Monday, March 29, 2010

Coin Monday: Period of Adjustment

March 29, 2010
Written by John Dale

[Image uploading doesn't seem to be working at the moment. Consider it extra incentive to click on the link for now. I'll try to upload it again later. -- JDB]

The Fort Worth auction is in the books (though the Post-Auction Buys will still be available for a limited time), so it’s time to move on.

The next U.S. Coin auction, the official auction of the Central States Numismatic Society convention, will bridge the end of April and the beginning of May. It’ll be held in Milwaukee, a city that holds plenty of fond memories for me, mostly involving coin conventions, chess matches, and eating with my family at some of my father’s favorite German restaurants. (His favorite two, in no particular order: Mader’s and Karl Ratzsch’s.)

Actually, my mind has been on Central States for a while, since cataloging for each auction happens up until about four weeks before the coins are hammered down. I’ve already seen most of the coins that are going to be in the auction, and while there isn’t an 1804 dollar this time (ending the streak at two), there’s plenty to be excited about.

For example, there’s this 1975 Mint set. Just an ordinary Mint set, right? Of course not! This is Heritage. It couldn’t be that easy. Follow the link and take a closer look at that quarter. Looks kind of funny, doesn’t it? And not just because it’s a Bicentennial quarter, either. It’s ... not all there.

The Bicentennial quarter in the set is actually a die adjustment strike, a special kind of “error coin,” and in many ways not an error at all. In fact, die adjustment strikes are made on purpose! When a coinage press is being set up, a few test strikes are done on coinage blanks to make sure that the dies are properly aligned.

These test strikes aren’t done at full power at first, to keep the equipment from being damaged if something is wrong, but the power is enough to make a shallow, partial impression on the planchet. On this quarter, most of the broad details are visible, but the drummer doesn’t have much detail, and the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA are illegible. (They’re supposed to be around the top. You’ll have to trust me on that.)

While die adjustment strikes are a vital part of mint operations, they’re not supposed to leave the grounds. Usually they’re destroyed, but this quarter not only wasn’t destroyed, it was packaged into a Philadelphia Mint set by accident and shipped out to an unsuspecting buyer! Fortunately for the set, the quarter was recognized as special, and rather than being “broken out” of the set, it was certified with the other coins in its packaging. It would’ve been a cool coin on its own, but now, it’s a cool coin with a great story. It's hard to argue with that!

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-- John Dale Beety

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