the same obverse reverse die combo:

    Die combo 73/45 was first used Sep. 11th, and it was the only die that was used in combo with a same obverse to gain noticeable die wear. Combo 72/42 (second new die pair) only struck 300 coins, and was never paired together again. Combo 436/46 (third new die pair) struck 320 coins and was never paired together again.

    However, the Sep. 11th die pair (73/45) was used for 950 coins together. These dates were Sep. 11th (350 coins), Nov. 16th (500 coins), and Dec. 3rd (100 coins). During that time (Oct 24), only the obverse was paired with a different reverse die (#44) for 840 coins which explains why the obverse shows more die wear than the reverse.

    I do not believe that 300 coins would show the wear we see on the obverse die. The die pair had to be the same over a period of time long enough to show visible die fatigue, and I believe upwards of 1190 coins would cause that. The September 11th die pair is the only logical explanation in my eyes.

    Young Numismatist, Coin Photographer.

  • MaywoodMaywood Posts: 1,884 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2, 2022 4:20PM

    Good research. I would have thought that dies would strike more coins but there are a number of variables which can influence die life. I wonder if that die pair, 73/45, was left in the same press for those three striking dates??

    I have another question: Does all this interfere with school work?? :p

  • yspsalesyspsales Posts: 2,187 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Amazing work!

    BST: KindaNewish (3/21/21), WQuarterFreddie (3/30/21), Meltdown (4/6/21), DBSTrader2 (5/5/21) AKA- unclemonkey on Blow Out

  • FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,844 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Maywood said:
    Good research. I would have thought that dies would strike more coins but there are a number of variables which can influence die life. I wonder if that die pair, 73/45, was left in the same press for those three striking dates??

    I have another question: Does all this interfere with school work?? :p

    No, there was a separate die pair used in-between those dates, which would have required their removal. I also believe it was mint policy to remove and store dies from the press after each day, but that's all memory and I can't remember where I read it or heard it.

    It doesn't interfere with school much. I am usually pretty good at managing time in school and getting stuff done when I have free time instead of screwing around. I also don't play a ton of video games, which opens up quite a bit of time when compared to the average teenager.

    Young Numismatist, Coin Photographer.

  • KliaoKliao Posts: 5,450 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Awesome work. Wow!

    @FlyingAl said:
    I also don't play a ton of video games, which opens up quite a bit of time when compared to the average teenager.

    Sounds just like me :) . Didn't think I'd find another teenager that doesn't play much video games. :p

    Young Numismatist/collector
    75 Positive BST transactions buying and selling with 45 members and counting!
    instagram.com/klnumismatics

  • FlyingAlFlyingAl Posts: 2,844 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Kliao said:
    Awesome work. Wow!

    @FlyingAl said:
    I also don't play a ton of video games, which opens up quite a bit of time when compared to the average teenager.

    Sounds just like me :) . Didn't think I'd find another teenager that doesn't play much video games. :p

    I was playing Super Smash Bros with some friends a few days ago - needless to say, I sucked. :lol:

    The forums fill that hole for me. We are all coin nerds here! :smile:

    Young Numismatist, Coin Photographer.

  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,529 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It is perfectly logical that any 1942 obverses with life left in them would be used when a new reverse design (i.e., with mint mark) was introduced.

    There was one Proof reverse die for Seated Liberty Quarters, With Motto, that was used for 6 or 7 years in the 1870's. Has a small die chip in the upper left corner of the reverse shield.

    Numismatist. 50 year member ANA. Winner of four ANA Heath Literary Awards; three Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Awards; Numismatist of the Year Award 2009, and Lifetime Achievement Award 2020. Winner numerous NLG Literary Awards.

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