Restrikes more than mere replicas; use earlier
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"
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
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 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
Austria and predecessor Austria-Hungary have "restruck"
1780-dated Maria Theresa thalers for use as an
Asian trade coin for years.