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Blundered Dies

Blundered Dies.  Dies not in their proper state, containing errors of design or misfeasance. Blundered dies can occur with any kind of manufacture, whether by hand engraving, by hand cut with punches or by modelled and pantograph diecutting. Such dies are unedited before being placed into production. Some knowledgeable person needs to check every aspect of every die before it is hardened and placed in a press. Sometimes the error is caught before the die is placed in use and an attempt – by retolling – to correct the error takes place, but often this is quite evident in the struck piece. Just about any error one could imagine has been found on struck pieces. Historically, the greatest percentage of errors appeared when punches were used to add detail, letters and figures.

Hand engraving requires the artist to work the entire design in his mind while his hands are cutting each detail. Machine engraved dies are made from patterns which have to go through several steps (often by different workers) that the opportunity for catching an error is greater before it reaches the final diecutting stage. Diesinking with the use of puncheons, however, create an opportunity for an error with every letter, every detail, every doodad, every figure.

A study of blundered dies in 19th century American coinage revealed 38 different kinds of errors. These included such errors as misplaced digits, letters, logotypes, mintmarks and stars from puncheons, as well as omitted, rotated, reversed, and doubled elements; overdates, overmintmarks, the use of wrong punches, even triple entries and dual hubbing.

Each of these are compounded by the evidence that some of these errors were discovered both before and after the die was once in production. Some blundered dies can be salvaged by retooling, correcting the error by placing the punch in the correct place and sinking this into the die (superimposed over the incorrect element). Thus the die can be used to strike a few thousand more pieces before it must be retired (but creating another die variety so eagerly studied by numismatists).

Should that puncheon be driven too far into the die during retooling, it will appear bolder and stand higher in the struck piece, sure evidence – along with any remainder of the incorrect punching – that the die was retooled.

Of course, numismatists find specimens of blundered dies of inestimable interest

in their study of any particular coin. They are the source of many varieties and sub- varieties.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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