Monday, October 26, 2009

Coin Monday, or Riddle Me This: A Planchet One Size Too Small

Oct. 26, 2009
Written by John Dale

First off, if you haven’t read Noah’s Tuesday post about A Christmas Story, then please do so now. I’ll be waiting…

If you left, welcome back!

Noah’s Christmas in, er, October post got me thinking about some childhood Christmas television memories of my own, and near the top of the list is How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (That’s the animated version from 1966, by the way, not the live-action feature film. I’m not that young…) The leering, sneering Grinch with his heart “two sizes too small” seeped into at least one of my nightmares, but that only made me more anxious to watch him the next year!

Speaking of things that are too small, I was cataloging coins for the upcoming December Houston U.S. Coin auction when I came across an intriguing error: a 1956-dated Franklin half dollar that was struck on a quarter planchet, which is indeed “one size too small.”

As with any error coin, the natural question is “What went wrong?”

The striking process is complex, but here’s the short version: a canvas-sided tub filled with planchets (or blanks) will have its contents poured into a hopper attached to the coinage press. Inside the coinage press, machinery pushes a single unstruck planchet from the hopper between the dies, the dies come together and strike the planchet, and then the newly created coin is ejected from the dies and replaced with a new unstruck planchet.

Ordinarily, all of the planchets are of the same size and type: half dollar-sized planchets to strike half dollars, for example. Once in a while, though, Something Goes Wrong™.

A smaller planchet, such as a quarter-sized one, might get stuck at the bottom of one of the tubs and then jar loose when half dollar planchets are poured in on top. A quarter-sized planchet might also get stuck in a hopper, though this is a less common occurrence. Either way, a too-small planchet winds up mixed in with bigger planchets and is struck as if it were one of those bigger planchets.

The result is a slightly misshapen error coin, slightly broader than a quarter but not nearly so large as a half dollar, with considerable detail left off at the edges. Most error coins are caught, either mechanically or by visual inspection, but this piece must have dodged both the riddler (not the Batman Riddler but a series of metal grids with holes designed to catch off-size coins — if a coin falls through the wrong level or doesn’t fall through the right one, it’s destroyed) and human eyes to reach the outside world.

That’s how a wrong-planchet error is created!

Oh, but I did mention “wrong size or type,” didn’t I? Well, I’ll tell you about that later…

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

No comments:

Post a Comment