A Spiked Head die crack on a proof 2007-S Thomas Jefferson Presidential dollar has been reported by a San Francisco Bay area collector. It was found in a four-piece 2007 Presidential dollar proof set. The coin exhibits a significant die crack on the reverse running from the second ray from the right in Miss Liberty?s crown up into the field, through the ?E? of AMERICA continuing on through the rim. It is the first significant die crack reported on a proof Presidential dollar that runs from a portion of the design all the way through the rim.
The piece also represents the very first major die crack reported on any proof coin dated 2007. The owner (who wishes to remain anonymous) said that he ordered several sets directly from the Mint on June 21 and received them on July 5.
He said that when he received them, ?I noticed a ?scratch? on more than half of all the Jefferson coins. Not knowing the significance, I was about to send the sets back to the Mint. But, first I started to investigate this ?scratch.?? Well, this ?scratch? has a name ? a die crack.? He would not elaborate on how many he found except to say that it was fewer than 15.
He sent five of them into Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of Sarasota, Fla., with all of them coming back as ?Mint Errors? with the designation ?Reverse Die Crack @ 2:00? and graded PR-69 Ultra Cameo. He said he plans to sell these and keep some for himself.
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. 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 recent years then ever before.
With few exceptions, die cracks on general business strike coins are normally ignored by specialists except to merely make note of them as a ?marker? to help identify a specific die of a more significant variation (such as a doubled die) when the two occur together. Of course those that are prominent enough to stand out on a business strike might fetch a few dollars as a minor variety. As such they are still fun to find and collect ? just not worth a lot.
With the popularly of dollar errors high, I expect any Spiked Heads found on proof Presidential dollars to carry an estimated value of $275 to $500, depending on the strength and number of pieces available.
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 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 coins from them escaping the Mint are not. 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.
Another factor may be the packaging of proof sets by automated mechanical systems introduced to the process in recent years. What errors may have been caught at the stage when sets were assembled by humans several years ago are now missed by the modern machines.
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.
Shown here is a retired Alcoholics Anonymous token die with a significant die crack running from the center hole (where the Roman Numeral III die-plug resides) to the rim. On the side view we can see that the crack actually runs down nearly the entire length of the shank of the die. Most token and medal dies that I have examined that have the sort of die cracks exhibited on the coins in this series exhibit them continuing from the rim down into the shank area.
Collectors finding any major 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.