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List grows of proof Spiked Head error nickels to dollars

potter1.jpgI reported upon a Spiked Head die crack on a proof 2007-S Thomas Jefferson Presidential dollar in the Nov. 13, 2007, issue of Numismatc News. What I did not say was that it was actually just one of several Spiked Heads found on proof coins submitted to me in the past year and a half.

New to the list of significant die cracks on proof coins are 12 examples dated 1998-S, 1999-S, 2000-S, 2005-S and 2006-S, spanning all denominations from nickels through a single Sacagawea dollar. 

The ?list? was originally started with a Spiked Head 2002-S silver Kennedy half dollar that headlined the April 15, 2003, issue of NN. This coin prompted a long string of finds that followed as folks began to check other denominations and dates closer. The 10-part series of reports ran intermittently with the last appearing in the June 14, 2005, issue up until my recent Jefferson dollar story.

A die crack that runs from the head of a portrait to the rim of a coin is often referred to as a Spiked Head by error-variety specialists and given more attention than die cracks found in other areas. However, any prominent major die crack on a proof coin is considered collectible as they are rarely encountered, though more have been showing up in the recent years then ever before.

potter2.jpgThe newest entry to the list begins with a very prominent Spiked Head die crack on a 1998-S Jefferson nickel that runs from the upper right side of Jefferson?s lower bust between Felix Schlag?s designer initials through the rim. Michael Sanderson of California reported it in May 2006 as found in a silver proof set. This is the first Spiked Head reported on a 1998-dated proof coin. 

The next is another first report for the date on a 1999-S Jefferson nickel with a nice Spiked Head die crack running from about the middle right side of Jefferson?s bust out into the field and through the rim. Richard Bryner of Ohio reported it in August 2005. It is unknown as to whether it was found in silver or clad set.

Patrick McNulty sent in a 2005-S Jefferson nickel with the Bison reverse featuring a Spiked Head obverse that runs from Jefferson?s throat, down through the field, into the bust of Jefferson and back into the field and out into Don Everhart?s engraver?s initials, DE, and rim. He obtained it encapsulated in an Numismatic Guaranty Corp. holder graded Prf-69 ultra cameo. He reported it in August 2006.

Stephen Soldridge of Pennsylvania sent in a 2005-S proof nickel featuring the Ocean In View reverse that boasts an easily seen die crack that runs diagonally from the top of the ?B? of LIBERTY through the field and center of the ?TY? of LIBERTY and through the rim. I have no record of where he found it. He reported it in August 2005.

Error coin dealer Fred Weinberg of Encino, Calif., submitted a 20005-S clad Roosevelt dime with a noticeable die crack on reverse that runs from uppermost oak leaf on through the ?A? of AMERICA continuing through the rim at 1 o?clock. He reported it in April 2006.It was encapsulated by Professional Coin Grading Service as a Prf-69 DCAM. Frequent contributor McNulty also sent in an example from which I shot the photomicrograph shown here. It was encapsulated by NGC as Prf-69 Ultra Cameo. He sent it to me in August 2006.

potter3.jpgJumping to quarters, Lisa Henning of Ohio sent in a 2004-S clad proof Iowa state quarter dollar that displays a die crack on the reverse that runs from the school teacher?s head (qualifying it as a Spiked Head) on through the tree branches, down through the child and on through the rim. Based on an enlarged image she sent me via e-mail, at first glance it appears to be a virtual duplicate of a very similar variety shown in my June 14, 2005, Numismatic News story for a silver version of the same coin, but upon closer scrutiny the die crack can be seen to be ever so slightly higher. She found several of them in May 2006. 

Next we look at a 2005-S Kansas clad proof quarter where we find another familiar-looking die crack that spikes Washington?s bust like a Popcicle stick, running from the center of the bust down in to the field, through the left side of the ?D? of DOLLAR and through the rim. Philip Lear of Summerville, S.C., reported finding it in a clad proof set in April 2006.

This is the fifth proof state quarter that boasts a Spiked Head that manifests itself in that exact same area. Previous finds have been reported on the 2002-S Tennessee clad quarter, 2004-S Iowa clad quarter, 2004-S Florida clad quarter and the 2005-S Minnesota clad quarter. The cracks are virtual carbon copies of one another but from different dies, suggesting that this is the most common area prone to major die cracks on the Washington obverse for proof coins. It also suggests that the dies are more prone to break in this area when striking the harder clad material than silver since all of five of these lookalikes are clad.

Craig Walter and Curtis Sieber of Alabama found a 2005-S clad Oregon state quarter with a very noticeable die crack running from the left side of Wizard Island through the treetop closest to the left edge of the design and careening off the lower left edge of the lake?s edge on through the rim.
 They reported finding it while admiring a complete proof set in July 2005. Walter had ordered it earlier in the year directly from the Mint.

Scott Taft of Arizona reported finding a spiked head on a 2006-S silver proof Colorado state quarter. It runs from the right central area of Washington?s bust through the lower queue into the field, through the left side of the ?A? of DOLLAR and through the rim. He said that he found eight of the errors out of 12 state quarters sets that he ordered from the Mint on May 12 of that year. He reported the find in July 2006.

Ira Edings of Kansas reported finding a Spiked Head 2000-S clad proof Kennedy half dollar. It?s a bold crack that runs from the center of Kennedy?s head up through the ?R? of LIBERTY and the rim. He reported it in March 2006 saying that he had purchased the set in a local pawnshop about three years earlier. He described the find further by saying:

?I never looked at it closely until one night in January 2006. I ran out of other coins to look at so I pulled out what few proof sets I had put back for my kids (the years that they were born). When I got to the 2000 set I noticed a die crack in the half dollar. At first I didn?t know what I had until I did a little reading and looking on the Internet. I came across the term, Spiked Head, and the name Ken Potter and only after talking to him did I realize how good of a find it was.?

Edings? find is only the second Spiked Head die crack to be reported on a proof Kennedy half dollar. The first was the 2002-S silver proof reported in the April 15, 2003, issue of NN. So far, no other examples of either of these varieties have been reported to me.

Stephen Soldridge of Pennsylvania reported a 2004-S silver proof Kennedy half dollar in August 2005 that sports a prominent die crack on the reverse. The crack runs from the field above and through the eagle?s right leg (viewer?s left), through a star, ?A? of HALF and the rim. PCGS graded it Proof-69 DCAM. Soldridge reported the coin in August 2005.

Finally, Don Smith of Don?s Coins & Collectables of Illinois sent in a 2006-S proof Sacagawea dollar with a Spiked Head die crack that runs through the right side of Sacagawea?s bust on through the rim. He said that he had purchased 25 of the silver sets and sold 20 of them before a c ustomer brought one of them back to show him the die crack. He said, ?I then checked the five proof sets I had left and found that four of the sets had the die cracks.? He reported the error in August 2006.

potter4.jpgWhile there have been few sales from which to establish solid values for Spiked Head die cracks on proof coins, I?d estimate that cents through dimes could fetch $150 to $300. My previous estimate of value on the state quarter spikes was $100 to $300 based on known transactions from a range of $76 for an Iowa specimen (which traded on eBay) to $300 for the two recorded sales for a Florida version sold by private treaty. Since then a Minnesota specimen has been wholesaled to a dealer at close to the $200 mark, which was later resold for $300, indicating a revision of my estimate of value on these coins as a group to the $200 to $300-plus range.

To date the two known Spiked Head Kennedy half dollars are impossible to price since they are possibly unique, but at least one dealer suggests that he?d pay at least $750 for the silver issue.

With the popularity of dollar errors high, I expected them to carry an estimated value of $275 to $500 depending on the strength and number of pieces available, but at least two of the Jefferson dollars reported last month have been sold for just under $200.

potter5.jpgWith this 12th installment of this series we now have 37 proof coins, all manufactured within the last decade, 1998 to 2007, with significant die cracks reported. These coins confirm an earlier suggestion that the trend that started with the Spiked Head 2002-S silver proof Kennedy half dollar and carried on through other 21st century issues is continuing unabated. I?d suggest that more Spiked Head varieties may be found in either the clad or silver sets of this era and that the probability of them continuing to escape the Mint is strong. It is also obvious with this report, now that we have our first 1998- and 1999-dated submissions, that collectors need to look back further than 21st century issues.

Die cracks are inherent to the use of die steel and occur due to a variety of reasons. The extreme striking pressure required to produce proof coins is the most probable reason for die breakage on these issues. Other factors such as faulty die steel, improper heat treat (of the dies), etc., may be other factors. It may also be an indication that a die has been in service too long and is starting to break up though this cause is usually associated with other die wear problems and die crack progressions that we do not see here.

Other causes of a mechanical nature are: the striking of errors, in particular error types that involve stacks of more than one planchet (or planchets and/or coins) struck together by a die pair, or off-center and double-strike errors. Additionally, improper die set ups, such as tilted dies, loose dies, etc., have been identified, as causes of die breakage.

Each proof coin requires a visual inspection before being placed on a tray for further processing or being rejected and segregated from those that pass inspection when flawed. Coins with die cracks as prominent as these should have been easily spotted and set to the side for destruction.

I believe that die cracks on proof dies are routine, but that coins from them escaping the Mint were not common in the past. One cause may be the great increase in coinage production since the inception of the state quarter program and other programs that followed. This greater demand for production appears as though it may have taken its toll and resulted in more errors of this type escaping the watchful eye of the Mint. 

I?d like to stress the fact that die cracks on general business strike coins made for circulation are exceedingly common and rarely elicit any significant collector interest or value. They are the norm and rarely considered errors by this observer. The Washington quarter portrait has always been particularly prone to die cracking since its inception in 1932.

The problem has continued to plague the series on the state quarters with perhaps the most common areas of cracking being on the head and base of bust. Shown here is the obverse of a 2005-D California state quarter with a die crack along the base of the bust. Cracks like this on business strikes are generally considered too common to elicit much collector interest.

The significant major die cracks highlighted in this series are of the type that run from within the central design all the way through the rim to the very edge of the die. Such die cracks are often deep and actually show a significant crack along the shank of the die. See the Nov. 13 story on the Jefferson Spike for images of an actual die with such a crack.

I?d like to thank NN readers who have participated in this ongoing hunt for Spiked Head die cracks and other errors on recent proof coins and encourage them to continue. Please do not report upon minor die cracks on business strikes as we have been swamped with such reports and do not have time to respond.

Collectors finding any of these die crack proof coins or other errors are requested to report them to me at NNSpikedHeads@koinpro.com or at the address below. Always write first before submitting coins.


Ken Potter is the official attributer of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collectors Association of Die Doubling.  He also privately lists other collectible variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register. He is a regular columnist in Numismatic News? sister publication World Coin News, where he pens the Visiting Varieties column.

More information on either of the clubs or how to get a coin listed in the Variety Coin Register may be obtained by sending a long, self-addressed envelope with 60 cents postage to P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076; or by contacting him via e-mail at KPotter256@aol.com

An educational image gallery may be viewed on his Web site at www.koinpro.com.  

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