Numismatic News reader Dan Matsanka reported finding three 2011-P reverse proof silver American Eagles that sport a die crack on the obverse that runs horizontally through the lower portion of Miss Liberty’s gown.
He said he and fellow collector Tim Armstrong purchased five 25th anniversary silver American Eagle sets from the Mint for Armstrong’s 9-year-old son, Timmy, who was starting a coin collection of his own.
As they were looking through the sets to see which sets they wanted to send away for grading they came across this mark (a probable die crack but without seeing the actual coin, I’d have to note it could also be a die gouge) on the third coin that they looked at.
“We initially thought it was a scratch,” he Matsanka said. “Then we noticed the exact same mark on the 4th and 5th coins. The mark is raised and is not indented.”
It is my feeling that it is more probably a die crack due to the fact that under extreme magnification (Matsanka shot it at 40x) you can see that the crack meanders a bit unlike most gouges, which are more often then not, straight.
I should point out that the error-variety hobby rarely pays much attention to minor die cracks such as this and that they are of little (if any) value due to the proliferation of die cracks found on many U.S. coins. Cracks are considered inherent to the use of dies.
Minor die cracks such as this one can even occur on a die while it is cooling after being tempered before it is even put into use, or they can develop anytime during the striking process and are often the reason that dies are retired from service and replaced.
Nonetheless, cracks are of educational value to the collector who wants to learn more about the minting process (which includes the production and use of dies). It is also interesting since it was the first one reported to us on this coin from the 25th anniversary Eagle set.
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I define minor die cracks (which I prefer to call “superficial die cracks”) because most are very shallow and many can be removed from a die through the use of abrasives such as aluminum oxide cloth, or other materials suitable for dressing out a die.
I define major die cracks as those that reach from a design element all the way to the rim. An observation of such dies reveals that by the time a die crack gets that far that it continues to crack down along the shank of the die ranging from perhaps a quarter inch to even two inches or more. Some dies I have examined show the crack extending all the way from the rim to the very base of the die.
In past years I have documented many of these major die cracks found on proof coins due to the fact that they are rather rare on proof coins where the dies are continually being inspected.
Interestingly, I had at least three folks report 2006-P reverse proof silver Eagles with major die cracks that run through a good portion of Miss Liberty, up into the field and through the rim (though the capsule did not allow those folks who sent those images to allow me to see the crack extend all the way through the rim. I was assured they did and it would have been unusual if they didn’t once they got that far.)
Collectors should continue to look for major die cracks on the reverse proof silver Eagles for both dates (or for that matter – any date struck in proof). Please let me know what you find.