Wavy steps and trails

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Wavy steps on a 1999 Lincoln cent reverse. Mint-made error - 1999 Lincoln cent depicting wavy steps.jpg
Wavy steps on a 1999 Lincoln cent reverse.
1994 Lincoln cent with trails coming off of E PLURIBUS UNUM. Mint-made error - 1994 Lincoln cent with trails coming of E PLURIBUS UNUM.jpg
1994 Lincoln cent with trails coming off of E PLURIBUS UNUM.

The wavy step or trails error is a die error that is found on some United States minted coins beginning in 1986. The anomaly occurs during the die making by the single-squeeze hubbing process.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Cause

While the exact cause of "trails/wavy steps" is not known, it is believed to be caused by movement of the die against the hub during the single squeeze hubbing process. Similarities exist between this anomaly and the doubled die, however, the major difference is that a doubled die is a duplication of a design element, while a "trail" die is an extension of a design element.

Single-squeeze hubbing

In 1986 The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint for financial year 1986, states that the mint had been experimenting with a new single-squeeze hubbing system. In the year 1996, the mint announced at the opening of the Denver Mint's die shop that the cent, nickel, and dime dies would be made from this process. It took until 1999 to include the rest of the denominational coins' dies to be produced by this method.

Hubbing is a metalworking process that is used to make dies. It is a cold-working process, which means that it occurs well below the melting temperature of the metal being worked.

Denver Mint

The Denver Mint is a branch of the United States Mint that struck its first coins on February 1, 1906. The mint is still operating and producing coins for circulation, as well as mint sets and commemorative coins. Coins produced at the Denver Mint bear a D mint mark. The Denver Mint is the single largest producer of coins in the world..

Nickel (United States coin) United States coin with the value of five cents

A nickel, in American usage, is a five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint. Composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the piece has been issued since 1866. Its diameter is .835 inches and its thickness is .077 inches (1.95 mm). Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the nickel continues to drop and currently the coin represents less than 1% of the federal hourly minimum wage. In 2015, over 1.5 billion nickels were produced at the Philadelphia and Denver mints.

While the purpose of the single-squeeze hubbing process's creation was to entirely eliminate the doubled die error, not only has it failed to do so, but also it has produced this die anomaly whose properties are similar in nature. This anomaly, known as "wavy steps" or "trails", is considered a variety type error since it is found on every coin that the particular affected die produces.

Doubled die is a term in numismatics used to refer to doubling in the design elements of a coin. Doubled dies can appear as an outline of the design or in extreme cases, having legends and dates appear twice in an overlapping fashion.

Statistics

The die anomaly, "trails", began to occur in the year 1986, shortly after the mint began experimenting with the single-squeeze hubbing process and persists even to this year, 2011. To date, over 1,200 examples of dies affected with this anomaly have been found on cents, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars.

The first wavy step die was discovered in 1995 on a 1994 Lincoln cent from the Philadelphia mint. It was not until 2003 that this die variety gained popularity when another die, a 2003 Lincoln cent, was discovered and written about in Coin World magazine. It was only a matter of time that more and more of these varieties began to be uncovered. It wasn't until the year 2003 that the name "wavy steps" was affixed to this anomaly.

Lincoln cent one-cent United States coin

The Lincoln cent is a one-cent coin that has been struck by the United States Mint since 1909. The obverse or heads side was designed by Victor David Brenner, as was the original reverse. The coin has seen several reverse, or tails, designs and now bears one by Lyndall Bass depicting a Union shield. All coins struck by the United States government with a value of 1/100 of a dollar are called cents because the United States has always minted coins using decimals. The penny nickname is a carryover from the coins struck in England, which went to decimals for coins in 1971.

The Philadelphia Mint was created from the need to establish a national identity and the needs of commerce in the United States. This led the Founding Fathers of the United States to make an establishment of a continental national mint, a main priority after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.

The phrase "trail" die was first thought of in the year 2000, when Ken Potter observed lines trailing off some of the design elements of a wavy step die. Comparison of other dies that carried both "wavy steps" and "trails" showed that the lines from both anomalies traveled in the same exact direction. From this, it was ascertained that these anomalies were one and the same thing with the only difference being the direction that the lines took.

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