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A short story: The 1918/7-D Buffalo Overdate Creation

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A Beehive of Activity


The 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel overdate was actually manufactured during the last three

months of 1917 at the main U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On April 6, 1917,

the United States had entered into World War I, and the entire nation was gearing up to a

war footing. The eventual goal was to provide men and material to support our entry in

the struggle against Germany.


Even without our Nation’s entry into World War I, The Mint at Philadelphia at the time

was very busy manufacturing and producing dies for not only the current year (1917), but

also for the coming year (1918). The changeover in years always overlapped. Dies for

both years were produced at the same time.


During this critical time of coin production, new taxes and fees were imposed on the

American public to help finance the war effort. An unprecedented demand for minor

coinage of One and Five Cent denominations began to tax the Mint to its’ very limits to

produce these coins. One can probably envision this activity as being similar to a beehive,

with the bees scurrying everywhere to make ends meet.


The die, as they say, had been set. But there was one more ingredient to add to this mix.


Uncle Sam Wants YOU!


Patriotism reached into the sanctums of the United States Mint, and Mint employees, just

like their fellow countrymen, enlisted to serve overseas. Experienced and trained labor

from all three Mints suddenly left their posts to join the war effort.


In the midst of the critical changeover from coinage of 1917 to 1918, the Mint scrambled

to hire replacements. This, when operations on an uninterrupted schedule were crazy

enough, let alone without an influx of new, untrained employees. This scenario explains

the basic reason why events started to go wrong.


A Cold and Chilly Philly Morning


The winds of war and weather swirled around outside the environs of the Philadelphia

Mint sometime near the end of 1917. New hires and seasoned veterans struggled to get

the job done. I don’t think that it would be too out of place to state that the “Baptism of

Fire” had begun for the replacement employees. Amidst an insurmountable demand for

coins and productivity, the new force was trained as best as possible and thrown into the

cauldron of coin production.


And what a cauldron it was! The Mint is, in reality no more than a government owned

and operated manufacturing plant with a specialized product. The manufacture and

minting of coins involves myriad steps, each step creating its’own unique sound. There

would have been the constant clatter from the coining presses as they churned out new

coins, the metal clanging of furnace doors opening and closing, the hydraulic hissing of

the hubbing machines, the constant ruckus emanating from the blanking machine area, and

the whirls and squeaks from the upset mill. Add to that the constant motion of coin bins

transporting blanks, planchets, or newly minted coins going everywhere at once, and the

side by side hubbing of two different years coinage dies at the same time, with employees

removing annealed dies from the furnace and transporting them to the hubbing press for

another impression.


There was a whole lot going on..............


This hectic pace and frantic rush to produce coins is the cause for what was to happen



The Janvier Premiers and Philly Fails


The Mint purchased a new Janvier Reducing Lathe in 1907, but didn’t actually use it

successfully until late in 1920! The new machine was capable of reducing in size a model

design of approximately 12 to 16 inches in size (what is called a Galvano) to the exact size

of a die needed to strike the actual coin.


The Mint first tried the direct reduction in 1907 on Augustus St. Gaudens’ new $20

Double Eagle design. Due to unknown technical problems, they were unable To do it. It

seemed the Mint could not get the Janvier to operate properly and correctly and

satisfactorily cut on a direct reduction from a larger-size Galvano. They scrapped the

direct reduction process and fell back to a compromise position.


As a consequence, Brenners Lincoln Cent, Frasier’s Buffalo Nickel, Weinmans Winged

Liberty Head Dime, and Macneils Standing Liberty Quarter (to name a few) were all

reduced outside the Mint to a more manageable 9 inch size by the Meddalic Art Company

located in New York, NY


From this point, the Janvier was able to successfully reduce the size to the exact dimension

needed to produce dies for coinage.


The first coin that The Mint was able to fully re-produce (without the outside reduction)

on the Janvier goes to Anthony De Francischi’s 1921 Peace Dollar. It took the Mint 14

years to master the use of the new Janvier Reducing Machine. One year short of 100, the

Janvier is still in use today. It must have been a heck of a complicated piece of equipment!


The Hubbing Process


The Janvier, in a long, slow process sometimes taking up to two full days to complete,

produced the Master Hub for production of coinage. The Master Hub is used every year

to produce the two (normally) Master Dies that will, in turn, be used to create several

Working Hubs, which are positive in relief, just like the finished coin will be.


The Working Hubs form the basis from which all Working Dies will be produced.


Working Hubs are placed into hydraulic presses. The press is then lined up with a piece

of metal which will, after several impressions from the Working Hub, be transformed in to

a Working Die that will be used to strike coins. This is called a “Hubbing”.


Before the piece of die steel receives its’ first hubbing, it is sent to an annealing furnace

and heated till it becomes cherry red in color. This procedure softens the die enough to

allow it to be pressed into (squeezed) with the Working Hub to form a partial impression

of the coin design.


The technology exists in the present to create a Working Die with only one impression

from the Working Hub. This “single squeeze” procedure has been in use since 1997.

Back in 1917, each die needed to be impressed several times to completely form the final

Working Die. This varied by coin, size, and design.


A Buffalo Nickel required 3 to 5 hubbings to completely transfer the image to the

Working Die. In comparison, it could take up to 20 hubbings before a Working Die was

finished for a Morgan Dollar!


After the first annealing, the Working Die would be set aside and allowed to cool. Then it

would have been transported to a press, locked in, and the Working Hub would , under

tons of pressure, be forced into it. An image begins to form, though it is incomplete. As a

result of the pressure imposed on it from the Working Hub, the Working Die becomes

stress hardened, so after being “hubbed”, it must be sent back to the annealing furnace to

be softened again.


This is the initial point where things began to go wrong..........


Folly in Philly...the Uncaught Mistake


Amidst the buzz of activity circulating throughout the production floor at Philadelphia,

and as a result of of the previously mentioned noise and hectic pace involved with

production of much needed minor coinage, the workforce was starting to become stressed

to the point of cracking.


It could have happened during a shift change, where a worker who had just started their

shift walked in on the ongoing operation and was unaware as to where the 1918 and 1917

Working Dies were being created.


Or, it could also have happened when a worker, who was feverishly trying to keep up with

the output of production, became confused with the location of the two separate dates

being produced at the same time.




In the confusion of the moment, a 1917 dated die that had been impressed once or twice

previously, was retrieved after cooling and installed into a press that was making 1918



It was impressed, one or more times with a 1918 dated Working Hub and became an



Clearly, the die was intended for 1917 coinage, as it can easily be seen with close

observation that the1918 date was impressed OVER the 1917 date.


The finished die was then placed into a container, most likely a box, with other completed

dies for 1918, awaiting inspection and approval for use. It obviously escaped inspection.

Why this is the case, is again open to speculation. I believe that only a cursory look was

given to the completed dies. They were all needed for production as fast as they could be

produced. The production of the obverse (Overdated) die was complete at this stage.

Reverse dies, however, that were ultimately destined for use at the branch mints at

Denver, Colorado, and San Francisco, California still needed to have mintmarks impressed

into them. Mintmarks for all denominations in 1918 were all hand punched into finished

dies that were destined for use at Mint facilities other than Philadelphia.


Denver Bound - The Westward Journey


The Pennsylvania Railroad (called “Standard Railroad of the World” in advertisements by

the Railroad itself) began the transportation of the finished dies to the Denver and San

Francisco Mints.


After interchange in Chicago, they would have been handed off to a Western Railroad for

final delivery. It is unclear whether they were loaded onto a passenger train, and stored in

a baggage car, or if they were loaded into a freight car and sent as normal freight. I lean

towards them being transported in a freight car, because other coinage parts made in

Philadelphia, such as machine parts and die collars also had to be shipped..


Arrival and use....Inspection abuse?


Totally reliant on supply of dies and parts from Philadelphia, the Denver Mint unloaded

the shipment, logged the contents, and stored everything in inventory until its’ eventual



The reverse die eventually mated with the obverse overdate was of the new, freshly

introduced “D” punched mintmark (the device used to impress the mintmark is called a

puncheon) which debuted during that latter part of 1917.


The old punch, used from (1913-17) was retired in the middle of 1917 in favor of the new

(1917-34) punch. Denver nickels of 1917 can be found with both punches, though no

premium exists between either the old or new.


All 1918 Denver produced nickels have the new punch.


So it is known that the Overdate was mated with a fresh, new reverse die, not one used, or

unused from previous years. The “D” on the die used on the Overdate is punched almost

perfectly centered between the “F” of “Five” and the “C” of “Cents”.


This centering is one of the”diagnostics” to be checked to authenticate the Overdate.


The Overdated obverse sat with its siblings, stored in the die locker at the Denver Mint,

awaiting its eventual use. When the time arrived, it was withdrawn from the box it was

shipped in, and sent to be basined. This is the second time that the Overdate was not



“Basining” is a Mint process done to ensure that the proper contour, or radii, of a die is

curved correctly to facilitate the proper flow of metal into all areas of the outer die.


This process is unique to the mint of manufacture, Dies are not basined at Philadelphia for

the branch mints.....they perform that process themselves. The basining process also did

not disclose the overdated die.


The die is then inserted into a press, and again it escaped being discovered before coining

by the Coiner himself.


So, after at least three missed inspections, the Overdate rolled off the presses and into



The Aftermath...13 year later.


It eventually was left to a coin collector, who, upon inspecting a 1918 dated coin in 1931,

discovered the error, and alerted The Numismatist of its existence. Being that the

Overdate was not discovered until 13 years later, sufficient time undetected in circulation

had worn down many examples to undated status, with most of the remaining ending up in

grades below Fine.


This is why the Overdate is so rare. Not a soul even knew of its existence till it was far

too late to hoard it.....or to even find individual pieces.


In Summation


Problems from hurried production of not only minor coins during 1918 led to the creation

of the 1917/8-S Standing Liberty Quarter.


That coin, discovered in 1937, is probably ever rarer than the Buffalo overdate, as it also

had a vary fragile and exposed date.


Add to that the fact that Bill Fivaz (The Cherrypickers Guide) stated that 1918 Buffs have

a proportionally higher share of off-center strikes and defects than normal, and it becomes

painfully clear that shoddy production, hurried and harrowed work, and no, or only

cursory inspection during an extremely busy period at the U. S. Mint, led to the release of

the famous 1918/7-D Overdate.


(Thanks to Hoot (Mark Hooten) for his help and input to this short story)


I hope you all enjoy this.


Please feel free to correct, or comment on this dissertation.


Every coin has a story.


I love coin collecting.



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This is an excellent short essay, rich in history, research and supposition. A great read and very well written! thumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gif

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Terrific job, pete! A true love of the series and all that came before and after it comes through! thumbsup2.gif



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It eventually was left to a coin collector, who, upon inspecting a 1918 dated coin in 1931,

discovered the error, and alerted The Numismatist of its existence. Being that the

Overdate was not discovered until 13 years later, sufficient time undetected in circulation

had worn down many examples to undated status, with most of the remaining ending up in

grades below Fine.


This is why the Overdate is so rare. Not a soul even knew of its existence till it was far

too late to hoard it.....or to even find individual pieces.


Great post, I learned a lot from this paragraph alone.

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I received a message from Roger Burdette, who made some comments about the "Short" story I wrote.


Basically, he added some things I would not have known, and I thank him for his input.


Here's a little addition to the Story: My comments are in parenthesis.


The changeover from one date to the next was usually during the October to December time frame each year.


(George) Morgan was appointed Engraver in March, 1917, about a month after Barber died. He did not have any assistant engraver to help - only five die sinkers.


Note that an overdate quarter occurs the same year. (Noted at the end of the Story).


Basically Morgan couldn't keep up. Victor Brenner (Lincoln Cent) offered his services to the mint, but was rejected - possibly because odf bad feelings over his Lincoln Cent, which senior Mint officials did not like.


Thank you again, Roger.




I guess it was not only Charles Barber that had problems with poor Victor D. Brenner.

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Not to stray too far from the excellent Buffalo nickel overdate post by Pete, but Brenner was not on the Mint or Commission of Fine Arts "short list" for several reasons. 1) Early in the Lincoln cent process, Brenner had tried to sell the mint designs that were very close imitations of the French 1-franc. 2) Several artists and officials apparently felt his design lacked originality, being nothing more than a copy of an existing medal. 3) He was specifically ordered by Dir. Leach to make the Lincoln bust larger and lower it in the obverse field. Brenner didn't do it. 4) After insisting that Medallic Art make the cent hubs, Brenner rejected them and took them back for re-engraving, leaving the mint to pay $100 for nothing. 5) He seems to have been something of a pest and sent sketches and models for coins and medals without being asked. 6) later mint officials, from George Roberts onward, thought the Lincoln design was poor, and in 1952 we almost had a Lincoln cent by Jim Fraser. Lastly, to the Taft Administration Brenner was a "Roosevelt man" who had swiped their opportunity to redesign the cent.


On the overdates of 1917, etc. Because Morgan had no assistant engraver, he had to do the work formerly done by he and Barber. With the war-time situation Pete mentioned and the lack of an assistant, Morgan was overworked and unable to maintain the previous standards of quality. There are nearly as many overdates and other anomalous coins during Morgan’s 8 years as engraver, as during Barber’s 36 years. I would not be surprised if someone discovered a 1918/17 dime or 1924/23 quarter, as well as many new repunched mintmarks.

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