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Numbers in denticles - I find them very interesting but was wondering how or why they occurred

tydyetydye Posts: 3,976 ✭✭✭
Anyone know why? Repunched dates makes sense. But how did so many numbers get positioned in the denticles?


  • blu62vetteblu62vette Posts: 11,847 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Isnt that when they are testing the die? Or annealing it? I am not very good on my die terminology.
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  • blu62vetteblu62vette Posts: 11,847 ✭✭✭✭✭
    http://www.bluccphotos.com" target="new">BluCC Photos Shows for onsite imaging: Nov Baltimore, FUN, Long Beach http://www.facebook.com/bluccphotos" target="new">BluCC on Facebook
  • Lotsa image ooops I meant to put it up there..
  • tydyetydye Posts: 3,976 ✭✭✭
    Wow! That is a killer shot
  • howardshowards Posts: 1,239 ✭✭✭
    Nobody knows for sure except the guys who entered the dates, and no one has talked with them in quite a while.

    The leading theory is that before entering a date, the mint employee wanted to test how hard the metal of the die was in order to know how hard to hit the hammer. So he made a light test impression somewhere where he thought it would show up much in the final product. I've also heard a theory that says these MPDs resulted when mint employees dropped the date punch accidentally onto the die. That latter theory doesn't do much for me, as I'd expect the extra dates to be randomly distributed over the coin while they appear in the same places in practice.

    One last theory is that mint employees had some kind of jig in which the die was mounted to correctly align the date punch, and the MPD is the result of a light test punch to check the alignment of the jig.

    I'd be interested to hear of any further theories.
  • giorgio11giorgio11 Posts: 3,676 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Actually the odds of dropping the date punch are a lot greater when in the vicinity of the intended area for the date, so I don't think the MPDs would be distributed randomly over the coin in that scenario. I don't know that that is the explanation, though, I'm just sayin' ...

    It seems to me that these are mostly confined to Seated coinage, neh? If they were just dropped date punches, why wouldn't more of them show up on the earlier Capped Bust halves, for example, when they were still using single-digit punches instead of 3- or 4-digit date logotypes?
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  • messydeskmessydesk Posts: 18,644 ✭✭✭✭✭

    << <i>Anyone know why? Repunched dates makes sense. But how did so many numbers get positioned in the denticles? >>

    The commonly accepted answer is that it was to test die hardness. Maybe it was the die sinker's equivalent of a practice swing.
  • roadrunnerroadrunner Posts: 28,239 ✭✭✭✭✭
    At least in the halves the first errant dates start showing up in 1857 where both P and O mints exhibited varieties with the digits up in the rock area. Then in 1858 at all 3 mints it seems they went punch drunk miss-hitting at the rock and denticles. Things slowed down a bit in 1859. By 1860 this doesn't show up with that type of frequency again. Almost seems like it was a fad or a bad case of Wisconsin mad leaf disease.

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  • sinin1sinin1 Posts: 7,620
    take a small punch, hold it in your hand on a piece of metal

    take a big hammer and swing very hard at the small punch

    see what happens

    occasionally the punch and hammer will bounce

    when it does, it usually goes toward the guy holding the punch
    as the tendency is to remove hand as quick as possible
    especially if you are going to miss or do miss the punch

    do not try this at home unless you have good insurance and some time to kill
    as hammered hands do not do well with bug hammer
  • I've never actually heard any of these theories, but I'm sure Howard is correct, and I'm sure
    that there is more than one reason for a misplaced date occuring.
    Some repunched dates are punched so strongly, that it makes me wonder about the
    'practice swing' theory and the 'test the die hardness' theory. If either of these theories
    was 100% correct, then we'd have lots of misplaced legends too, since on early coinage,
    every single letter and number was punched in by hand. Or was the date always the first
    thing to be punched in?
    I've read that the misplaced dates were caused by the mint employee simply placing the
    date punch in the wrong place. This is very easy to do when you consider the small size
    of the die, the small size of the date punch, and the even smaller size of the area where
    the date is being punched. And then there is the slippage factor. A hard piece of metal
    wants to slide across the surface of another hard piece of metal alot easier than it wants
    to sink into it.
  • MrHalfDimeMrHalfDime Posts: 3,440 ✭✭✭✭
    In 1997, numismatic researcher and author Kevin Flynn published a book entitled "Two Dates are Better Than One: A Collectors Guide to Misplaced Dates". The book was a compilation of input from many researchers, by denomination, and presented in one reference most, if not all, of the known misplaced date examples in United States coins. I contributed the chapter on half dimes, of which there are very few examples.

    On page 21 of this reference begins a chapter on "Theories on the Causes of Misplaced Dates; Previously Unpublished Articles", in which notables such as John McCloskey, Del Romines, Chris Pilliod, and Craig Sholley present their own theories. Editor Flynn also offers his own opinions on the date alignment jig, hardness test, dropped punch, and die sinker inexperience theories. While no definitive and positive conclusions can be drawn from this text, it does perhaps present the largest single source discussion of this phenomenon. Anyone interested in this phenomenon would be well served to locate and read a copy of this text.
    They that can give up essential Liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither Liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin
  • RWBRWB Posts: 8,153
    Speculations (often presented as fact) are interesting, but ignore many other things.

    1. There is no logical reason for an engraving dept employee to test hardness of a die by whacking the face of the die with a punch. The side would do just as well.
    2. Entire dates were not punched into dies during the latter part of the 19th century. Thus, why would a worker have a “1” punch anywhere near a die? (See #3)
    3. Working dies were routinely repaired. This included rebasining, removal of imperfections, Repunching of weak digits, stars, etc.
    4. We know very little about these repair processes.
    5. We know that alignment jigs of some sort had to be used to ensure accurate placement of small features such as stars, mintmarks, etc. on master dies and working dies.

    Maybe someone will discover written materials explaining how they repaired and “dressed” coinage dies in the 19th century. Is there anything at the Royal Mint?
  • Flynn also publishes his theories on MPDs in his book "The Authoritative Reference on Barber Dimes."
  • messydeskmessydesk Posts: 18,644 ✭✭✭✭✭

    << <i>Speculations (often presented as fact) are interesting, but ignore many other things.

    2. Entire dates were not punched into dies during the latter part of the 19th century. Thus, why would a worker have a “1” punch anywhere near a die? (See #3) >>

    Morgan dollar dies show this not to be the case. There are several MPDs that show multiple digits spaced in the same manner as the date. There are also repunched dates that show a rotation of a 4-digit date punch. Finally, spacing between digits of any given date is constant even though (for 1884-1904) the date position varies.

    Ron Landis also wrote a piece several years ago on MPDs and his theories in one of the Gallery Mint Museum newsletters. I'll have to try and dig it up. He's not going to be any more or less correct than anyone else, though.
  • notwilightnotwilight Posts: 12,885 ✭✭✭
    Another possibility is the hammer bounced after the strike and before it hit the second time the punch shifted from the first impact--would be kindof a beginner mistake but could happen. --Jerry
  • There was an article in the Gobrecht Journal years ago concerning this.
    I'm at work and my books are home so I can't report the Issue number that it was in.
    The author of the article speculated that this was the result of using a jig to hold the obverse die while stamping the date numerals into it.
    He constructed a jig and had it pictured in the article to demonstrate how it may have happened.
    The Jig had a v configuration to hold the die, and had a removable plate in which slots were cut to put the numeral stamps in.
    The plate was made so 4 different die denominations could be dated, by way of rotating the plate.
    The problem came, he theorized, when the plate was in rotation for a different denomination than the one he had in the fixture, and was dated.
    I own a machine shop, and I agree with him that this is the most likely cause.

  • notwilightnotwilight Posts: 12,885 ✭✭✭
    Makes sense. If this theory is right then numbers in denticles should never occur on the largest size coin in a set. --Jerry
  • RWBRWB Posts: 8,153
    "(See #3)"

    At present we don't know how/why these occurred. The explanation is probably relatively simple, because there are many misplaced numerals spread across most denominations.
  • Jerry,
    The numbers don't occur just in the denticles, but also in the rock base that Liberty is seated upon, in the shield, in the drapery, and on an Indian Head Cent, in the throat area.
    Generally though, the mpd is above or below where it should be, and is offset either to the right or left.
    I discovered an 1857 Half Dime with the top of an 8 in the rock base that is in Kevin Flynns' book.
    Pictures of it are in an old issue of the Gobrecht Journal.

  • BroadstruckBroadstruck Posts: 30,162 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Breen 6571 1847 Blundered Date, extra 7 in border below space between 47.

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  • mrdqmrdq Posts: 1,576 ✭✭✭
    These are my favorite posts, Thanks for contributing guys.

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  • Raybob15239Raybob15239 Posts: 1,353 ✭✭✭
    I recently found an unlisted MPD on a Morgan (its on its way to Leroy Van Allen at this time).

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  • rickoricko Posts: 91,648 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I really enjoy these threads... I learn a lot this way. Thanks to all.. Cheers, RickO
  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 30,156 ✭✭✭✭✭
    If you are referring to the small "corner" on the upper left side of the first 8, I believe that is merely a flaw on the date punch that appears on many different dies of this year.
    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.
  • tydyetydye Posts: 3,976 ✭✭✭
    Thanks for the info everyone. Looks like I need to track down a few more books. I have quite few Indian Head cents with numbers in the denticles
  • howardshowards Posts: 1,239 ✭✭✭
    Here's the shield nickel MPD that's farthest off-placed. Photo by JT Stanton.

  • TrimeTrime Posts: 1,887 ✭✭✭
    "Pictures of it are in an old issue of the Gobrecht Journal."
    What is the reference (i.e. which volume and page?).
    Do I understand the mpd should be on an arc?
  • The article on the Half Dime was in Issue #65 of the Gobrecht Journal, published in March 1996.
    It is also on page 240 of Collective Volume #5.


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