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Re-engraving a mystery

The unexplained re-engraving at the Philadelphia Mint of an obverse and reverse pair of 1938 proof Jefferson nickel dies, as previously revealed by Michael Fey in a press release sent to the numismatic press in June of this year, is not unique after all. At least five different 1938 proof nickel obverse dies were enhanced by an engraver who hand carved details directly into working proof dies, and it remains to be seen if ANY 1938 proof nickel dies have the elusive “normal” design.

The coin previously illustrated in the numismatic press, which I shall now call Variety One for the sake of clarity, was noticed to have a relatively long serif hand cut at the bottom left end of the “S” in TRUST, directionally running roughly NNW to SSE. The length of the serif below the bottom of the curve of the “S” is roughly equal to the thickness of the curve of the “S.” No business strike 1938 nickel seen to date has a serif at the lower left end of the “S,” strong evidence that the serif was not a part of the original artwork for the Jefferson nickel.

There is also a raised and narrow (rather worm-like) line running atop the middle third of the “S,” as though the engraver deliberately ran a sharp tool up the “S” (which was incused in the die) to make it deeper in the die and therefore higher in relief on the finished coin. It is perhaps one-third the width of the main curve it rests on.

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