Possible Die Cracks and Thoughts on Die Life and Die Pairings

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Revenant

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In looking at that 1880 10G coin I picked up a couple of weeks ago now one thing kind of stood out to me.

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There’s something on the left side of the Obverse that looks a lot like a die crack that runs between the K and one of the stars.

Unlike a lot of the things you see people posting about in the Newbie forum you can actually see this with a naked eye and I think it really is a die crack and not a scratch - but I could be wrong. Looking closer under high magnification it looks like there may be some additional small cracks around the K.

Funny aside, but I commented on seeing this to my wife and she was asking if this made me unhappy or made me like the coin less. Not at all as it happens, but it’s very interesting to me.

Seeing this got me thinking about the topic of die pairings - you hear people talk about die pairings and die varieties with other series that have been studied extensively but you don’t really hear about it with this set / series. It occurred to me that this might be attributable to the fact that this series isn’t heavily “collected” by all indications and they’re mostly treated like bullion. Then another thought occurred to me: Are there actually die pairings to research with these coins?

The annual mintages for this series are as follows:

1875: 4,110,000

1876: 1,581,106

1877: 1,108,049

1879: 581,036

1880: 50,100

1885: 67,095

1886: 51,141

1887: 40,754

1888: 35,585

1889: 204,691

Die life is a highly variable thing and depends on the size of the coin, the material of the coin and the time period in which it was produced. The mere existence of the 1879/7 variety shows that they weren’t making the 581,000 coins struck in 1879 from a single pair of dies. However, from what I can find with a little looking, it seems like in the 1880s, for a small gold coin, a die life of 50,000 or more would have been very reasonable and achievable.

This means it’s possible and maybe even likely that all the coins in this series from 1880, 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888 were all struck from a single pair of dies and that there are no dies to look at. It seems obvious to think about this now, but it’d never occurred to me before.

If that’s true, and if I’m right about this being a die crack, that suggests that, if you could get and look at enough examples, you might be able to look at the progression of that crack over the course of the run and you could distinguish coins from early or late in the production run for 1880 based on the state / presence / absence of this crack.

Trying to track down more examples and test this out might be fun in 30 years when I’ve made my millions. lol

 

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I agree with your thinking.  A small gold coin with a mintage of only 50,000 should normally all be produced with one pair of dies.  Those are excellent pictures and I am sure that we are looking at a die crack and not a scratch.  You should be able to easily confirm that with a magnifying glass.  A die crack will be raised above the surrounding surface, while a scratch will leave a depression below the surrounding surface.  

I have read that the U. S. mint in the mid 1870's was normally able to strike 100,000 Indianhead cents before replacing the dies.  In some cases they were able to achieve up to 200,000  cents per die failure but that was only in rare cases.  

Good luck on making your millions and I hope you can do it in well under 30 years.

Andy

 

Edited by Whidbey Island Collection

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8 hours ago, Whidbey Island Collection said:

Those are excellent pictures and I am sure that we are looking at a die crack and not a scratch.  You should be able to easily confirm that with a magnifying glass.  A die crack will be raised above the surrounding surface, while a scratch will leave a depression below the surrounding surface. 

And that is part of my thinking in that it looks raised to me but I'll admit that my eyes are not perfect and it is quite small so I tend to not be over-confident.

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Looks like a die crack to me.  I have several Morgan dollars with extensive die cracks, and a few Walking Liberty halves with obvious cracks.  The lettering near the rim (or in Morgans, the stars) is the most common place for cracks to develop, probably because the stresses are higher there due to metal flow during striking.  It looks like the line on your coin starts at the point of a star but not through the star itself, extends to the K but not through the K, and then from the other side of the K to the rim. A scratch would go through the star and letter.  

Here is my 1878 Morgan with one of the more extensive die cracks in my collection.  

 

image.jpeg

Edited by CBC

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2 hours ago, CBC said:

 The lettering near the rim (or in Morgans, the stars) is the most common place for cracks to develop, probably because the stresses are higher there due to metal flow during striking.  It looks like the line on your coin starts at the point of a star but not through the star itself, extends to the K but not through the K, and then from the other side of the K to the rim. A scratch would go through the star and letter.

Those aren't things I'd really considered or given much thought to but they're good points.

I'd never really thought to look for / at die cracks in those areas with Morgans but that 1878 is cool. :)

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I always find it interesting that it is usually between the rim letters that die cracks first show up on a die. And forgive me if I use the Morgan dollar to make my point. On the Morgan dollar die cracks often appear between the stars. Now try to picture that the stars on the die are incuse because they are relief on the coin just as the star and lettering are on the 1880 10G. Now the fields on the face of the die are the highest relief of the die. Thus with the tons of pressure applied to the die with each strike the face of the die will take the brunt of the strike while the metal flows into the incuse areas of the die. Now the weakest points on the face of the die are the spaces between the incuse portions of the die. When a die has run its course, you have numerous die cracks radiating from the center of the die to the rims the same as luster that flows from the center to the rim. When a die reaches this stage it is close to shattering like this picture of a gold eagle from my collection. Notice that the cracks flow from die incuse to die incuse on the shortest distance of die relief.

 

1847-O_Rev_Die_Crack-8B.jpg

Edited by gherrmann44

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One of the reasons suggested for die numbers on British victorian coinage was to document die wear and one of my goals was trying to track this by monitoring the development of die cracks on the obverse however I thought I would share my example of the Napoleonic Italian 10 cents which has some major die cracks on the obverse, see pics! The quality of production from the Italian mints was very low compared to the French coinage with serious issues across all denominations seemingly due to poor quality dies compounded by extensive repeated die use (e.g. lots of overstruck digits and mint marks such as 0/1, V/M and B/M). It should be noted that the Milan 10 cents are a different design to those of the various French mints and are much more fragile, apparently these were not at all liked by the people and are therefore a very limited series. Even with the extensive die deterioration my example is probably by far the finest known example of the key date in the series, graded or otherwise, and as such is a very welcome addition to my collection.

Italy-1808-M-10c-O-P63crop.jpg

Italy-1808-M-10c-R-P63crop.jpg

Edited by ColonialCoinsUK

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