An unexpected phone call that revealed a huge Mint secret

William is the managing editor, appointed to that status on May 1,2015, after serving arsenic news program editor for many years. He joined the Coin World column staff in 1976 as an adjunct editor for “ Collectors ‘ Clearinghouse. ” Bill manages the editorial staff and is responsible for the daily management of the print and on-line editorial contented of Coin World. He serves as head copy editor program for all Coin World publications and directs ditorial output aspects of Coin World. He has served as lead copy editor for all books published by Coin World since 1985. Bill began collecting coins at age 10. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and majored in journalism. photograph shows the edge of the 1974 Lincoln penny struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet and how it sticks to a attraction. An unexpected call call in 1994 resulted in the discovery of an experimental coin no one in the hobby knew existed — a 1974 Lincoln penny struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet with regular dies. only black-and-white images exist. Over my four decades as a Coin World staff member, I have received thousands of earphone calls, from readers and nonreaders alike, asking questions about coins or items in their possession, or seeking advice on how to collect, or providing us tips on stories.

Some calls came in waves. For example, any time that a bronze 1943 Lincoln penny appeared at auction and was covered by the mainstream media, I prepared for a set of calls from noncollectors with 1943 steel cents who thought they had one of the rare ones ( since a steel cent is unlike any early Lincoln cent in appearance, one can not blame callers for their excitement ). I besides talked to callers with what they thought were rare early on U.S. coins like a 1787 Brasher doubloon or an 1804 Draped Bust dollar. I can say that in all of those calls, not a individual one always resulted in the discovery of a new exercise of a 1943 bronze penny or Brasher doubloon or 1804 dollar .
One call in mid-1994, however, revealed the universe of a U.S. mint that no one had ever heard about earlier, and that an official U.S. Mint/Treasury Department report claimed was never struck .
I took the birdcall in June ( I believe ) of 1994. It began like any other call, with the loudspeaker saying that he had something rare — five 1974 Lincoln cents of an unusual musical composition. I was, of naturally, familiar with the Mint ’ s 1973 experiments in option compositions that resulted in the 1974 aluminum penny. But that wasn ’ thyroxine what the reviewer said he had ; it was something unexpected — a 1974 Lincoln penny struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet .
The caller, a withdraw steel worker, told me a fantastic fib of how United States Mint officials, with a contingent of Mint police on hand, arrived at the Alan Wood Steel Co. in Pennsylvania 20 years early, in 1974. According to the caller, at least 40 bags of the experimental pieces — 200,000 pieces or more — were destroyed in one of the grind ’ randomness furnaces .
But not all of the pieces were destroyed, according to the informant .
At least nine and arsenic many as a twelve 1974 Lincoln penny experimental pieces struck on the bronze-clad steel planchets reportedly survived the furnace .
According to the source, the bags of experimental cents were shoved down a parachute from the third gear floor to a basic oxygen furnace on the second floor. The reference said the cents were under big precaution by five Mint guards .
As the bags were being placed onto a lift to be transported to the chute, one bag fell to the floor and abound open, scattering the experimental pieces across the floor. The mint guards made the employees move away from the spill cents as they swept them up for melting .
According to the beginning, as the cents from the outburst bag poured down the parachute, a gust of wind blow through the plant picked up 10 to 12 pieces and blew them onto the floor of the furnace, which had not so far gone into operation. Despite the presence of the Mint guards, some employees managed to snatch up some of the coins, apparently without the guards noticing. The five pieces possessed by the beginning came from those twelve or thus survivors. Another three pieces may exist in burn condition in the self-control of other grind employees .
The caller ’ s fib was full-bodied in detail and I immediately felt that I was onto a potential blockbuster article. I asked him to send Coin World the best exemplar of the five cents in his possession so we could examine it .
When the nibble arrived and I had an opportunity to examine it, I was immediately convert that it was genuine. While I had been waiting on the reader ’ s mint to arrive in our offices, I had grabbed our replicate of the December 1973 Alternative Materials for One-Cent Coinage, the official reputation of the Mint ’ south experiments in alternative compositions. At the time, the price of copper was so eminent that the Mint was losing money on every cent it struck, and that was considered unacceptable .
The 1,579,324 aluminum experimental cents struck in 1973 using standard 1974-dated cent dies were well known. The report besides had details about another predict musical composition that was tested — a bronze-clad steel writing, with two outer layers of 90 percentage copper and 10 percentage zinc bonded to low-grade steel. There was equitable one problem. According to the report, no bronze-clad steel pieces were struck using standard Lincoln cent dies. When testing began, what are called “ folderal dies ” were used to strike diverse experimental pieces. As the reputation stated, “ The nonsense dies were designed to simulate the actual penny dies with regard to easing and location of images and lettering. In this way, coining characteristics of the alloys could be compared proportional to one another without creating a big count of potentially valuable numismatic oddities. … last, 1974 penny dies were used to strike a cautiously controlled phone number of aluminum debase coins. ”
When the caller ’ south cent arrived, I compared it to the description in the official report and it matched. It was made of two out layers of copper with a core of grey metallic element. The piece stuck to a attraction, what you would expect of a coin with a steel core. The design looked commodity and when compared to the designs of a regular 1974 Lincoln penny, they were identical. I was convinced on the tell — the coin that I had in hand and the caller ’ s very convert narrative — that the while was something so far unexpected — a 1974 penny struck on one of the bronze-clad sword planchets that the Mint had admitted that it had tested, though not with cent dies .
Coin World published the article in the July 4, 1994, offspring as the chief report on page 1. here are the introductory paragraph to my article :

“ An experimental 1974 Lincoln penny struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet — a man a 1973 Treasury issue says was never produced, has surfaced — and with a source who claims a quarter million or more of them were destroyed by Mint officials 20 years ago .
“ Coin World has examined a 1974 Lincoln penny struck on a bronze-clad steel planchet that appears to be a genuine U.S. Mint experimental while. It matches the description of planchets produced and tested in 1973, and mentioned in respective Department of Treasury reports discussing alternative penny compositions .
“ This is the first indication that specimens of experimental 1974 Lincoln cents struck on other than aluminum planchets survived. previously, it was thought that entirely specimens of the more celebrated 1974 aluminum experimental pieces had escaped destruction. ”
I described the coin for readers :
“ At first glance, the coin appears to be a normal 1974 Lincoln cent. In fact, the obverse and inverse are identical from a standard Lincoln cent in color and texture, even under high enlargement .
“ however, when one examines the edge, it becomes immediately apparent that the piece is not a convention Lincoln cent. The steel effect is visible along the edge as a grey dance band between layers of bronze .
“ Most spectacularly, the mint is attracted to a magnet because of its steel kernel. The standard copper-zinc penny is not. ”
In an accompanying article that I wrote from extra official sources for the same issue of Coin World, I explained why the mint rejected the bronze-clad steel composition :
“ According to the 1974 Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, ‘ Several alternative alloys and clothed materials were tested on a lab scale and the most promising materials, an aluminum debase, a 70 percentage copper-30 percentage zinc alloy, and gilding metal clothe steel were subjected to short production runs. ’
“ The December 1973 Alternative Materials for One-Cent Coinage, a federal government report published by the Department of the Treasury, details how the bronze-clad steel experimental cents proved to be a failure in fair one critical sphere that doomed it as an alternative. The composition failed in the category of ease of mint fabrication .
“ however, it received B\+, B and B-grades in all other categories. In fact, in the eight categories in which each composition was tested, bronze-clad sword bested the favored aluminum composition in two ( general populace acceptability and coin machine acceptability ) and equaled aluminum in three other categories ( lastingness, present handiness of metals and long-range in-house output feasibility ) .
“ Bronze-clad steel was rated lower than aluminum in the categories of relief of coin fabrication, deliver monetary value and long-range seigniorage protective covering .
“ Mint Director Mary Brooks, testifying before Congress on March 27, 1974, said a bronze-clad steel cent is ‘ a very expensive proposition, and the die biography, because of its hard composition would be a fourth to an one-eighth of that we are presently experiencing. We would get about 100,000 to 150,000 strikes : we did get on the bronze-clad steel. We are now experiencing over 600,000 strikes on our confront die. ’

“ Brooks said the want to change dies more frequently to strike bronze-clad steel cents would result in less press time and penny shortages. ”
The publication of the two articles, as you expect, generated a bang-up softwood of agitation in the collector community .
In my next blog, I will detail how I got Mint officials to confirm that such pieces had been struck, whether any others survived, the steps I took to protect my source and Coin World from becoming involved in a possible confiscation of the caller ’ sulfur coins, and how I asked the Mint for ratification of a statement from a Mint official that the bronze-clad steel cents would be legal to collect .

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