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UPDATE 10/26/2019: Variety of the Week: 1938-S Modified Steps (Hobo Nickel Crew Chimes In!)

BigDowgieBigDowgie Posts: 1,749 ✭✭✭✭
edited October 26, 2019 5:31PM in U.S. Coin Forum

Jefferson Nickel Variety of the Week: 1938-S....What is going on here?

Sorry about not crafting these fun and exciting posts in a while.....I forgot my log-in information!

A friend of mine located this 1938-S in a nice Danso Set. The only thing I can say about it is WOW! Obviously the steps are unlike any Reverse 38 steps I've ever seen. The line details are so incredibly perfect that I cannot envision someone engraving with such precision. The lines perfectly fade into the middle area very naturally. I see no evidence of any stray engraving marks. Also, the surface patina of the steps match the rest of the coin.

These are crazy looking steps, can they be legit? I'm awaiting reply from James Wiles, but in the meantime, what do you think?



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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    At first glance it appears to be a slight doubled die.

    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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    BigDowgieBigDowgie Posts: 1,749 ✭✭✭✭

    Hey Cap.......focus on the steps!

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    davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭

    reverse of 40 experiment

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    WoodenJeffersonWoodenJefferson Posts: 6,491 ✭✭✭✭

    I'm thinking ejection doubling.

    Chat Board Lingo

    "Keep your malarkey filter in good operating order" -Walter Breen
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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @BigDowgie said:
    Hey Cap.......focus on the steps!

    I did. My first impression was that a minor die doubling could cause that effect on the steps. This is just a first impression, and I would love to be proved wrong by somebody that can show that this is some sort of pattern or trial step design. Has anybody found a duplicate yet?

    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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    cmerlo1cmerlo1 Posts: 7,891 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 15, 2017 12:26PM

    Type of 1938 over type of 1940 or vice-versa?

    You Suck! Awarded 6/2008- 1901-O Micro O Morgan, 8/2008- 1878 VAM-123 Morgan, 9/2022 1888-O VAM-1B3 H8 Morgan | Senior Regional Representative- ANACS Coin Grading. Posted opinions on coins are my own, and are not an official ANACS opinion.
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    mingotmingot Posts: 1,805 ✭✭✭

    That is very strange.

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 16, 2017 7:28AM

    OK, a few updates.
    1. I withdraw my first suggestion that this might be some sort of minor doubled die. The more I study the picture, the more I think that is not the case.
    2. Just got off the phone with Jefferson nickel maven Bern Nagengast. Sent him a link to the pictures, and he confirms that he has never seen this before, despite looking at the steps on a LOT of nickels including original BU rolls of 1938-S's. I suggested that he register with the forum and join the discussion. He should be here shortly.
    3. We discussed the POSSIBILITY that this is/was a pattern die created after the original 1938 reverse proved to be such a problem striking up, and that it was tested and found to not be an improvement, and that the Mint then went on to create the well-known Reverse of 1940. We agreed that this is wonderful speculation, but that we have no idea if it is correct or not.
    4. I suggested that once the pattern die was found to be wanting that it was shipped to San Francisco for business strike use rather than waste it. Again we agreed that this was plausible speculation but that there is no evidence that this happened.
    TD

    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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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 15, 2017 1:14PM

    Don't know why the font is off in previous post. How can I edit the font?

    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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    Aspie_RoccoAspie_Rocco Posts: 3,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I did not realize Bern is still alive! I have his autographed book, I'm a big fan of his, but somehow got the wrong impression.
    Mr. Nagengast,
    If you see this post, YOU ARE AWESOME!!! and one of my coin HEROS!!!

    Rocco

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    seanqseanq Posts: 8,575 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Is it possible someone tried to re-engrave the steps on this coin? The way the top one passes through an area that was otherwise very weakly struck makes me think it could have been debossed after the fact.

    Sean Reynolds

    Incomplete planchets wanted, especially Lincoln Cents & type coins.

    "Keep in mind that most of what passes as numismatic information is no more than tested opinion at best, and marketing blather at worst. However, I try to choose my words carefully, since I know that you guys are always watching." - Joe O'Connor
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    davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @seanq said:
    Is it possible someone tried to re-engrave the steps on this coin? The way the top one passes through an area that was otherwise very weakly struck makes me think it could have been debossed after the fact.

    Sean Reynolds

    I am also wondering about PMD - coinfacts pics

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    keetskeets Posts: 25,351 ✭✭✭✭✭

    well, this should be a good thread and ensure that EVERYONE pulls out any 1938-S Jefferson Nickels they have for a closer look. my first impression is some type of striking issue that is an anomaly which affected only this coin.

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    georgiacop50georgiacop50 Posts: 2,909 ✭✭✭✭

    Kind of reminiscent of Lincoln Memorial steps

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    BigDowgieBigDowgie Posts: 1,749 ✭✭✭✭

    CaptHenway,

    Thanks for the expanded thoughts. I hope Bern joins and weighs in. James Wiles currently has the coins and hope to get his thoughts in a couple days. I'll post when I have them.

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @seanq said:
    Is it possible someone tried to re-engrave the steps on this coin? The way the top one passes through an area that was otherwise very weakly struck makes me think it could have been debossed after the fact.

    Sean Reynolds

    Sean, that metal surface looks absolutely original to me. There is even fine horizontal texturing on the individual steps that I don't think that anybody could fake.

    Plus, if somebody had re-engraved this coin, why in the heck would they have left that void in the middle????

    TD

    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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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Aspie_Rocco said:
    I did not realize Bern is still alive! I have his autographed book, I'm a big fan of his, but somehow got the wrong impression.
    Mr. Nagengast,
    If you see this post, YOU ARE AWESOME!!! and one of my coin HEROS!!!

    Rocco

    I have known Bern since the mid-1970's when we were fellow officers of the Shelby County Coin Club in Sidney, Ohio. I suggested to him that he buy and run the E&T Kointainer Company.

    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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    tincuptincup Posts: 4,771 ✭✭✭✭✭

    A neat find! I find it interesting... and hope another one can be found.

    ----- kj
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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Could somebody please post pictures of a normal 1938-S for comparison?

    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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    AzurescensAzurescens Posts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 16, 2017 4:25AM

    @CaptHenway said:
    Don't know why the font is off in previous post. How can I edit the font?

    It is because you used a pound sign next to your numerals. It's this bb's code to make font larger, just like underscores surrounding a word make it in italics.

    If you're making a numbered list, the succeeding digit will drop down automatically like it does in MS Word or open office.

    I've got a roll of 38s XF-AU I'll look in the morning. I was at them last week and saw something different on the reverse of some but didn't note a huge difference. Tbh I think it's a different reverse variety. Just from what you posted, I mean.

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    rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is interesting.... Always amazes me how something new pops up two or three times a year.... I do not have any '38S Jeffersons to check... wish I did...Look forward to seeing this progress to conclusion. Cheers, RickO

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Azurescens....thanks!

    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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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Just posted a notice of the coin on the coin dealer network, asking people to check their inventories.

    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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    BodinBodin Posts: 996 ✭✭✭

    @CaptHenway said:
    Could somebody please post pictures of a normal 1938-S for comparison?

    image

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice!
    Can you show the entire normal reverse just so we can see if there are any other differences?

    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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    davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭

    the left inside edge of the steps under column 1 seems raised to me, indicating PMD
    the nicks on the steps above NT are also non-typical

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    A random thought....one naturally wonders why, with so many Jefferson nickel collectors looking at steps on coins, nobody ever noticed this possible design variation before.

    One possible explanation....If the hypothetical design variation was such a spectacular failure that it ALWAYS showed that large weak area in the center of the steps, the step collectors might have glanced at the coins, seen the weak area, and dismissed the coin(s) without even looking at the steps on either side of the weak area.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Any step collectors out there who would like to say if they would have automatically dismissed this coin without looking at the ends of the steps?

    TD

    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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    AzurescensAzurescens Posts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I looked and can't find my 38-39 roll. I found an EF with, of course, few step lines. I did notice a change in the spacing of font and size of font. And as if the 38-S coin in question has the steps more raised and "tighter", which is probably why nobody saw this before.

    I made a thread a little while ago about 38 aging 39 being such problem coins. I'm starting to think the higher steps, extra space between font, and size of font - I'm talking like micrometers here - varies on the reverse. There appear to be subtle changes on both reverses before the 1940 strikes. "Problem coin" in the sense that if one thing looks different then 3 or 4 other non-traditional things exist on it. Like if it's a 1938 with a weak 8, Monticello will look different.

    I'll see if I can get better examples.. I'm missing a lot of 1938 and 1938-S.. so they must be somewhere. I know I've seen a 39 with what OP is describing.

    What can I use as a point of measurement under a 20x loop? There is a slight slight slight font difference and "height" of stairs both up onto Monticello and raising off the surface of the coin.

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    mannie graymannie gray Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've looked at many thousands of these and have never seen one like it.
    It has me (temporarily) stumped.

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    AzurescensAzurescens Posts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭


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    WoodenJeffersonWoodenJefferson Posts: 6,491 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 25, 2017 7:35PM

    @CaptHenway said:
    A random thought....one naturally wonders why, with so many Jefferson nickel collectors looking at steps on coins, nobody ever noticed this possible design variation before.

    One possible explanation....If the hypothetical design variation was such a spectacular failure that it ALWAYS showed that large weak area in the center of the steps, the step collectors might have glanced at the coins, seen the weak area, and dismissed the coin(s) without even looking at the steps on either side of the weak area.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Any step collectors out there who would like to say if they would have automatically dismissed this coin without looking at the ends of the steps?

    TD

    It was second nature to loop every early date Jefferson, I would have immediately noticed an anomaly as such and stopped in my tracks for a second look. Die hard step collectors even go so far as count pillars and label how many steps can be seen under each pillar, such 6556 meaning 6 steps under 1 & 4 and the required 5 steps can be seen under pillar 2&3 In order to accurately do this, requires a 10X loupe.

    Still, and interesting topic.

    Chat Board Lingo

    "Keep your malarkey filter in good operating order" -Walter Breen
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    crazyhounddogcrazyhounddog Posts: 13,810 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've never seen one a these before. Extremely cool and thanks for sharing, again. You sure do know your Jeffs!!

    The bitterness of "Poor Quality" is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.
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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi there, NickelJones! Great catch, no matter what it turns out to be!

    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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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Just saw James Wiles pictures of the steps. For the record there are three wide steps in question, plus a narrow base below that. From the pictures above I thought it was four wide steps, with the bottom one fading off of the "cliff" that is the bottom edge of Monticello. This is not the case.

    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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    BigDowgieBigDowgie Posts: 1,749 ✭✭✭✭

    Azurescens - Thanks for posting the step pictures. Very helpful to really see the differences.

    Nickeljones - It's about time you got in here....this is your baby!

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    davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Welcome to the boards ICEBOXBERN, this should be interesting - and maybe as rare as the 1942-S nickel.

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hey there, Bern!

    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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    mannie graymannie gray Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is very exciting.
    Great thread...This is what it is supposed to be all about. Right here.

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Bern, I was not aware of the earlier production run mentioned in your item number 3. Can you send me the background information on that?
    TD

    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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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Well, I assume that nobody cherry picked one today.

    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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    Reading Bern's very informative post just now. A thought occurs to me. If this is a survivor of a die trial run, might the obverse die, as well as the reverse, be a trial die? I got so excited by the reverse steps that I can't remember giving the front more than a glance.

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 18, 2017 8:07PM

    It is not impossible that they only tweaked one side. That said, an overlay would be a good idea.

    Edited to add: If somebody could please post large pictures of a normal 1938-S obverse and reverse here, comparable to the OP's excellent pictures, that might help everybody look for anomalies.

    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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    BigDowgieBigDowgie Posts: 1,749 ✭✭✭✭

    If another member does not do it first, I will post pictures Monday night. I will take the picture exactly like I did the OP. I did not think about examining variations in the obverse and reverse design details.

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,550 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I made two discoveries in the bust dollar series in the 1990's, one the difference in the number of vertical lines in the stripes on the shield and the other a die that had the left upright on the N of UNITED punched over a letter I, and that was a well-studied field long before I was born.

    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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