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Commems Collection: 1926 Oregon - Rotated Reverse Error?

 
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 Posted 02/01/2021  7:02 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
A question that pops up here on CCF from time to time - and is often an issue on eBay and other online coin sites - is in regards to the 1926 Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollar and whether it is the subject of a rotated reverse die error. I've responded here in the past that the 1926 Oregon coins struck in Philadelphia most often have a rotated reverse, while the San Francisco coins are found without rotation. Being a "numbers guy," however, I wanted to conduct a quick census to see if my anecdotal experience matched the cold hard facts.

So, I examined 100 recent auction lots of 1926 Oregon half dollars - 50 from Philadelphia, 50 from San Francisco - and counted the number of examples that featured either a "level" reverse or a rotated one; there was no cherry picking of examples to assess! I took them in order of appearance.

All of the coins I looked at had been encapsulated by either PCGS, NGC or ANACS. I looked specifically at encapsulated coins so that I would have a defined vertical reference (i.e., slab edges) which would rule out photographic correction of rotation (done by the auction houses to make the images easier to view).

I found that 50 out of 50 of the 1926-S coins I examined had a level reverse (i.e., no meaningful rotation). The outcome was very different for the 1926-(P) coins: just 7 out of 50 had a level reverse (14%), 43 of 50 had a rotated reverse (86%). Though the direction of the reverse rotation was always the same, down and to the left (i.e., counter-clockwise - CCW) from the viewer's perspective), the degree of rotation varied: I found coins with as little as two degrees of rotation (within the Mint's tolerance) and as much as 17 to 18 degrees (with stops in between at five to six degrees and eight degrees).

(Note: Though rotated coins such as the 1926-(P) Oregon are generally referred to as "Rotated Reverse" coins, it is not always a reverse die that is rotated, it could be (and very often is) a rotated obverse die. It's just easier to standardize the naming convention for all rotated die coins as "Rotated Reverse" since it is most often not definitively known by collectors which of the dies was actually rotated during striking.)

In 1926, the Mint at Philadelphia struck 48,030 Oregon half dollars, and the San Francisco Branch Mint struck an additional 100,055. All of the Philadelphia coins were struck on September 14, 1926.

One way a rotated die error occurs is when a die is installed incorrectly in the press and thus not in the standard / expected orientation vs. the opposite die. Another way is for a die to become loose in the press and move / rotate during striking. As I considered the multiple degrees of rotation seen on the 1926-(P) Oregon half dollar, my thoughts tended toward a loose die vs. one that was improperly installed.

I consulted with Roger W. Burdette, the noted numismatic researcher / author and acknowledged expert on US Mint processes, to determine what he thought might have happened. In his opinion, a defective press mechanism used to secure one of the dies was the likely culprit, and the die came loose during striking as a result of some level of mechanical failure, possibly from lax maintenance, on a press that was past its prime; the loose die rotated in the press and produced the coins with which we are familiar. Mr. Burdette believes that it was most likely the obverse die that came loose as it encounters more mechanical stress during coining than does a reverse die which is generally in a fixed position.

So, I am comfortable in stating that the variable rotation seen on 1926-(P) Oregon Trail half dollars is very likely the result of a loose die (probably the obverse die) that rotated during coining and created the coins we regularly encounter.

In the end, the question is whether the 1926-(P) coins with rotation should be considered error coins and, if so, how much rotation is needed to meet the minimum "error coin" standards. Rotations of a minimum of 45 degrees are generally needed to get error collectors even a little excited; the real fun (interest) begins at 90 degrees. NGC requires a minimum of 15 degrees of rotation to have such identification on their insert; I haven't yet identified the minimum rotation required by PCGS but I haven't seen a "Rotated" indication on any PCGS insert unless the rotation was at least 30%. (I'm happy to hear of other, lesser measures, however!)

So, the rotation of less than 20 degrees on 1926-(P) Oregon Trail half dollars is not overly exciting, nor does it bring a premium price in the market. Are they errors? Technically, "Yes." Major errors? "No." Are they scarce? "No." Regardless, they are fun to look at!

My 1926 Oregon Half Dollar w/ Rotated Reverse



1926-S Oregon Half Dollar w/ Level Reverse



My 1989-D Congress Bicentennial Half Dollar w/ Fully Rotated Reverse




Read more about each of the coins presented here at: Read More: Commems Collection




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 Posted 02/01/2021  7:09 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The Oregon is one of our most attractive commems, especially taking both sides into account. The Congress, not so much.

Great analysis as always!
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 Posted 02/01/2021  9:42 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Winesteven to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Commems - Another great job, and once again I learned something. Thanks.

It provoked me to look at my one and only - a 1937-D. It looks like a small rotation of about 5 degrees or so.

Thanks again.

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 Posted 02/02/2021  08:55 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bump111 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Having looked longingly at many an Oregon Trail example, I can concur that very many of them have the rotated reverse. Interesting that they were all produced on a single day. Perhaps the mint employee on duty was out on the town the night before.

This is definitely one of my favorite designs. I still haven't found my copy yet. Thank you for doing this research!
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 Posted 02/02/2021  4:17 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add suipakpaikungfu to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Been looking for a rotated Congress for a loonnggg time...
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 Posted 02/02/2021  4:58 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Been looking for a rotated Congress for a loonnggg time...

@suipakpaikungfu: You might be interested in having a look at my previous post regarding my example: A Rotated 1989 Congress Bicentennial Dollar


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 Posted 02/02/2021  6:03 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Nickels_rule to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Good read, the Oregon is one of my favorites. Thanks !
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 Posted 02/02/2021  6:46 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Wonderful information as always commems and a true salute to you for the research and sharing.

I examined both my MS and circulated examples of the Oregon Trail series - and am pleased to confirm for you that my PCGS G06 1926 (P) example has a rotation of approximately 10 degrees.

It's always an enlightenment and joy to read your threads - thank you for all the knowledge you so readily share.
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 Posted 02/02/2021  10:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add psuman08 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very interesting - both the Oregon and Congress. The Congress is amazing in that PCGS holder - never seen that before. Thanks for sharing the link back to the post on the 89 dollar.
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 Posted 02/03/2021  12:45 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Thanks for sharing the link back to the post on the 89 dollar.

Happy to do it! Glad you enjoyed it!


Quote:
I examined both my MS and circulated examples of the Oregon Trail series - and am pleased to confirm for you that my PCGS G06 1926 (P) example has a rotation of approximately 10 degrees.

Thanks for the additional data point nickelsearcher! Good data to have - I think it's further evidence of the view that the 1926-(P) Oregon coins were subject to a loose die during their coining.


Quote:
It provoked me to look at my one and only - a 1937-D. It looks like a small rotation of about 5 degrees or so.

Thanks for checking and reporting. My experience suggests that beyond the 1926 Philadelphia strikes, any rotation seen on Oregon half dollars is minor and not really within the "error" realm. I always stand ready to be corrected by the experiences of others, however!


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 Posted 02/07/2021  11:31 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Just a quick update re: PCGS. I was able to get through to PCGS Customer Service on Friday (after being in the queue for nearly two hours!) and got a definitive answer re: the minimum rotation needed to get such a designation on their insert.

A coin must have at least 20 degrees of rotation and be submitted via their Error Coin service to get the designation. So, a little more conservative vs. the 15 degrees needed at NGC.




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 Posted 02/08/2021  11:58 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
A coin must have at least 20 degrees of rotation and be submitted via their Error Coin service to get the designation. So, a little more conservative vs. the 15 degrees needed at NGC.
Very interesting! Thank you for getting the information on this.
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 Posted 02/13/2021  09:27 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add STTScott to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for that detailed read @commems. Just for the heck if it, it still made me check my 1926-S just to be sure. No dice -- both sides aligned just fine. Drat!

But here's a silly question for the OCD hair-splitters: How would someone know whether it was the obverse or reverse that was out of whack on a true rotation error? &
Edited by STTScott
02/13/2021 09:28 am
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 Posted 02/13/2021  11:37 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
But here's a silly question for the OCD hair-splitters: How would someone know whether it was the obverse or reverse that was out of whack on a true rotation error?

In most cases, they wouldn't.

From my post above:

(Note: Though rotated coins such as the 1926-(P) Oregon are generally referred to as "Rotated Reverse" coins, it is not always a reverse die that is rotated, it could be (and very often is) a rotated obverse die. It's just easier to standardize the naming convention for all rotated die coins as "Rotated Reverse" since it is most often not definitively known by collectors which of the dies was actually rotated during striking.)

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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