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Misaligned dies struck ’76 half dollar

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News

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Perhaps the most interesting coins to turn up at my table at the spring Michigan State Numismatic Society convention besides the proof 1962 half dollar I reported in the May 10 issue was a pair of 1976-D Bicentennial half dollar errors that turned up in a retired Michigan banker’s hands. While at first glance they both appeared to be “winners” (and they were) I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the half dollars that I thought was about 12 percent off-center strike turned out to be a misaligned die strike.


In the world off-center strikes, 10-15 percent is just not that dramatic, but on a Bicentennial half or any half dollar for that matter, it’s respectable. However, a 10+ percent misaligned die is a great error on any denomination and unheard of on a Bicentennial half. In checking with Mike Diamond, president of the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and an avid error coin collector, I learned that he had never seen one this dramatic. “It’s the largest I’ve seen on a half dollar and the only significant one I’ve seen on a Bicentennial half” said Diamond.

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Error dealer, Fred Weinberg of Encino, Calif., said, “Interesting – it’s something I haven’t seen before on Bicentennial halves.”

Misaligned die errors occur when the anvil (usually the reverse) die stays in its proper orientation but the upper hammer die becomes misaligned. The result is that the obverse appears to be off center and it is not until you flip the coin over and see that the reverse is still centered that it was struck by a misaligned die. Of course, when the reverse die becomes the hammer die and the obverse the anvil die (as has often been the case in recent years) the opposite effect may occur with the reverse appearing to be off center and the obverse being centered. The weakness on the reverse on the right side of the coin is due to the lack of striking pressure in that area caused by the misgauged obverse die.

After seeing that show-stopper, his second coin didn’t have a chance of beating it out but nonetheless it was a rather nice uncirculated 1976-D half with double curved clips. These don’t grow on trees either and the clips themselves were respectable in size.

The term “curved clip” is actually a popular misnomer that error collectors tend to accept in describing a general class of planchet error that originates with a blank that was produced with an incomplete area of metal at its edge. The error occurs when a blank is punched from out of an area of strip that overlaps a hole (or holes) from where a blank was previously punched out. Envision using a cookie cutter to “punch” out a cookie from an area of rolled out dough that overlaps into an area from where you already cut out a cookie or two and it’s easy to understand how the “curved clip” errors occur.

Ken P. of Mich. (no relation) showed up with several cuds (which we’ll show later) and a neat 1857 Flying Eagle cent with a very noticeable laminated obverse. Laminations are due to contaminants or gasses trapped within the metal causing it to split, peel or crack. This is a nice one.

Dany Rothfeld came up with a puzzler when he found a 1999 silver American Eagle in a roll that appeared to be peppered with thousands of tiny raised blisters on most of the obverse. It might have been struck through emery cloth or similar but the jury is still out on this one and we’d like to hear from readers that have any ideas.

Terry Clark brought an 1892-S Barber half dollar to the table that boasted a spectacular die clash on the obverse (and lesser clash marks on the reverse). The incuse star sticking out from Miss Liberty’s neck is perhaps the most appealing part of this variety.

Finally, Richard Bateson of Gulliver, Mich., brought a 1934-D Oregon Trail Memorial commemorative half dollar to the table that sports as beautiful tripled-die reverse that shows best on HALF DOLLAR, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and lower portions of the map.

This one is listed in the Cherrypickers’ Guide To Rare Die Varieties (as a DDO) for the 1933-D with a note that it can be found on other dates. The coin was struck intermittently from 1926 through 1939.

To date the DDR has been found on just the 1933-D and 1934-D and according to Kevin Flynn, in his book, The Authoritative Reference on Commemorative Coins 1892-1954, is thought to be from the same die. It’s considered common but is easy on the eyes.

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