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Restrikes more than mere replicas; use earlier dies
Strictness of definitions can vary
By Eric Von Klinger

A restrike, the Coin World Almanac tells us, is "a numismatic item produced from original dies at a later date."

A "numismatic item" may be a coin, a medal or a token. It is clear that the item must bear a date earlier than when it is being made, and be struck for more than the purpose of continuing to use a die until it is too worn to use further, no matter what the date.

In the case of a coin, the Almanac states, restriking is usually not done with a view of meeting a monetary requirement but "to fill a demand for a numismatic rarity."

In the early days of the United States Mint, it was common for a dated die to continue in use into the next year, until it was ready to be retired. There appears to have been no consistency to when a date digit might be overpunched with a newer one or when the old date remained unchanged. Mintage reports reflected the times in which production runs were completed, not the date on the coins.

Consider the situation with "1804" Draped Bust silver dollars. Today, only 15 are known, yet the Mint recorded 19,570 silver dollars as having been coined in 1804.

Various fanciful explanations were offered for years about what happened to the "missing" coins.

1780-dated thalers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later Austria have been struck for years for use as a trade coin in Asia. Use of the older date and recreation of a coin that actually was minted in that year qualify this as a "restrike" in certain definitions.

Finally, in the mid-20th century, a group of scholars successfully argued that the borders and some other elements of the coins' manufacture could not have been achieved until improvements were completed at the Mint a number of years after 1804. These findings were put together with other records, so that it is universally acknowledged today that the first "1804" Draped Bust dollars were made about 1834 for presentation to some Middle Eastern potentates. Several sets of the latest U.S. coins were ordered, and it was then duly noted that the last dollar coins had been dated 1804.

Eight of the 1804-dated dollars, those known as "originals," are attributed to this project, from which the Mint at first kept four.

One of the ways in which the 1804 Draped Bust dollars differed from earlier Mint products was that they were well-made Proofs. It did not take long for collectors to learn of the rare 1804 coins. Besides making a few more 1804 dollars, the Mint decided to produce other Proof silver dollars of the same fabric, dated 1801, 1802 and 1803.

All these were produced in years later than the dates they bore, but strictly speaking there were no "originals." Q. David Bowers and some other writers have borrowed a Russian term for such coins: novodels.

Now the chronology brings us to 1804 "restrikes."

These are seven pieces believed to have been minted in 1859 or later for sale to collectors. The original reverse die apparently could not be found, so the 1804-dated obverse die was mated with a new reverse, distinguishable by the position of the clouds. Because of the substitution of a die, these are not true restrikes.

Restrikes circa 1828 of the 1688 American Plantations token are sought in part because so many originals, being made of nearly pure tin, easily developed dark blemishes with age. A restrike is shown here.

A Colonial-era item that is seen, and collected, more often as a "restrike" than as an original is the American Plantations token authorized by the crown in 1688. Originals were made of nearly pure tin, a metal that soon begins to show dark blemishes. Clean, well preserved "restrikes" from about 1828 are "fresher" and far less expensive than the original pieces.

"In the strictest definition," Bowers wrote in United States Pattern Coins, Experimental and Trial Pieces, a restrike must be from dies that were actually used in the earlier year.

Thus, quotation marks were used above around "restrike" in regard to the American Plantations token, because the dies may not have been used earlier; the later issue is distinguished from "originals" by slight die differences.

With so strict a definition, so many 1856 Flying Eagle cents would not be true restrikes, either.

Stricter usage has been the trend with this word for some decades. Even a careful numismatist might have used the word a little more loosely in the past.

For instance, for the 100th anniversary of American Independence in 1876, various imitations of the 1776 "Continental dollar" appeared, among the more notable and faithful reproductions being one by Montroville Dickeson. The copies were from new dies, and since then, transfer dies have been made from the Dickeson dies and even newer copies made.

It is not unusual to see the later copies of copies referred to as "restrikes" because of the connection to older dies.

In 1859, U.S. Mint Director James R. Snowden sought and apparently received permission from the secretary of the Treasury to restrike "specimens of pattern pieces of coin, and rare types" as a blow against "excessive prices" in the collector marketplace.

The 1856 Flying Eagle cent was a rage at the time. The number of official restrikes soon threatened to overwhelm the number of originals.

This is also when official restrikes of the very scarce 1851 and 1852 Seated Liberty silver dollars were made.

Snowden's successor in 1861, James Pollock, put a quick end to restriking.

Had he not done so, official later versions if 1799 Draped Bust cents and the like might have become a major Mint sideline.

A limited number of later restrikes appeared anyway, such as certain dates of Indian Head gold $3 coins from the 1870s.

"Restrike" has also been applied to pieces from mismatched, official U.S. coinage dies that were acquired by collector Joseph Mickley in the 19th century, from dies that had been discarded by the Mint.

Austria and predecessor Austria-Hungary have "restruck" 1780-dated Maria Theresa thalers for use as an Asian trade coin for years.

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