Sep 09

Know The Difference

                                                         At Left: A very ‘mushy’ 1926-D Lincoln Cent


Know The Difference

Sometimes the method of manufacture can betray a coin’s true grade. I am offering two examples here today: weak strike and die polish lines.


Denver and San Francisco cents of 1926 suffered notoriously weak striking details. These softly struck coins appear to be a few grades below the technical grade for similar circulated specimens. When looking at softly struck uncirculated coins you will need to see uninterrupted luster over all areas of the coin. Believe me when I say that while technically uncirculated, such examples change hands at an extreme discount. A numismatist can spend a lifetime attempting to discern strike weakness and true wear.


Die polish lines are present on a coin when the dies used to strike that coin were aggressively polished by an employee of The Mint. This could have been done for a multitude of reasons, the most likely being to remove die clash marks in the field. Since die polish lines are a result of the minting process and the coin is essentially as made, the grading companies should not punish a coin for having them (i.e. give a lower grade or no grade). In practice, however, I can report that PCGS does not seem to like them on coins in certain series, Morgan Dollars come to mind immediately. My guess is that these lines are confused with abrasion from a cleaning in many cases.


There are some key differences in lines from a cleaning and lines from die polish. A cleaning will have abrasion marks that dig into the coin while die polish lines are raised. Also, lines from a cleaning are parallel whereas die polish lines tend to go in many stray directions. And lastly, marks from a cleaning will travel on top of the raised area while die polish lines only affect the flat field of a coin.

         1976-S Lincoln fresh from a Proof Set


You can decide for yourself whether a coin exhibiting either a soft strike or die polish lines is right for your collection. Some will not care for the reduced eye appeal in such pieces while others may seek them out as study specimens. Either way an astute collector should learn how to tell the difference between a weak strike vs. wear and the presence of a cleaning vs. die polish lines.

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