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New Spiked Head found on quarter

The first “Spiked Head” for a 2008-dated proof coin has finally been reported. It is a 90 percent silver 2008-S Oklahoma state quarter. I also have a major die crack to report for the reverse of a clad 2008-S Arizona state quarter and a new Spiked Head for a 2000-S Jefferson nickel.   

The “list” I keep originally started with a Spiked Head 2002-S silver Kennedy half dollar that headlined the April 15, 2003 issue of Numismatic News.  This coin prompted a long string of finds that followed as folks began to check other denominations and dates.  The series of reports ran intermittently with the last appearing in the April 12, 2008, issue where four new proof die crack varieties were examined.

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 the typical die cracks found in other areas. 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. Cracks on circulation strike coins are more common and often have no added value.

On the 2008-S Oklahoma quarter shown here, the die crack runs from within Washington’s head into the field through the “F” of OF and out through the rim at about 1 o’clock. It is the third major die crack submitted for a 2008-dated proof coin and the first that qualifies as a “Spiked Head.” Dominic Courey of Massachussetts submitted it in a state quarters silver proof set on Sept. 2. I listed it in the Variety Coin Register as VCR#1/DCR#1 for the date/mint/denomination/type.

The next two reports are from John Paquette of Positive Proof Co., Sagamore Beach, Mass., who sent them in on Aug.  18. The first is a 2000-S proof Jefferson nickel with a Spiked Head die crack that runs more or less parallel to the left of the queue of Jefferson’s wig and down through the rim at around 5 o’clock. It is the first 2000-S Jefferson nickel I have seen with any major die crack and is listed as VCR#1/SHDC#1. It was submitted in an NGC holder graded Proof-69 Ultra Cameo.

He also sent in a 2008-S clad Arizona state quarter in a like grade that boasts a long die crack extending within the Grand Canyon up into the right side of the sun through two rays above the “A” of ARIZONA and through the rim at about 11 o’clock. This was the first 2008-dated state quarter to be submitted to me with a major die crack and is listed as VCR#1/DCR#1.

With this 14th installment of the series there are now 44 proof coins all manufactured within the last decade ranging in dates from 1998 through 2008 with significant die cracks reported on all denominations from the cent through dollars.

These coins confirm my 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 into 2008. I 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.

Collectors should also look back further into 20th century issues. It should also be obvious that proof commemorative coins need to be checked from the half dollars through the exotic metals.

Die cracks are inherent to the use of die steel and occur for 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 treatment (of the dies), etc., may be 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 at the Mint before being placed on a tray for further processing,  or being rejected and segregated from those that pass inspection. 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 quality control procedures in the past prevented their release.  Why the difference now? One cause may be the great increase in coinage production since the inception of the states 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 would 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 significant varieties or errors.  However, they can be fun to find and collect as long as one does not expect financial gain. They can also be educational to the budding numismatist who takes the time to study them and the manner in which they are created.

The significant major die cracks highlighted in this series are of the type that runs 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 our Nov. 13, 2007, story on the Jefferson Spike for images of an actual die with such a crack.

I would like to thank Numismatic News 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 minor die cracks on business strikes as I 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 hould e-mail 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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