Discussion regarding the cause of over polishing on 1936-1942 Proofs (Particularly 1936)
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What do we know regarding master hubs/dies? As the mint was experimenting, I assume they were starting from scratch? In looking at some of the proofs on hand from this period it almost appears as if there is die erosion present. This could be true die erosion or from erosion of the masters. Just curious I have never seen or cared to look for die records of the era. 

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Posted (edited)

All the die tables and related notes are in the 1936-42 proof coin book. Master dies and hubs were the same as used for normal, unpolished dies.

Erosion is not evident on most proofs and certainly not on the master dies and annual master hubs. What you see on the proofs are products of sloppy polishing. Some proofs also show slight radial lines produced as the polished surfaces gradually lost their mirror. This is common on normal working dies but largely hidden by "luster" and larger scale die wear.

Edited by RWB
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Woods,

All of what you termed die erosion is almost certainly over polish created in the polishing step of proof die production, and addressed in my original post. RWB explained why we know this - the normal circulation dies would have also showed it, and they don’t seem to.

VKurt, I agree that mint directors often have no numismatic knowledge at all. I think this is due to the position being given out as a political opportunity rather than choosing someone who wants to do the job, and as such things just don’t line up like you’ve said.

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Several of the master hubs for the proof coins of 1936-42 were already somewhat worn and/or damaged by 1936. That's why the proof coins of this period lack the fine details seen on pre-1920 examples of the Lincoln Cent, Buffalo Nickel and Mercury Dime that were coined from fresh dies. This is especially evident on the cent and dime. 1936-42 proofs will never be as bold as are sharp currency pieces from the 1910s.

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On 5/10/2022 at 8:31 AM, DWLange said:

Several of the master hubs for the proof coins of 1936-42 were already somewhat worn and/or damaged by 1936. That's why the proof coins of this period lack the fine details seen on pre-1920 examples of the Lincoln Cent, Buffalo Nickel and Mercury Dime that were coined from fresh dies. This is especially evident on the cent and dime. 1936-42 proofs will never be as bold as are sharp currency pieces from the 1910s.

Good info. This was a suspicion I had. 

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On 5/9/2022 at 11:48 AM, FlyingAl said:

Leeg,

Thanks for posting that letter! This was the response that the mint sent out regarding the full mirrors and as we all can see it doesn’t answer the question at all. By 1936 all of the dies had been corrected so that the basining was not the issue and the die curvature was not the issue with the polishing as is shown on my post. 
 

It seems that Director Ross just took an excuse and used it instead of finding the actual reason and now we as collectors today get the opportunity to find that reason, and I’d say we did as well.

The decision to make and sell proof coin sets was made by Morgenthau. Initial impetus came from FDR's staff to M to the Mint with M making the decision just after Louis McHenry Howe's death. Mint staff wanted to drop the matter.

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RE: "So a coin that could in theory grade 68 with any strike weakness at all automatically gets a 4 point deduction." as posted ATS.

If we remove the subjective bits from "grading," we have  coins ranked according to surface characteristics and preservation, not "like" or "not like." The conversation about visible detail belongs in the opinion and price negotiation - completely independent of "grade."

The present jumbled situation makes it much easier for coin sharpies to rip buyers and sellers -- buy at one "standard" and sell at another.

 

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On 5/12/2022 at 9:17 AM, RWB said:

buy at one "standard" and sell at another.

Ironically, the very condition that third party grading was invented to prevent. 

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It seems that the folks ATS are having trouble distinguishing true strike weakness from missing detail. As such, they keep saying that missing detail is strike weakness that should detract from grade.

I have stated that the TPGs don’t deduct for missing detail, and provided many examples of such. I also stated that very very few of these proofs show true strike weakness, but they don’t seem to understand these points. They keep going on about the weakness that isn’t there.

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On 5/12/2022 at 10:59 AM, FlyingAl said:

It seems that the folks ATS are having trouble distinguishing true strike weakness from missing detail. As such, they keep saying that missing detail is strike weakness that should detract from grade.

I have stated that the TPGs don’t deduct for missing detail, and provided many examples of such. I also stated that very very few of these proofs show true strike weakness, but they don’t seem to understand these points. They keep going on about the weakness that isn’t there.

That is a very common misconception by coin collectors. I think the origin lies in few understanding the detail that SHOULD be present on a normal coin, and also the ways in which details can be lost. It's a matter of understanding processes and causes.

Coining technology moves slowly and mostly out of sight. Common descriptions omit details and technical conditions that can have significant effects on output quality and quantity. There is also a strong tendency to try to squeeze old language into newly understood situations, such as the nonsense of "Special Proof" that one group cooked-up over a few drinks (or too many "energy" drinks.

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On 5/12/2022 at 9:07 AM, RWB said:

That is a very common misconception by coin collectors. I think the origin lies in few understanding the detail that SHOULD be present on a normal coin, and also the ways in which details can be lost. It's a matter of understanding processes and causes.

I’m not quite sure how else to explain it other than my OP post over there. It’s like they have no incentive to understand it and just go right back to “it’s a strike issue”. Any ideas? 
 

It seems they are using the grading standards for the eras before and after 1936-42 proofs. I see this era as having its own grading standards because of how much different the finished coins look when compared to the other eras - mainly detail. This may or may not be true, I have no idea, but the grades seem to support it. 
 

A lot of specialists in the series know that coins with detail are superior to those without, and this was caused by the over polishing of dies. I think it’s time the grading standards reflect this rather than ignore the facts as they stand and stop confusing collectors. 
 

It’s not strike, it’s the dies.

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Posted (edited)

Proofs prior to 1936 were based on the English Master Coin concept, where these were specially made to present the design at its best. American Master Coins, Proof Coins, and Pattern Pieces were all made with this intent in mind. But in 1936, the Engraving Department had to learn this from the beginning. They worked without clear reference pieces from the past, with no institutional knowledge, and no real incentive except possibly "shiny." The US Mint Bureau had no internal history to draw on, unlike the Paris and Royal Mints, and others in Europe, and the Mint Bureau did not invest in independent metallurgy and empirical testing except for brief interactions with the National Bureau of Standards.

Much of the confusion could be resolved if more collectors bought and read modern books, not the old obsolete stuff or Wally Breen's trash. (His ghost might be the greatest impediment to bringing science to American numismatics.)

Edited by RWB
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On 5/12/2022 at 11:01 AM, RWB said:

Wally Breen's trash. (His ghost might be the greatest impediment to bringing science to American numismatics.)

Amen, brother. 

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On 5/12/2022 at 11:01 AM, RWB said:

But in 1936, the Engraving Department had to learn this from the beginning

Maybe they were too busy banging out a new commemorative half dollar every couple of weeks. LOL. 

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American Numismatics is neither art nor science. It is a commercial jumble with a once-meaningful National Charter dryer than Lake Meade.

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On 5/7/2022 at 6:08 PM, FlyingAl said:

This is very true. An example of such a coin can be seen below. It's a PR65, an average coin based on 1942 grades. I paid a pittance of $90 for it, and it shows better details than many 1942 proof quarters. This can be seen based on the eagle's tail fathers, full detail on all lettering, and some contrast being seen throughout. (Please note that contrast does not necessarily mean good detail, unless it is shown on the low points of the relief throughout the design.

CSS_20220405_8928-Master.thumb.jpg.ccf2a036b4beb6459aeba8d5135ced2a.jpg

In contrast, this PR67+ below shows much weaker detail on the eagle's tail feathers, wings, and lettering. It would cost me around $700 today. 

39055853_195623572_2200.thumb.jpg.47e16107b8d4409fc85318ef75a19621.jpg

This all goes to show that a lot of the best detailed and attractive coins aren't PF67s, 68s, or 69s. They are often 64s, 65s, and 66s. I have a stunning 1942 Lincoln cent in 64CAM. I would take that any day over a severely over polished 68RD example because it shows what proofs should - full details and what the designer wanted the finished coins to look like. It's a shame that many of the collectors of this era compromise on detail for higher grades. The detail that proofs should show and the reason proofs are struck is therefore lost on many of the top sets, and those with lower grade truly stunning examples go unnoticed. 

Thats a nice '42, the Pf 65 coin I mean. Of course no Cameo quarters have been identified but here's one I bought as a duplicate and would call it Ultra Deep but no contrast. 

Its for real too. ANACS Pf 67 with no obvious hairlines but couple curious marks that probably would only merit a Pf 65 grade. I think the coin is rare this nice, any comments ?

s-l500.jpg

s-l500r.jpg

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It looks to be a late die state example of the same die pair that struck mine. This die pair seems to have been repolished at least once, judging by following what the recutting looks like and how the coins look, and yours was struck somewhere after that repolish whereas mine was before the repolish. Somewhere in this die pair's life there is a drastic change in appearance from dull to bright deep mirrors, and I'd imagine yours was a relatively new strike off of the repolish, with bright deep mirrors. It's a nice coin that might command a premium if you find the right collector.

I use deep as it is much more reflective than usual, but in reality "deep" mirrors didn't matter to the mint at all in 1942. They just wanted shiny.

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On 5/17/2022 at 1:45 AM, Cat Bath said:

I bought this 1936 just because I liked the strike.

Very nice example and nearly full detail - missing a bit on the L-hand and central wing. AWW monogram is clear and sharp.

:)

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Posted (edited)
On 5/17/2022 at 1:45 AM, Cat Bath said:

I still like it.

 

So do I.  Proof 65 sounds good to me.

PS:  I agree 100% with what RWB said.  

Edited by Alex in PA.
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I really like that one. Excellent obverse detail and although the reverse lacks slightly in the eagle’s wing (viewer’s left), the color more than makes up for that. A premium example for the year in my eyes. 
 

Struck in early 1936, with unpolished planchets and dies that were not over polished. The grade doesn’t really matter on this one as only a few examples could approach the eye appeal of this one at high grade levels. 

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[I hope I am not being out of order by asking, but what exactly are polished dies polished with?]

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Posted (edited)
On 5/28/2022 at 3:55 PM, Quintus Arrius said:

[I hope I am not being out of order by asking, but what exactly are polished dies polished with?]

The US Mint used different materials in different eras. The most common was emery abrasive in various grades (fineness) depending on the purpose. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) - pure lime - was used at Carson and San Francisco...it was cheap, readily available and did not require careful filtering before use. Proof dies were given their final polish using finly ground and filtered polishing rouge (iron oxide, i.e., rust). By the 1930s cerium oxide was entering general use along side zirconia paste, later diamantic pastes were used. Cerium oxide is the most frequently encountered today.

[One way to make excellent polishing rouge is to grind common iron rust very fine, then sift through a series of sieves down to about 800/inch. Heat it and regrind the 800 powder, then sprinkle on water. Skim off whatever floats, and repeat until all the oxide has been treated. The oxide that floats will, when dried, give a uniformly excellent polish with no scratches or sleeks from coarse particles.]

Edited by RWB
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[And here I was thinking it had to be a manually held wire brush of the type used on leather or swedes. Thank you!]

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On 5/28/2022 at 4:44 PM, Quintus Arrius said:

[And here I was thinking it had to be a manually held wire brush of the type used on leather or swedes. Thank you!]

Perhaps for circulation coin dies. 

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Much manual polishing was done using "emery sticks" which were little rods of soft wood with a crushed end. The stick end was dampened, dipped in a little abrasive and gently rubbed on small parts of a die. This was commonly done to "surface dress" or refinish part of a die face to remove clash marks or other damage. A lot of Peace dollars show fine scratches created by improper use of an emery stick and either contaminated abrasive or grit that was too coarse. (Peace dollars from SF and D usually have more of this damage than P Mint coins.)

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On 5/28/2022 at 6:07 PM, RWB said:

Much manual polishing was done using "emery sticks" which were little rods of soft wood with a crushed end. The stick end was dampened, dipped in a little abrasive and gently rubbed on small parts of a die. This was commonly done to "surface dress" or refinish part of a die face to remove clash marks or other damage. A lot of Peace dollars show fine scratches created by improper use of an emery stick and either contaminated abrasive or grit that was too coarse. (Peace dollars from SF and D usually have more of this damage than P Mint coins.)

I wondered what D and S “crud” was. Thanks. 

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I was not privy to any aspect of this body of knowledge. I appreciate the minutiae greatly.

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On 5/28/2022 at 7:28 PM, Quintus Arrius said:

I was not privy to any aspect of this body of knowledge. I appreciate the minutiae greatly.

You can buy the book and get much more minutiae and little extra cost -- plus a full CD of nano-minutiae right down to the molecules in a gnat's eyelash. :)

 

OK--ok--the gnat part is a bit of hyperbole.

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On 5/28/2022 at 6:02 PM, RWB said:

OK--ok--the gnat part is a bit of hyperbole.

I would dissent - I think the sub note about the polishing telescopes may count towards a gnat's eyelash xD

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