What are die variety coins?

Possible die variety coin photo #3

Die variety coins – types & die variety coin attribution

A die variety coin is an alteration to an existing die pattern, that was created by and used within the mint. The die variety coins may be a slight modification to the approved impressions on the working dies that make coins.

It’s late in 2022 and I see an increased desire by collectors to find die variety coins. What is a die variety coin? A die variety coin was a slight modification to the approved process in which dies were created. Die variety coins were mainly minted prior to 1996, and before the single squeeze technique by the US Mint was implemented.

Die variety coins – Re-punched mint marks

In 1990 and 1991 The US Mint started designing the mintmark directly upon the master die. By adding the mintmark to the master die, it eliminated the need for mint workers using a small steel punch with the mintmark at one end, and with the use of a mallet, the worker would add a mintmark to the working die manually.

Occasionally things go wrong when they added mintmarks to a die prior to 1991. If an additional mintmark was applied on top of the first attempt, a die variety coin would be minted, called a Re-punched mintmark, or RPM. The working die with the RPM were added to minting presses and started created coins with RPM’s on them for the life of that working die.

Die variety coins – Doubled dies

In addition, other die variety coins were minted prior to 1996. The US mint prior to 1996 was using a multiple squeeze technique to transfer the images from the master die to the working dies. If the mint workers took the die out of the die press to examine it to ensure all the design features were present, and did not align it back up properly, for another impression to the working die, there was a high probability that a doubled die (doubled die obverse or doubled die reverse) was born.

This doubled die is another form of a die variety coin. The working die with the doubled die were added to minting presses and started created coins with doubled dies on them for the life of that working die.

Die variety coin categories

Other die variety coins that were created prior to 1996 are:

  • Over mint marks (OMM) – Prior to 1996, one mintmark was used by mistake. The mint then applied another proper mintmark over the wrong mintmark. A die variety coin was born. In the Lincoln cent series, two very popular die variety coins exist that are over mint marks; 1944-D over S Lincoln cent is extremely popular as is the 1946-S over D Lincoln. The Jefferson nickel series have a few die variety coins, to include the 1950-D over S.
  • Dual Mintmarks (DMM’s) – Dual mint mark variety coins exist due to a mint worker accidentally placing a wrong mint mark in one location on the die. They may have lightly tapped the incorrect mintmark on the surface of the die, leaving enough of an impression where it was noticeable under magnification. The mint worker checked the mintmark and replaces it with the correct mint mark punch and places the mintmark into the die at the correct location. There is one questionable 1956-D Lincoln cent with a possible “S” located in between the lower portion of the “19” in the date.
  • Re-Punched date (RPD) – The RPD’s were created quite frequently in the US minted Indian head series.
  • Over-dates – Strangely, there is no commonly used abbreviation for this die variety coin ! Over dates existed when a mint decided to re-purpose a prior year die to a newer year. The Flying Eagle cent had an overdate, the 1858 over 7. The Indian Head cent series had the 1888 over 7. The Mercury dime has the 1942 over 1 die variety coin. The 1918 over 7 -S Standing Liberty quarter sports a doubled die and an overdate. There are a handful of other die variety coins known as over dates out there, especially on world coins !
  • Mis-Placed date – (MPD) – Mis-placed date die variety coins were plentiful in the Indian head cent series, to include 1862, 1863, 1886, 1868, 1869, 1870, 1871 and 1872. These Mis-placed date variety coins had a date which is well hidden, south near the edge of the coin, in the denticles. Other Mis-placed dates do exist, mainly in older coins. One new discovery was found in the 1943 over 2 steel cent.

The list above are VARIETIES, they are NOT errors. Die variety coins can be categorized and documented because the issue is on the DIE itself. The varieties are caused by HUMAN intervention, either a modification or mistake to a relatively new die. Do not confuse this with any “error” coin that ends up on the die like die cracks, cuds, laminations, off-center strikes, double strikes or other issues labeled as errors.

Die variety coins – attribution

If you have a coin that you suspect is a die variety coin, in my opinion YOU should do the primary research. Why? because you will learn from it, and the people who assist you in any forum area will have less to look up if you take the initiative and help them and help yourself. Others are more willing to help, if you help yourself.

Listed below, are a few websites and tips on how to attribute your own die variety coins.

Let’s do a die variety attribution together !

Let’s do an attribution together. Here is the potential die variety coin 1941-S Lincoln Cent :

The three photos below are all you have to attribute this possible die variety coin. So let’s head out to http://varietyvista.com to see if it might be listed there.

On the main page of varietyvista, under the LINCOLN CENTS area to the left, look under the RPM’s area and find the LWC RPM’s 1909-1958 button. Click on that button. (LWC is Lincoln Wheat Cents)

We are looking for RPM’s so click on the appropriate button ( RPM Listings)

Scroll down until you find the 1941-S year. IF there is an active link displaying any die variety coins for that year and mintmark, you will be able to click on it and continue on. But, first look at the 1932-D entry. That year and mint mark does NOT have any link to it, thus, no recognized die variety coins on varietyvista for that year and mintmark. OK, click on 1941-S link.

The page changes and shows 11 RPM’s that might be a match for our coin. All we have to do is match this coin to one listed on the varietyvista page.

Possible die variety coin photo #1
Possible die variety coin photo #1

This is VITAL. look at the photo below and note where the “S” is located. Remember, that “S” was hammered into the working die by hand back in 1941, so the location of every working die, the “S” might be slightly different in position. Our coin, on photo #2 looks like the “S” is almost centered at the corner of the “4” in the date. Let’s see if we can eliminate any matches on varietyvista. A quick look at all 11 on varietyvista and we can ELIMINATE the following:

RPM #3,RPM #7, RPM #8

So now, that leaves us with RPM’s 1,2 4, 5, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Possible die variety coin photo #2
Possible die variety coin photo #2

Now, we want to look closely at the mintmark on this coin and note what it is showing us. Is that machine doubling? No, The secondary area to the West is raised and it mimics the mintmark to the East. Looks like one “S” almost on top of another. There are even two curves of the “S” and two lower serifs as well.

A quick look at the examples on varietyvista and it looks like there are a few possibilities that might match up:

RPM #1, RPM #5 and RPM #11. Pay attention to the list above where we eliminated a few due to the incorrect position of the mint mark, and this has narrowed our potential matches down to three.

On varietyvista lets click on the link for 1941-S RPM-001. Hummmm that “S” looks a bit different, almost smaller? We won’t rule this one out yet.

Lets hit the BACK button on your browser or the 1941-S RPM’s button at the top of the current varietyvista page we’re on.

Let’s look at 1941-S RPM-005, click on that link. Nope, the RPM-005 is “backwards”. We have a lower level RPM to the West and RPM #005 shows a lower level to the East – so this one is eliminated.

Lets hit the BACK button on your browser or the 1941-S RPM’s button at the top of the current varietyvista page we’re on.

Let’s click on the 1941-S RPM-011 button. Hey, that die variety matches up pretty good. There are only three photos and none of them show any marker or pick up points to look for. Markers and pick up points are “issues” on the die that transferred to the coins, such as die gouges, die scratches , small die cracks or other things that would help you get down to a “stage” or age of the die.

The more coins that the die strikes, the older it gets. Occasionally the working dies will go through a maintenance period, and some of the scrubbing and cleaning of dies can add markers or pick up points to assist in finding out what RPM it is, as well as the stage or age of the die.

So to me, it looks like the coin pictured here is on varietyvista as 1941-S RPM #011, S/S Northwest.

Possible die variety coin photo #3
Possible die variety coin photo #3

Identifying worthless damage

Machine doubling, Strike doubling, ejection doubling machine doubling damage, mechanical damage and other forms of worthless damage. MANY people have a hard time distinguishing between worthless damage and a actual doubled die.

Machine doubling or mechanical damage poster. Know the difference !
Machine doubling or mechanical damage poster. Know the difference !

How to tell the difference between a doubled die and machine doubling?

In my article, https://minterrors.org/what-is-machine-doubling-or-mechanical-damage/ I show some classic machine doubling photos. I don’t go overboard – all machine doubling looks slightly different, but the result is the same.

Additionally, another post, https://minterrors.org/educational-series-what-is-a-doubled-die/ , shows some examples of doubled dies. Notice how the doubled die impressions are at nearly the same height. That is important.

Photography of your die variety coins

  • Equipment is everything. You need to stay within a budget, but get equipment that will be beneficial.
  • Good, subdued lighting is vital. Too much glare is never good, and too dark leaves people with a dark image that is not helpful. Be creative, something WILL work ! WARNING ! if you cover a light ensure you uncover it immediately after to avoid any sort of fire issue.
    • If using a microscope, fed into a display monitor, I suggest your display monitors should be at about 50% contrast and 50% brightness (or whatever is “default”) , then you will serve photos that are average looking for most people – no matter what their settings are.
  • Focused photos a vital. Anyone that is going to help will attempt to magnify the photo to see the issue you are seeing and it is absolutely crucial for them to have as clear and focused photo that you can provide.
    • Do not attempt to take a photo with the phone in your hand. Any slight movement of the phone will cause focusing issues.
    • Find a nice sturdy box, about 6 to 8 inches square. Place this on your table or other working environment.
    • Get place a bottle cap or other round object ( preferably smaller than the coin) on the table near the box.
    • Place the coin on top of the bottlecap.
    • If using a cell phone, turn on your camera app.
    • Place the phone on the box, so that the camera can see the coin below. WARNING ! Do NOT hang the phone too far over to cause it to become unstable. Avoid this if it appears the system will cause the phone to fall which may damage the coin and or phone. Use at your own risk .
  • Focus on the COIN and NOT the slab or the flip. If you have a MANUAL focus, this would be best. Out of any flip or cardboard mylar is best. Raw photos work best but if it is already slabbed, you need to try your best to get an in focused photo without any glare from lighting.
  • LIGHTLY tap the photo app to take a photo or, get yourself a Bluetooth enabled key-style fob to eliminate the possibility of the camera moving.
  • CROP your photos. Most phones offer a cropping application within the photo editor. Same the photo as a JPG file. It offers photos that are smaller in size (KB or MB wise).
Photography of die variety coins
Photography of die variety coins

Off the cuff photography of die variety coins

Off the cuff photography. Nothing special. No painstakingly adjusted lighting or careful planning. Snap and go. Results are acceptable. In these photos there might be a tad bit too much lighting, but I wanted to show how easy shooting decent photos are. Look, this Kennedy half dollar pictures below is 10 inches square on my monitor and it shows up focused and clear.

Oh, and THIS is a Proof coin as well, which are usually a pain for most people to get a good photo. This is a JPG photo and it is huge, and under 2MB in size for each photo.

die variety coins - photo from a box and cell phone setup
die variety coins – photo from a box and cell phone setup
die variety coins - photo from a box and cell phone setup
die variety coins – photo from a box and cell phone setup

Thanks for the visit. If you have any questions about this post, this website or other generic information about coins, feel free to drop us a note.

Questions about this website or about coins in general ?
Questions about this website or about coins in general ?