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