What you need to know: Die states
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At the request of Supertooth, I've reprinted here an article by myself and Jason Taylor that has appeared in both Errorscope, January, 2005 (publication of CONECA), and The Portico, May-June 2005 (publication of the Jefferson Full Step Nickel Club). This material is copyrighted and used by permission only.

 

Determining Jefferson Nickel Die State

by – Mark Hooten and Jason Taylor

 

One of the biggest factors in determining values of varieties is being able to distinguish “die states.” For die variety collectors die state is a VERY important part of collecting. Die state is probably best explained as the condition of a die when a planchet was struck. Basically there are three different die states.

 

EDS (Early Die State)

MDS (Middle Die State)

LDS (Late Die State)

 

Some variety specialists also use die states that are in between the basic three thus creating states such as EMDS (Early Middle Die State) or VLDS (Very Late Die State). We will talk about the three main stages here and you should be able to figure out what an EMDS or VLDS state would look like after reading these paragraphs.

Early die state, or EDS, Jefferson nickels are coins that have been struck from dies that have had little use and have not been retooled. First, look for flow lines developing from the rims of the coin toward the center. With no readily noticeable flow lines, crisp fields and devices, one could consider the coin to be EDS, with the exception of a freshly polished die. These states of varieties are typically the most valuable and sought after for obvious reasons. The RPM or doubled die is bold with a high, sharp relief. Split serifs are easily seen and the varieties are easily identifiable. The fields are clear of flow lines and the devices are crisp with no sign of deterioration or retooling marks. EDS coins usually have a full strike and a quality luster thus most often bringing the highest premiums. Not all EDS coins have full steps. Full Steps (FS) are the result of metal flow, which is the result of a combination of die detail, die hardness, striking pressure, evenness of strike, planchet thickness, planchet hardness, metal mix evenness in the planchet, and other such factors. However, you will see a lot of great EDS Jefferson's without FS.

Middle die state, or MDS, Jefferson nickel variety coins can still be a valuable coin and are usually what is desirable to an average collector with an average budget. When flow lines at the rims begin to be noticeable, there's not much time for coins to go from light flow lines to lines that are readily apparent that reach inward (radially) to about double the height of the edge lettering. Once flow lines reach that point, consider the coin a MDS piece. These coins will still have a decent relief on the device(s) affected by the variety but not as crisp as an EDS coin. MDS lasts until the second diagnostic arises, and that's heavy flow lines beginning to develop around Jefferson's head and around the borders of Monticello on the reverse. Once this begins, then there is usually a noticeable loss of crispness in all of the devices, particularly Jefferson’s hair, edge lettering, and the doors and windows of Monticello. Device deterioration will also begin to occur but not so much as to detract from the overall eye appeal of the coin. Split serifs are still identifiable but one usually needs to use markers to identify a varieties particular die number.

Late die state, or LDS, variety nickels typically bring the lowest premiums unless the coin is just overall rare in any state. These specimens will have noticeable flow lines, retooling marks, and deterioration on the devices. LDS begins when the coin starts to lose definition in the devices to the point that minor details, such as the windows and doors of Monticello, begin to bridge with the surrounds. The doors and windows will bridge with the walls of the building and the details in the steps on either side of Monticello will be flat. Edge lettering will often blend smoothly into the fields. LDS coins can be wild and will halo significantly on handsome pieces. The area affected by the variety will generally be flattened and in low relief. Split serifs showing on EDS and MDS coins will become smudged and appear to be unsplit on LDS examples. RPMs and doubled dies both are particularly harder to identify because of this reason. As well, die deterioration doubling, a non-catagorizable form of doubling, occurs and makes identifying true hub doubling more difficult. Take a look at any 1954-S/D and you'll be looking at an LDS piece, especially for the reverse.

In general, look for loss of detail in the devices (especially minor detail) accompanied by heavy die abrasion evidence in the fields (polish lines). This can eliminate some or all of the heavy flow lines from the bases of devices and letters with a concomitant loss of relief. (Die polish lines go all directions, while flow lines are radial.) Coins in this state can look quite good, as some of the high point detail is restored. Consider all of these coins MDS or LDS, depending on the loss of detail. You have to distinguish these from EDS coins that have heavy die polish lines from hurried production. EDS coins, however, have great, bold device details.

There are also many cases where a die was removed from service and rehubbed for future use. If at that time of rehubbing a doubled die was formed then that particular variety would only be found in MDS or LDS, depending on when the die was removed from service for that hubbing. Therefore, the LDS or MDS variety nickel would bring the large premium since no EDS examples exist.

Die state, or the age of the die, can have an impact on grade because in order to have lofty superlative GEM grades the details on the coin have to be complete. This is often not possible with coins that were struck with dies that make it to VLDS. Often, the finer details on the die will wear to a point that they are no longer discernible, thus will render the coin technically MS64 and no higher. It can work the same way as a soft strike.

It is believed that of all coins minted of a given die that lives its full lifetime, 1% will be VEDS, 5% will be EDS, 15% will be MDS, 25% will be LDS, and the remaining 54% will be VLDS. Fully half of all coins made with dies that live their full lifetime are VLDS.

Determining die state can sometimes be as subjective as grading coins. Many factors play a roll in die state such as planchet quality and hardness, die quality and hardness, and strike pressure and quality. Use a good microscope and light source and you should be able to determine these definitions easily enough for yourself.

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This article was very informative, thank you for sharing it with us. That being said, like any good student, I have questions.

 

This article uses a Jefferson nickel as an example. I am assuming that silver will be have in a similar fashion, but are there differences? For example, I think nickel is harder and thus causes die wear quicker, correct? So, will the early and medium die states last longer for a die on a silver coin than on the nickel coins? And also, do silver coins show their wear differently, for example, do the flow and stress lines look different? Finally, my specialty is the Franklin half. Does anyone know how the die state would affect FBL. I understand that EDS will be much more likely to have a FBL, but does it occur with MDS-LDS?

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What I think is neat is how the metal actually flows radially outward from the center upon striking.I think those forces contribute to the die cracking??????

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This article was very informative, thank you for sharing it with us. That being said, like any good student, I have questions.

 

This article uses a Jefferson nickel as an example. I am assuming that silver will be have in a similar fashion, but are there differences? For example, I think nickel is harder and thus causes die wear quicker, correct? So, will the early and medium die states last longer for a die on a silver coin than on the nickel coins? And also, do silver coins show their wear differently, for example, do the flow and stress lines look different? Finally, my specialty is the Franklin half. Does anyone know how the die state would affect FBL. I understand that EDS will be much more likely to have a FBL, but does it occur with MDS-LDS?

 

Great question but there are few simple answers. Generally die wear will be greatest where metal flow is greatest and this is primarily determined by the design but can even vary from one planchet to the next. While a die will normally be about the same hardness from one side to the other there is variability between dies and great variability in how the dies are aligned in the press.

 

Since the actual washboard pattern is determined largely by the relative strenghts of the die steel and the planchets it's striking, then there should be some difference in the wear made in silver and cu/ ni. I'll have to watch for it.

 

 

Great article. Thanks.

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Excellent overview of this often overlooked facet of collecting. Thanks for posting it.

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Thanks for posting Mark. These boards are the best!!

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Great article Mark and I have two questions for you-

 

1) How would a coin that has one die of a marriage replaced be categorized as to die state? Would that be a split die state coin? 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

 

2) Is your space bar working properly? wink.gif

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Great article Mark and I have two questions for you-

 

1) How would a coin that has one die of a marriage replaced be categorized as to die state? Would that be a split die state coin? 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

 

Why not? crazy.gif I believe in split grading, so i reckon I'd have to accept split die states.

 

2) Is your space bar working properly? wink.gif

 

893scratchchin-thumb.gif I'll blame the copy nd paste... Wonder if I can still edit the post? Hmmm... Apparently not sorry.gif

 

Mark

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Want to thank Grumps and Hoot for their recent threads. And for all the responses and questions. Remember, if you need to know, you must ask.

Also, anyone who has a desire to help to educate all of us can post on the 'What you need to know' posts. All you have to do is contact me by PM and tell me your topic and I will give you a date to post. Am trying to keep it at one post per week so as to allow for everyone to read them and ask questions of the writer. In coming weeks, we will be hearing from Oldtrader3 and James [Early U.S.]. Bob [supertooth]

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Hey Mark,

 

Long time, no talk to! Outstanding article and extremely informative! You are (in my opinion) one of the foremost experts on Jeffersons and I'm including all the coin collecting forums I have/am participating on. I would compare your knowledge to that of Nagengast.

 

I'll bet the two of you would have made a hell of a team!

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