At the CONECA table at shows, I get a lot of questions about die break and die cracks. I basically try to break these two categories out. I am old school, and I have learned from some of the best.
The first thing that normally happens to a coin when things go wrong, is the die begins to crack. At first, the die cracks are hair thin. I typically see the die cracks in the head area of the Lincoln Cent. Some of these die cracks may go from head area towards the rim. Most of the die cracks run towards the WE in In God We Trust. I have seen die cracks start on Lincoln's jacket area and travel slowly toward the southern rim. Again, these die cracks are pretty thin. When looking at die cracks on a Morgan Dollar happen, they are seem to happen in a circular format, especially close to the rim. These die cracks can travel through many of the letters on the reverse of the Morgan Dollar. The die cracks seem to be relative in width due to the size of the coin.
Now, the die breaks. Die breaks seem to become quite uneven in width. Die breaks are blotchy, and can be very wide. I have found a good example of a Lincoln cent with both the die cracks and die breaks. Die breaks typically make people wonder how this piece of the die does not fall out of the die. In this case, it looks like the rim of the die was still intact, but that die crack would last much longer.
Die cracks and die breaks end up happening over time. Some of the design features of the die, and some times the metal composition play into the reason die cracks and die breaks happen. I have seen a lot more Die cracks in cents, followed by die cracks and die breaks in Morgan Dollars, then quarters then half dollars.
The value of die cracks and die breaks is very minimal. Most of the collectors state that die breaks and die cracks are simply damage, and these are not a true error or a variety. There comes a point when die cracks and die breaks become dramatic, and then may become a collectible item due to the sheer spectacle it becomes. The Lincoln Cent below may be an example of where it may fetch a premium since it shows both the die cracks and die breaks.
The good ole' saying says, to a collector, a coins' value is only as high as a collector is willing to pay for it. Typically, if a coin has some pretty dramatic die cracks, it may fetch between $1,00 to 5.00 on a good day. A coin with dramatic die breaks - I mean a wow spectacle where its a sheer wonder why the die hasn't disintegrated may fetch several hundred dollars or more. Some of the major die breaks may even make it into some of the magazines or books.
It all boils down to what people wish to collect, and how much they are willing to spend. With every roll or bag that is out there, it's like a lottery. One never knows what exactly will be pulled out of the roll or bag and in some cases some great damaged coins, errors and variety coins can be pulled. Stand by for another post on a group of strike through's I found digging through a bag of Lincoln Cents. In the mean time, here is a photo of the Lincoln Cent with the die cracks and die breaks.