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How to differentiate die imperfections from damage during circulation?

PriceknightPriceknight Posts: 7
edited February 13, 2024 12:47PM in U.S. Coin Forum

How does one tell the difference? Basic noobie question, sorry.

Here is the coin that got me wondering. All the odd parts on the back are voids, not raised. The scratch on the front is just a scratch.


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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,788 ✭✭✭✭✭

    A thorough understanding of the minting process will educate you about what could, or could not, occur at the mint.

    For example, cut on the obverse below LIBERTY shows moved metal. Therefore, it's damage, not a mint error.

    Also, once circulated/worn enough, some anomalies would be impossible to attribute.

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    GreenstangGreenstang Posts: 813 ✭✭✭✭

    Remember, it is only an error if it happens during the actual striking of the coin.
    Anything that happens to a coin after that is considered damage so things like
    scratches, gouges, dings, distorted letters, discolouration etc. are all damage.
    As JBK stated, learn the process of minting and study on what an actual, error is.
    This will save you much time and eventually you will be able to tell in seconds
    if it is damage or an error.
    error-ref.com is a good starting point for errors.

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    SapyxSapyx Posts: 2,010 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Some general rules of thumb:

    When we're talking "die imperfections", we're normally talking about chips, dints and similar damage to the die - which would create a hole or void on the die, which would in turn create a raised blob of metal on any coin struck by that die. There's not really much you can do to a die that would add lumps to the die, which would in turn create voids on the coins. So general rule: lumps on coin = maybe (but not always) die damage; holes on coin = not die damage. There are "mint errors" that can cause voids in a coin, such as strikethroughs and laminations, but they tend to have a distinctive appearance.

    Dies are mirror-incuse versions of a coin's design. That means the high points on a coin are the low points on a die. Which in turn means that if something damages a die - say, a die-clash event - it's the high points of the die and therefore the low points of a coin that take the damage. So things like die clashes and die polishing lines appear in the fields immediately surrounding the devices, rather than on top of the devices.

    Look at the coin holistically. Is the coin heavily worn, and shows clear evidence of harsh treatment (rim dings, scuffed high points, etc) during that circulation? Occam's Razor suggests that all such damage on a coin most likely has a single root cause, rather than postulating multiple different causes for different spots of damage. So, something that looks like a die chip on a coin that's full of circulation damage is probably not a die chip, but rather just more circulation damage. It's much easier to find proof of die varieties and die damage on an uncirculated coin that shows no evidence of rough treatment.

    Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.
    Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations"

    Apparently I have been awarded one DPOTD. B)
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    Thank you Sapyx! Your advise is very much appreciated!

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    johnny9434johnny9434 Posts: 27,521 ✭✭✭✭✭

    From mine to mint from r Burdette is a decent read 👍

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