Wisconsin "extra leaf" quarters -- my analysis

Fred Weinberg was kind enough to send me two "high leaf", two "low leaf", and two normal Wisconsin quarters. Considering the amount of interest shown in these varieties on this message board, I thought I'd share my observations, analysis, and conclusions regarding them. I hope they prove helpful to some of you.

A number of working hypotheses have been advanced. The physical characteristics I observed make some more likely than others, in my view.

1. Die gouge (accidental or intentional)

The two ends of the "high leaf" terminate abruptly at the corn husk and the cheese wheel, respectively. The concave border shows some slight irregularity.
The left end of the "low leaf" terminates abruptly at the cheese wheel. The right end (at this point divided into two ridges) disappears "behind" the left ridge of the outer corn husk and re-appears in the gap between the outer husk and inner husk. There is a somewhat irregular contour to the concave border of the low leaf. The field below the low leaf is recessed or "dimpled" shortly before the low leaf reaches the outer corn husk.

I see nothing that would preclude these from being die gouges, albeit rather unusual ones. Many die gouges end right where they meet a design element. This reflects the fact that the field is more vulnerable to damage while the recessed design is somewhat protected. The area between the outer and inner husk is a low-relief area and is likewise vulnerable to damage. So it's no surprise that the two ridges comprising the low leaf at this point re-appear in this gap.

All indications are that the high leaf and the low leaf were created after hubbing was completed.

The dimpling of the field beneath the right half of the low leaf may indicate that the metal was pushed up in this area. This may constitute further indication of mechanical damage; a sharp point can remove metal but can also relocate or push aside metal.

Some might argue that a die gouge should show fine, microscopic tool marks along the top of the ridge. These don't. But, then again, I've NEVER seen microscopic tool marks in ANY of the die gouges I've inspected.

Some have suggested that if these are gouges, they were intentionally created by a technician inside the mint. Their unusually high relief, nominally leaf-like appearance, almost identical location, and conveniently camouflaged location next to normal foliage makes one stop and think. However, one cannot exclude accidental damage as the result of a recurrent equipment problem.

2. Intentional, authorized design modification to two master dies.

I see this as exceedingly unlikely. The "extra leaves" are crude and only vaguely leaf-like. Their irregular concave margins are something no competent engraver would produce. They would have had to have been manually placed on a master die after hubbing was completed. It is well-established that hand engraving of independent design elements was phased out early in the 19th century.

Furthermore, master dies are carefully inspected. I can't imagine that a master die (let alone two) with such sloppy work would have been used to produce working hubs that would have, in turn, produced working dies.

Some have claimed that three distinct master dies (high leaf, low leaf, normal) were used that show other design differences. I see no other design differences. Any perceived differences are evidently due to photographic lighting.

3. Accidental damage to two master dies, that were then each used to create at least one working hub, and then the latter used to create at least one working die. Considering the level of scrutiny that master dies are subjected to, this chain of mistakes seems very farfetched.

4. Damage to a master die that was then intentionally or accidentally used as working die.

This returns us to the die gouge scenario.

5. Raised defect on a master hub due to a slip of the reducing lathe.

This also is exceedingly unlikely. The tip of the engraving tool is extremely small. These defects are comparatively huge. It's hard to imagine that the reducing lathe would "skip" over an area of this size and shape, and on two separate occasions. It is moreover difficult to swallow the notion that these two flawed hubs would have escaped notice and each been used to create a master die, which in turn would have created at least one working hub, which would have created at least one working die.

6. Something was trapped between the working hub and the working die during the hubbing operation, leaving a curved recess in the die face.

This can be dismissed, at least for the "low leaf". If a hard object was trapped in this location, it would have interfered with the transfer of the impression of left ridge of the outer corn husk. However, the left ridge is completely unaffected.

Moreover, this requires a wild coincidence of a stray shard of metal winding up between two sets of working hubs/dies and in almost the same location. Debris falls in unpredictable locations. This unpredictability also means that a stray object would hardly respect the boundaries of the design.

7. Damage inflicted on the blank face of two working dies prior to hubbing. I view this as unlikely, since the deeply carved gouges largely respect the boundaries of the design. Any gouge created on the blank die face would be in an unpredictable position relative to the design that will be hubbed into it later. The gouges would be expected to persist, at least a little bit, even where you've got design. That's the case with concentric lathe marks, which are notably shallow and which are present on the blank die face prior to polishing. If the conical die face is not adequately polished, the lathe marks persist even after hubbing, in both the field and the design.

8. The die struck something hard, leaving a deep die dent.

This would require even more of a coincidence than two die gouges in the same spot. Mechanical damage can be repetitive, as in the case of die scrapes that frequently appear on the reverse of Lincoln cents and that are probably caused by the feeder finger scraping across the surface. In contrast, die dents caused by foreign objects are completely unpredictable in position. I also have never seen die dents this sharply defined and with such high relief. The dimple below the low leaf could, I suppose, be interpreted as a pressure ridge caused by an impact, but I've never seen pressure ridges develop in association with other obvious die dents and impact scars. I HAVE seen peripheral die damage that leaves incuse defects (or a mixture of raised and incuse defects). I don't know the exact cause of this damage, but it doesn't seem to be due to a simple impact.

CONCLUSION: I believe that the defects are probably die gouges. I am not sure if they're accidental or intentional. I cannot establish whether they appeared before or after installation.

-- Mike Diamond

Mike Diamond is an error coin writer and researcher. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those held by any organization I am a member of.

Comments

  • JRoccoJRocco Posts: 13,301 ✭✭✭
    Thank you for that incredible analysis. I am truly impressed. We all owe you a beer.image
    Some coins are just plain "Interesting"
  • numobrinumobri Posts: 1,502 ✭✭✭
    image
    NUMO
  • Wolf359Wolf359 Posts: 7,734 ✭✭✭
    One heck of a piece of work. A post to remember!
  • Great analysis!! image
  • I enjoyed your analysis very much. I hope it puts to rest the notion that these were design variations.
  • cladkingcladking Posts: 26,428 ✭✭✭
    Great analysis.

    It's interesting that both varieties are appearing in limited numbers and only
    at the same time. This would imply that both sets of dies were in the same
    press or at least were used in near proximity at the same time.

    It's not difficult to imagine a die setter or operator "engineering" these on a
    whim. There are many examples of mint play over the years.
    Tempus fugit.
  • errormavenerrormaven Posts: 1,160 ✭✭✭
    A bit of whimsy is always a possibility. It puts me in mind of a 1959 cent with a small raised letter "W" in the field on both faces directly opposite each other. Most likely it was caused by the dies striking a w-shaped piece of debris without any cushioning from a planchet. But you can't eliminate human tinkering as a cause.
    Mike Diamond is an error coin writer and researcher. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those held by any organization I am a member of.
  • Great analysis.
    As a machinist many years ago, I agree that these are gouges in the die. Agree also that they were in place at the same time due to their showing up together. The limited quantities shows it was caught relatively quickly.

    I do think they were intentional though. Engravers work with soft materials when producing their final product. Engraving a leaf or two on hard dies outside the lab and probably in a hurry would leave the quality of the work somewhat suspect. Even still, the leaves, especially the lower, are pretty well detailed leaving me to believe that it took more than one pass to gouge the detail. I think a scrap piece of metal, caught in it press, big enough to dent a hardened die that deep, would have damaged or cracked it.

    So it is my humble opinion that this was intentional. Not saying the coins were supposed to get out, but perhaps a test run while setting up, normal maintenance or repairing the press. Using dies that were used or that failed to pass initial inspection. I doubt they would use expensive new dies in a setup situation. Especially after a major repair.

    Joking around on the factory floor during testing of production is common.

    Think about it:
    The dies were defaced, and used as a test run. The press was mechanically working fine. New dies are installed. Again checked and found to be fine. The good coins cover the test ones in the bottom of the bin. Just that the test coins were not tossed. Instead of tossing the whole lot, they throw the switch and off they go. Maybe behind schedule and management pressure.

    I have been in that situation and it does happen.

    So who knows. It is fun to speculate.

    Enjoy the the coins.
  • Thanks for your observations and analysis, Mike. What's your opinion of the value of these in the future? Will they hold collectors interest further down the road?

    Rick
  • fcloudfcloud Posts: 11,936 ✭✭✭
    Mike,

    Wow, thanks for the information. You have shed more light on this subject than the two articles I read in publication.

    President, Racine Numismatic Society 2013-2014; Variety Resource Dimes; See 6/8/12 CDN for my article on Winged Liberty Dimes; Ebay

  • errormavenerrormaven Posts: 1,160 ✭✭✭


    << <i>Thanks for your observations and analysis, Mike. What's your opinion of the value of these in the future? Will they hold collectors interest further down the road?

    Rick >>



    I do think interest will remain strong. Even if they're accidental die gouges, their relief, clarity, and passing resemblance to leaves sets them apart from the vast majority of ordinary die gouges. There has been no slackening in interest directed at the much larger "wounded eagle" die gouge. That regularly brings in prices of $150 to $200 on eBay.
    Mike Diamond is an error coin writer and researcher. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those held by any organization I am a member of.
  • tmot99tmot99 Posts: 5,296
    Great analysis. But you think you could have put some thought into your post before hitting enter? image
  • It's sad that speculation need not occur if only the mint would both come clean and explain. But they don't, so urban legends are created and careers made.
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Apropos of the coin posse/aka caca: "The longer he spoke of his honor, the tighter I held to my purse."

    image
  • Very interesting analysis. Something to ponder.
  • Amazingly thorough analysis. It's incredible what some people know about such things. Very impressive. Thanks.
    JRH
  • Noticed this thread was buried and thought it was worth bumping TTT for those that missed it. Again, thanks Mike!

    Rick
  • gripgrip Posts: 8,394 ✭✭✭
    Excellent read.Thanks Mike.
    Al
  • ttt
  • Excellent analysis indeed. image

    There is one thing I am curious about the whole extra leaf thing. The ones that have been found have been from Arizona, right? How does something like this get limited to only a certain area? image
    - -

    Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies.
  • Smitty your question has been on my mind for days!!! And Mike, thanks for the great read, very informative image:
  • rlawsharlawsha Posts: 1,021 ✭✭✭
    Thanks for the information!
  • EagleEyeEagleEye Posts: 7,082 ✭✭✭
    Great analysis! All your points are right on! Now, the question I have is - what caused it? Both arcs are about the same curviture, in nearly the same area, and it seems the dies were made at the same time. Was something dropped on the die?

    Just saying "die gouge" is not enough.


    The Official Price Guide of Minting Varieties and Errors, by Alan Herbert lists this type of variety as an Extra Design Element (II-A-30), which he defines as “A design element which was cut, punched or hubbed into the die so that it is extra, or more than normally required to complete the design, showing as an extra design element on the struck coin”.

    I also (of course) argee that the collector interest will remain strong, especially because of the debate as to its cause! Collectors like a good mystery.
    Rick Snow, Eagle Eye Rare Coins, Inc.Check out my new web site:
  • mgoodm3mgoodm3 Posts: 17,740 ✭✭✭
    Very studious work.
    coinimaging.com/my photography articles Check out the new macro lens testing section
  • C.S.I.

    Coin Scene Investigation.

    There are three things involved with these coins that have to be taken together.
    1. Two different errors.
    2. All errors showing up in the same location at the same time.
    3. The limited amount of them.

    Obviously they were both produced at the same time. Packaged and shipped together to the same FRB and distributed mostly together to the Tucson area.

    As for the 2 different errors:

    It is my understanding there are multiple dies on these machines. After a break down there has to be a test run. I would bet they use old dies as not to damage good ones if the machine is not calibrated correctly. Each die is defaced a little differently (in this case with a sense of humor )so the out put coin can be traced to a particular die and adjusted if needed. A five to ten minute test run would put out quite a few thousand. The test run is complete, good dies are placed in the press. A short test of that and off they go. All this scenario needs to work is the forgetting to dump the test coins. Pressure from the upper management to get the press going is not unheard of.

    Just an opinion from an old machinist.


  • << <i>Great analysis! All your points are right on! Now, the question I have is - what caused it? Both arcs are about the same curviture, in nearly the same area, and it seems the dies were made at the same time. Was something dropped on the die?

    Just saying "die gouge" is not enough.


    The Official Price Guide of Minting Varieties and Errors, by Alan Herbert lists this type of variety as an Extra Design Element (II-A-30), which he defines as “A design element which was cut, punched or hubbed into the die so that it is extra, or more than normally required to complete the design, showing as an extra design element on the struck coin”.

    I also (of course) argee that the collector interest will remain strong, especially because of the debate as to its cause! Collectors like a good mystery.[/q

    But it's not a mystery because the mint knows the facts. If there is a mystery, it's why the mint will not say what they did and why.

    Collectors may not like it as much as pundits who get to write about it until the mint comes clean, thereby becoming experts. Changeisgood has made the most meaningful contribution IMO.
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Apropos of the coin posse/aka caca: "The longer he spoke of his honor, the tighter I held to my purse."

    image

  • You certainly put alot of thought into it image
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  • errormavenerrormaven Posts: 1,160 ✭✭✭
    I'm glad you found my analysis helpful, Rick.

    I'm afraid that speculation has taken us about as far as it can, based on the available evidence. While a determination of "die gouge" is far from precise, there is no evidence that would allow us to refine that diagnosis. It is better to be non-specific and right than to be too specific and wrong.

    I see nothing that would warrant classifying these die imperfections as "extra design elements". The "low leaf" has only a vague resemblance to a leaf while the "high leaf" does not resemble a leaf at all.



    << <i>Great analysis! All your points are right on! Now, the question I have is - what caused it? Both arcs are about the same curviture, in nearly the same area, and it seems the dies were made at the same time. Was something dropped on the die?

    Just saying "die gouge" is not enough.


    The Official Price Guide of Minting Varieties and Errors, by Alan Herbert lists this type of variety as an Extra Design Element (II-A-30), which he defines as “A design element which was cut, punched or hubbed into the die so that it is extra, or more than normally required to complete the design, showing as an extra design element on the struck coin”.

    I also (of course) argee that the collector interest will remain strong, especially because of the debate as to its cause! Collectors like a good mystery. >>

    Mike Diamond is an error coin writer and researcher. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those held by any organization I am a member of.
  • errormavenerrormaven Posts: 1,160 ✭✭✭


    << <i>But it's not a mystery because the mint knows the facts. If there is a mystery, it's why the mint will not say what they did and why.

    Collectors may not like it as much as pundits who get to write about it until the mint comes clean, thereby becoming experts. Changeisgood has made the most meaningful contribution IMO. >>



    Actually, I think you give the Mint too much credit. I doubt that they know the source of these "extra leaves". In a large factory with innumerable moving parts and endless opportunities for accidents, it's quite easy for a malfunction to occur that is untraceable.
    Mike Diamond is an error coin writer and researcher. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those held by any organization I am a member of.
  • EagleEyeEagleEye Posts: 7,082 ✭✭✭
    Dumbing the Mint down to factory status is fine for striking errors, but the dies are cared for like precious gems. They certianly don't want any injury to happen to them.

    Here's an idea: The coins were released shortly before the Mint stopped making Wisconsin Quarters altogether. Perhaps they noticed the problem on the dies and stopped production early. For an unexplained reason, none were made in December, and these were delivered in the November 29th shipment. Did someone get fired over this?

    In the February 14th Coin World: J.T. Stanton: "...were likely produced intentionally".
    Also in the same article, Q. David Bowers revised his earlier assesment: "A highly skilled person expertly added a botanically correct leaf (husk) in the correct position on the design. This may have been as a whimsy, just to see what happened."

    ...Stay tuned for another edition of "As the coin turns".
    Rick Snow, Eagle Eye Rare Coins, Inc.Check out my new web site:
  • Thanks for the analysis.

    I think it's fortunate accidental error for the mint and coin collecting. I'm sure many non-collectors who've heard about the error are double checking their pocket change now. It's the kind of thing that leads some into further research and an interest in collecting.

    -Bob
    collections: Maryland related coins & exonumia, 7070 Type set, and Video Arcade Tokens.
    The Low Budget Y2K Registry Set
  • Thank you errormaven for a sound analysis.

    When attempting to explain these quarters, too many have forgetten Occam's Razor.
    (Occam's Razor: the simplest explanation is the one most likely to be correct. "Plurality should not be posited without necessity.")
    Many of the theories presented require too many assumptions, coincidences, and series of less than likely events.

    And, I agree about the Mint.....I doubt they're being secretive on purpose etc.
    They most likely don't know the cause of these errors, or simply don't have the time/inclination/budget to investigate.

    image "A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes"--Hugh Downs
  • krankykranky Posts: 8,781 ✭✭✭


    << <i>Thank you errormaven for a sound analysis.

    When attempting to explain these quarters, too many have forgetten Occam's Razor.
    (Occam's Razor: the simplest explanation is the one most likely to be correct. "Plurality should not be posited without necessity.")
    Many of the theories presented require too many assumptions, coincidences, and series of less than likely events.

    And, I agree about the Mint.....I doubt they're being secretive on purpose etc.
    They most likely don't know the cause of these errors, or simply don't have the time/inclination/budget to investigate. >>



    Agree that the simplest explanation is usually correct. Disagree that the Mint is being forthright. They have a long-established history of saying nothing unless they are forced to or if it suits their own interests. My feeling is that they know, or could find out, what caused this.

    New collectors, please educate yourself before spending money on coins; there are people who believe that using numismatic knowledge to rip the naïve is what this hobby is all about.

  • Right, the mint knows, most agree on this, and because it is their long-standing m.o. to not say, clever people make a living off conjecture, secure in the knowledge that the truth, while known, will not be divulged.
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Apropos of the coin posse/aka caca: "The longer he spoke of his honor, the tighter I held to my purse."

    image
  • errormavenerrormaven Posts: 1,160 ✭✭✭


    << <i>
    In the February 14th Coin World Q. David Bowers revised his earlier assesment: "A highly skilled person expertly added a botanically correct leaf (husk) in the correct position on the design. This may have been as a whimsy, just to see what happened." >>



    "Highly skilled"? "Botanically correct"? I think not. If these are intentional modifications to the die face, then they were crudely executed. Both the "high leaf" and the "low leaf" feature an irregular concave border. The "high leaf" doesn't resemble a leaf at all. The "low leaf" does not resemble a corn husk and is only vaguely leaf-like . And I daresay that plants do not germinate in cheese, which is what the "high leaf" is growing out of.
    Mike Diamond is an error coin writer and researcher. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those held by any organization I am a member of.
  • Has anyone thought of perhaps making a FOIA request to the mint asking specific questions?

    Perhaps along the lines of requesting information about DIS and the events surrounding the minting of these quarters. (ie, what happened, how many, etc)

    The Die Information System (DIS) is a custom application written in Visual Basic with an Oracle database to track the manufacturing, shipping, utilization, and refurbishing of all dies produced by the U.S. Mint. It provides die accountability, die life statistics, coin press statistics, and die inventory data. DIS is installed on the Mint's network, and is used by multiple users at several Mint field sites. DIS is a standalone application.

  • thebigengthebigeng Posts: 4,769 ✭✭✭
    I agree that die gouges is not enough of an explaination. The Mint could tell us more I think.
    “Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~Wayne Dyer
  • dpooledpoole Posts: 4,185 ✭✭✭
    The intentionality of the die gouges may be impossible to determine unless the person responsible comes forward or (less likely) is indentified and outed by the Mint.

    Yet the placement and (crude) similarity to real leaves where leaves (or husks, if you will) could occur in the design, are fascinating and great fun in and of themselves.

    These aspects will remain points of genuine fascination, and will render these two issues of certain interest for us collectors for quite a while, IMO.



    "Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." -- Robert J. Hanlon



    A warning parable...



  • ttt
  • Great info Mike!
    Jason Craton --- WINS #5

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  • PhillyJoePhillyJoe Posts: 2,605 ✭✭✭
    Very interesting analysis. I'll have to side with the intentional group. Just my hunch. Can't imagine this is a mechanical error that looks like a leaf. I would think Q.C. would have picked it up. I'm sure they examine the coins throughout the minting life of the dies.

    Also agree that the official Mint response will be no response. Bet smoeone at the Denver Mint is a native of Wisconcin. JMHO.

    Does Denver make its own dies? Years ago, Philly made all the dies and shipped the "D" ones to Denver.
    image

    Joe
    The Philadelphia Mint: making coins since 1792. We make money by making money. Now in our 225th year thanks to no competition. image
  • Denver has made their own dies since 1997.
    slab collector and researcher
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  • BAJJERFANBAJJERFAN Posts: 27,676 ✭✭✭
    Well on the low leaf version it sure looks a lot like a leaf to me and that it was intentionally added too. If you look at one under a loupe the edges are nice and rounded just like the rest of the design. If it was a die gouge there would likely be some sharp or at least sharper edges on that little part of the design.
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