OverDates, Misplaced Dates (MPD) and
Repunched Dates (RPD)
by Kevin Flynn
A Repunched Date occurs when one or more digits of the date have been punched into the die in more than one location, showing the digits or parts of the digits as overlapping or even as totally separated images. Repunched dates are usually referred to as RPDs. The direction of the repunching is from the final date to the initial date.
During the 19th century, the dates were punched into each
working die as a final step in the production before hardening. Dates were
punched into the die by hand. If a mistake was made punching the date, the
engraver might remove the old date with abrasives or just repunch the date over
the first date. Some of the reasons that might have caused the engraver to
repunch the date are:
1. The date was not punched hard enough to get a good impression of the date into the die.
2. The date was punched at a tilt.
3. The digits were punched upside down.
4. The wrong size punches were used.
5. The date was punched too high or low.
How many digits were on the date punch is another area that needs more research. For the two cent series, only date punches with all four digits were used. This was proved by measuring the distance between the digits in the date from coins from 150 dies. Other denominations also need to be studied and documented.
From about 1909 to the mid-1980s, the first two digits of the date were part of the Galvano, with the second two digits being punched into the master die. Currently, the Galvano contains all four digits.
The two photos below on the left are of the 1864 Two cent tripled punched date with extreme repunching seen north on the 18. The top right photo is of the 1865 Three cent nickel with with strong repunching seen on all digits. The bottom right photo is of the 1864 Two cent quadruple punched date which shows the remnants of four 1's and four 8's.
Most repunched dates were caused by the same date punch being used on all striking of the date into the working die. There are some very rare examples of two different date punches being used on the same working die. For now, these are classified under repunched dates.
1. In 1865, for the two cent series, two different 4 digit date punches were used, a 1965 date punch with Plain 5, and an 1865 date punch with a Fancy 5.
For one variety listed in Flynn's book on two cent pieces (KF-F9), the working die was first struck with a Fancy 5 date punch, then struck with a Plain 5 date punch. This is obvious, because the right base of the 1 of the Fancy 5 is twice the length of that of the Plain 5. The length of the right base of the repunched 1 is the same length as that of the Fancy 5. There are other diagnostics that lead to the same conclusion.
It is anyone's guess as to how these varieties were generated. We only can speculate that there was a place for all the date punches for all the denominations. The engraver struck the date into the working die, placed the date punch down, examined the die, then accidently picked up a different date punch.
Misplaced Dates (MPD)
A misplaced date occurs when the date or digits of the date are fully or partially punched into the legend, devices, denticles, or any part of the field not normally associated with the general location of the date on the coin. A date is misplaced if any part of the date, even one digit, is found on the coin where it does not belong. Misplaced dates are usually referred to as MPDs. These also are commonly referred to as "blundered dates."
During the 19th century, the date was punched into the working die as the final step in its production. The working die was first annealed to soften it, then the engraver took a steel rod with the raised image of all four digits of the date on it (date punch), placed it on the working die and struck the metal rod with a mallet. Sometimes the engraver struck the date punch several times into the working die, to get a deeper impression. If the engraver made a mistake, such as making two images of the date in the working die, he might use an abrasive and remove the unwanted images.
How could a date punch so erroneously be punched into the denticles or any other part of the working die besides where it is supposed to be? When we see these enlargements at 60 times normal size, the digits are very obvious and sometimes we forget that most MPDs are not visible with the naked eye. The diameter of an Indian cent is only 3/4 of an inch. The area in which to strike the date between the bust and denticles is only 1/8 of an inch high and 1/4 of an inch wide. It would only take a 1/10 of an inch offset to punch the date into the denticles or bust on an Indian cent die. If a die sinker struck the date into the denticles and it was not visible with the naked eye, would he bother to remove it? Collectors were not running around with microscopes searching for minor errors during that time period. If he stopped to fix every mistake, would not the production of coins be held up? Look at the 1898 Indian cent MPD-003 below. The picture on the left shows the date at 30 power. The picture in the middle shows the MPD at 60 power. The picture on the right shows the date as its normal size. Can you see the digit in the denticles in the picture on the right?
|Date at 30 power
|Digit in denticles at 60 power
Who actually struck the date into the working dies? In the early days of the Mint before 1836, all of the outer design elements had to be hand punched into each working die. This included the stars, letters and the date. As the design elements required skill and because there were far fewer dies required than later years, the working dies were most likely engraved by a trained Engraver. In 1836, with the purchase of a reducing lathe, the main design was engraved into a 6 inch clay model, from which a metal casting was made. The reducing lathe was then used to make a master hub of the same size as the coin. This was used to make a master die in the hubbing press, after which the outer design elements were punched into the master die. This was then used to make a working hub, which was used to make the working dies. The only work required for the working dies was the punching of the date.
In the late 19th century, with hundreds of working dies being produced each year and needing the date struck into them, this monotonous task was probably performed by an apprentice or someone at the bottom of the ladder in the Engraving or Coining Department. An unskilled engraver could easily be trained to do this operation, especially since it was so repetitive. But anytime a manual task is performed even by the most skilled person, there is a chance for mistake. Take, for example all of the 20th century doubled dies produced that were caused by the worker setting the working die in the hubbing press and misaligning it. Add in 19th century factors such as long work hours, sickness, boredom, performing a redundant task, pressure to produce more in less time. All of these can contribute to a loss of concentration and misjudgment. As stated earlier, it only takes a 1/10 of an inch offset to punch the date into the denticles on an Indian cent.
One of the key pieces of evidence supporting the theory of misjudgement and inexperience is that 95% of the MPDs are directly above or below the normal date. When striking the date into the die, it would be natural to have the working die positioned in front of and facing you. With the date punch held in one hand sitting on the face of the die, the horizontal location of the date punch could easily be seen, but the vertical position could not. You cannot see above and below the date punch at the same time. If you used the denticles to reference the date punch, you could easily put the date punch 1/10 of an inch too high into the bust. If you looked over the top of the date punch to reference the bottom of the design, you could easily put the date punch 1/10 of an inch too low into the denticles, especially if you were not trained in the art of engraving.
Another argument that greatly supports this theory is that between 1880 and 1908, there are many more MPDs in the smaller denominations than the larger ones. The larger denominations have a larger work area to strike the date visible, which would make it easier to locate references to strike the date in its proper position. Another important piece of evidence is that almost no MPDs are found at the turn of the century in any series, while many are found in the years before and after. A conclusion drawn from this is that the quality control was increased for the coinage of the new century.
Misplaced Dates have been found on every series produced between 1842 and 1908 except the Three cent silver. In 1909, the date was struck into the master die ending the era of repunched and misplaced dates. Identifying a digit in the denticles or the devices can be very difficult on low grades. As the coin wears from friction, the raised metal on the coin wears down until it become smooth. Any raised digits in the denticles or devices wear smooth also. Any digits which protrude into the field wear much slower and are usually visible in low grades.
How is an MPD identified? Sometimes only part of a single digit is seen in one gap between two denticles. As there is not much metal seen, it is sometimes difficult to see an arc or defining shape of the digit to confirm it as a digit. If the digit is seen in two sequential gaps, the outline of the digit is easier confirmed. If multiple digits are seen, the distance between them compared to the normal digits of the date can determine if they all were punched at the same time. Overlays are a great tool to determine if multiple digits match up with the normal date and also to determine if a single digit matches the shape of the normal digit.
Another diagnostic of MPDs can be seen if you study the denticles. The denticles usually are shaped in a semicircle with the bottom starting at the level of the field. The denticles as well as the rest of the design elements are incused into the working die. As the date is punched into the denticles, the metal is pushed down at the highest point in the denticles. On the coin, this will show up as raised metal between the denticles, with the denticles thinned out where they were struck. Examining a close-up of the 1898 Indian MPD (MPD-003), it is obvious that the top of an 8 is in the denticles. Looking at the denticle that the 8 was punched over, it is very thin. This is an obvious side effect of the date being punched down into the denticles. If this was just a die crack or scratch, the denticles would be whole.
There are other theories which try to explain the cause of Misplaced Dates. One states that a date alignment jig was used to hold a working die, and a template was placed over top to align the date punch into the proper location. But if a hole intended for another location was used, the date would be punched into the wrong place. Doing overlays for every denomination with every other denomination for where the date would be if a center die alignment was used, and comparing the MPDs known to those overlays, it was found that there were many MPDs which did not fit into the position of the digits in the overlays. The same was also concluded for the dies in the date alignment jig being aligned in a different fashion such as top-left alignment. In a given year for a given denomination with a lot of MPDs, there is a wide spread of horizontal and vertical displacement between the MPDs which absolutely points against this theory.
One key piece of evidence that absolutely points against the use of an alignment jig is that all misplaced digits are the same as the digits that were struck into the die in its normal position. As the date punches must have been labeled and the template holes were labeled, how could the die sinker knowingly strike the quarter date punch through the half dollar template hole? Also, if the die sinker make a mistake and struck the date through the incorrect template hole, removed the die, saw his mistake, struck the date into the correct position, you would expect that the die sinker would not make the same mistake again. Yet in the Indian cent series there are 60 MPDs between 1906 and 1908. Another theory states that the date punch was intentionally struck into the die to test its hardness. There is absolutely no evidence for this in the MPDs, logic and common sense. All of these point against the hardness test theory.
The evidence points to MPDs being caused by misjudgments and inexperience. They are different from repunched dates only by definition. As they are found in obscure locations, many have just recently been found. But they offer the variety hunter a whole new frontier to search.
An overdate occurs when a coin exhibits dates of different years. This can occur when the date is punched or hubbed into a die for one year and the date of another year is punched or hubbed over one or more of the digits of that working die. This might have happened intentionally for a number of reasons:
1. There might have been a shortage of dies or metal to make
2. The mint may have made too many dies for a particular year, with many dies left over at the end of the year.
3. The working dies produced for one year might not have been used or may have been used very little.
4. On the second hubbings of a working die, a new working hub with a different date was used.
In the 18th and 19th centuries at the Mint, the date was punched into the working die by hand. It was an acceptable practice during the 19th century to reuse new or slightly used dies from one year to the next to get the most out of each die. To reuse the die for the next year, the engraver could remove the old date with abrasives and punch in the new date or just punch the new date over the old. Any remnants of the old date that were left, especially of digits that were different, would produce an overdate.
An overdate could also have happened by accident. The engraver could have picked up the punch for one year and when he went to strike the date punch a second time he picked up the punch for a different year. Even though an accident like this is unlikely, it is possible, especially when dies were being hubbed around the New Year and punches for more than one year might have been lying around.
Another way an overdate might have happened by accident was when a die was hubbed at the end of the year. The working hub of one year was used to hub the working die, and then when the die was returned to be rehubbed after annealing, a working hub of a different year was used to hub the die. This happened for the 1918 over 1917 Buffalo nickel and the 1942 over 1941 Mercury dime.
Below on the left are photos of the 1880-CC Morgan Dollar overdate VAM-6 with an obvious 7 seen in the lower and upper loop of the second 8. The two photos on the right are of the 1887 Three cent nickel 8/7 which is found on both proof coins and business strikes. This variety is especially nice because it also has 4 digits in the denticles.
Kevin Flynn may be reached at PO Box 538, Rancocas, NJ 08073-0538
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