US cent experimental issues / 1942-1975

Started by brandm24, September 24, 2020, 05:34:00 PM

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brandm24

GROUP 1 (Lincoln Patterns)

Many experimental issues of the cent coin were struck by the US Mint between 1942 and 1975. Many were produced between 1942 and 1944 in an effort to replace the mostly copper planchet used to strike cents. Copper was a strageic metal urgently required to prosecute the war effort and it was essential that a substitute be found.

There were two main groups of trials that were tested and evaluated. The first group maintained the standard Lincoln Head design and was concerned with only finding a replacement alloy.  No non-metallic alternatives were considered in this phase.

The first trial alloy was a composite material consisting of 98.0 % aluminum, 0.7 % silicon, 0.6 % iron, 0.5 % silver, and 0.4 % magnesium (the total of 100.2 % is a result of rounding). The coin weighed 1.563 g. This complicated alloy was conceived in an effort to harden the aluminum planchet. All were dated 1942. A very small number were struck and most were later melted when the trial was rejected. However, a handful did survive.

Other announced alloys tested were zinc-coated steel and white metal, but there has been speculation that others in pure zinc, copper/zinc allloy, antimony, and pure lead planchets were also evaluated. If so, none are known to have survived.

Ultimately the zinc-coated steel option was chosen and went into production in 1943. The Denver, San Francisco and Philadelphia mints all struck examples. Philadelphia had a mintage of 684,000,000, Denver 217,000,000,while SanFrancisco struck only 191,000,000. While all three mint examples are very common today, there are some known to have been struck on silver or copper planchets in error.

In 1944 production resumed on copper planchets with much of the metal recovered from spent shell casings.

Bruce

Always Faithful

brandm24

GROUP 2 (Colombian Patterns)

The second group was composed of trials struck on many unusual or even exotic materials.The design was based on the Colombian 2-Centavos and was engraved by John R. Sinnock.

No fewer than 22 different materials were used including various colors of plastic, rubber, bakelite, fiber, zinc, and even tempered glass. Most of the trials were struck at the US Mint but others were manufactured by private companies with expertise in these specialty materials. The Bakelite Co.(bakelite), Auburn Button Works (brown plastic), Durex Plastics & Chemicals (rust colored plastic), and the Blue Ridge Glass Co. (tempered glass) all cooperated in the effort.All issues were dated 1942.

Obviously, none of these patterns were ever adopted for regular US production, but this series of Columbian Patters make for an interesting footnote in the history of experimental coinage.

Bruce



Bruce
Always Faithful

brandm24

There were three other experimental cents with the Lincoln Head design that appeared during the war period. Two in 1943 and the third in 1944.

One 1943 example using regular production dies were struck on a steel planchet coated with zinc, antimony, and iron and weighed in at 2.7 grams. The only noticeable difference from regular production issues was it's slightly darker color. I found nothing on mintage figures or the disposition of those struck.

The second was a copper plated cent weighing slightly more at 2.8 grams. No details were found concerning this one.

The supposed experimental struck in 1944 may have just been a mint error rather than a true trial piece. A number of 1944 dated coins were produced on extra thick planchets and weighed in at a hefty 4.1 grams as a result. The standard weight was 3.11 grams. Though it's unclear as to motive, some researchers today feel that the coins were inadvertently struck on extra thick stock. Apparently, no mint records have been found concerning this issue.

Bruce
Always Faithful

brandm24

EXPERIMENTAL CENTS (1964-1975)

In 1964 the mint struck a very small number (perhaps less than 100) of what are known today as "experimental SMS cents" The reason is unclear but is likely in response to their decision to forgo the production of proof coins from 1965 through 1967. No proofs were minted those years as there was an extreme shortage of small circulating coinage and all of the mint's resources were needed to dramatically increase production.

SMS stands for "special mint set" and was apparently an attempt to produce a proof-like coin in place of an actual proof. The resulting look of the coin displayed a noticeably sharper image and strike but had no proof surface reflectivity. Building on the success of the trial strikes, the mint went on to issue special mint sets in 1965, 1966, and 1967.  Regular proff production resumed in 1969.

What became of the small mintage is unclear, but the few that have surfaced were only recognized as "different" in 1993-1994. Fewer than fifty examples have been identified today. Apparently, there's little in mint records that reveal the fate of hese experimental coins.

Bruce
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<k>

GROUP 2 (Colombian Patterns) - so the US mint had presumably provided the original 2 centavos coin and design for Colombia. I wonder if any of those patterns escaped and ended up in circulation either in Colombia or the US.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

brandm24

Here's an image of a thick planchet 1944 Lincoln showing a comparison to a standard 1944. It looks exactly the same with the exception of the thickness.

Bruce
Always Faithful

brandm24

Quote from: <k> on September 25, 2020, 04:35:31 PM
GROUP 2 (Colombian Patterns) - so the US mint had presumably provided the original 2 centavos coin and design for Colombia. I wonder if any of those patterns escaped and ended up in circulation either in Colombia or the US.
That's a good question, <k>. I don't know the answer to that but I'll look into it.
Always Faithful

brandm24

While I didn't find out who provided the design for the Colombian 2-Centavo coin, we do know that John Sinnock did some die work for the Bogota Mint. We also know that he cut the dies for the Colombian Patterns, so it's a possibility the 2-Cenavo design was his. The evidence is sketchy and circumstantial though.

I also discovered that US mints at Philadepphia, Denver, and San Francisco struck over 130,000,000 coins for the Colombian goverment between 1916 and 1946 consisting of several different denominations. Interesting facts but no firm conclusion can be made.

Bruce
Always Faithful

<k>

So that would explain it. Let's just hope Colombia doesn't find out, or they might invade.  :-X
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

brandm24

Yeah, <k>, we'll be involved in a dicey diplomatic incident. :o

Bruce
Always Faithful

Figleaf

Thank you for a wonderful and beautifully illustrated thread, Bruce. It highlights that mints around the world don't just strike coins. They do creative and innovative thinking and work that in the final analysis we all profit from.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

brandm24

Thanks, Peter. I've always been interested in the "nuts and bolts" process of minting coins.

Bruce
Always Faithful

brandm24

GENERAL MOTORS ROLLER DIE PATTERNS (1964-1969(?))

In the early 1960s General Motors in conjunction with the US Mint began experimenting with a new method of mass production that would dramatically increase the speed of striking coins. The effort was in response to the mint's need to increase production speed and to lower costs.

The subsequent development of roller die presses was touted as providing the capability of striking up to 10,000 one cent coins per minute. A long term effort was undertaken to bring this project to fruition but many of the technical difficulties encountered couldn't be overcome. The testing continued at least through 1967 and possibily as late as 1969. At that time the effort was abandoned.

The major obstacles included the identification  / replacement of worn or broken dies in the very complex presses. When a die needed replacement the entire process had to be shut down while replacements were installed. Unfortunately, there was a high rate of die failure experienced, probably as a result of the high-speed process. The other major drawback with the subpar quality of the strikes that couldn't be improved enough to satisfy the stringent standards of the mint.

There were two designs used for trial strikes. One, apparently created by GM employees, displayed a standard portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse and the words "Manufacturing Staff Development" on the reverse. The reverse wording identified it as of GM manufacture. There was no additionalr devices or text on either side. Although all trials struck using this design were done so in 1964, none were dated. Since this project dealt only with speed and the cost containment no "exotic materials" or alloys were used. All strikes were on copper planchets. I found no mintage information but it seems existing examples are quite rare.

The Lincoln experimental design had a short life span. When mint inspectors  saw the likeness of them to the real design they immediately had them pulled from production. It was strictly forbidden for a private company to produce such "copy-cat" dies. Although far from a match, it was close enough that mint officials banned their further use.

As a result of this action new dies of a more generic nature were created by mint engravers. These are known as fantasy designs. In this case, a female bust facing left is shown on the obverse and a simple laurel weath on the reverse. All of the legends are gibberish and have no particular meaning with the possible exception of the small "G" shown on the obverse and reverse. Some say it stands for Frank Gasparro who may or may not have engraved the trials. The gibberish was added to approximate the actual location of legends and design on real production coins.

The letter / number combinations seen on the obverse are atually engraved die markers that identify the die number and placement of it in the press. For example, 34/M identifies Die #34  and its location on the middle deck of the press.

From what I've learned a large number of these were struck and a substantial quantity have survived. They're more common by far than the Lincoln Head variety. As with the Lincolns, all were stuck in copper.

While the effort to perfect high speed minting went on until possibly as late as 1969, I've not seen any trial strikes with dates other than 1964 or 1967. It seems the effort to make the high speed / lower cost of minting coins a reality was pursued with great effort, but it was simply beyond the technical capabilities of the time.


Bruce


Always Faithful

brandm24

I found some additional information on the SMS experimental cents that I spoke of upthread.

The mint actually produced a very small number of SMS sets (less than 50) which included the cent, nickel, dime, and half dollar denominations. I assume they included an example of a quarter as well, but I found no mention of it anywhere.

A number of these sets were found in the estate of Eva Adams the US Mint director (1961-1969) upon her death . Well known coin dealer Lester Merkin purchased them and sold them at a Stack's auction in the early 1990s. Apparently, very few sets survive intact today as many were broken up and sold as individual coins. At present, 22 cents, 18 nickels, 22 dimes, and 28 half dollars have been certified. Why no quarters is a mystery to me.

Bruce
Always Faithful

<k>



So the lettering here is like the 'Lorem Ipsum' dummy text, but just random letters, rather than proper Latin words jumbled together ungrammatically.

I wonder who or what the portrait is based on. It doesn't look like a typical 'Liberty', nor is she based on Lois Lane of Superman fame. Does she resemble some Hollywood actress of the olden days?
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.