AN FAQ OF THE IKE PEG LEGS IN TWELVE QUESTIONS
Lead Author, Rob Ezerman
Brian Vaile, Ehab Eassa, David Golan, Herb Hicks, Gary Hoop
The Eisenhower dollar Peg Legs have interested collectors who follow modern US coin series ever since Alan Herbert identified and named the first 1971-S Ike Proof “peg legs” in November, 1971.
The IKE GROUP, formed three years ago to study Ike dollars, is pleased to present this summary of our explorations into both the Business Strike (hereafter “BS”) and the Proof Peg Legs. This article is pithy and challenging so buckle your seat belts!
1. WHAT IS A PEG LEG? WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
“Peg Leg” refers to the foot of the left leg (your left, coin’s right) of the “R” in “LIBERTY” on the obverse of the Ike dollar.
For the most part, this foot either has “Serifs” on each side of the bottom of the left foot or it does not. Serifs are pointed (occasionally rounded) extensions off the ends of letters and numbers. The serifs on the left foot of the “R” (when present) are pointed lateral extensions that give the left leg a sturdy foundation (who would want “LIBERTY” written in stick letters?).
When serifs are not present on the foot of the left leg of the “R”, the leg becomes somewhat rectangular, hence “peg leg”. By design and through other mechanisms, it also becomes shorter and usually thinner.
Figure 1 illustrates the left leg of the “R” with and without serifs.
2. ARE THERE DIFFERENT PEG LEG CONFIGURATIONS?
Yes! There are three that share the absence of serifs (Figure 2):
As you can see from Figure 2, the Straight Peg Leg may broaden a bit at the base, the Fading Peg Leg tends to “fade” into the field, and the Eskimo Boot peg leg has a rounded foot.
3. ARE ALL PEG LEGS INTENTIONAL DESIGNS?
Some are, some are not, one’s a probable “yes” and some are both!
By the way, an intentional design is called a “Design Variety”. Coins with features due to die wear or die repairs are called “die state” coins. Some of the Ike Peg Legs are Design Varieties, and some are die states.
For now, let’s focus on the Design Variety Peg Legs.
We’ll begin with the Design Variety BS Ike Peg Legs, shown in Figure 3.
Of these four Design Varieties, only the 1976 Type 1 Design is also present on Nickel-clad BS Ikes – the others are silver clads).
Now, let’s turn to the Design Variety Proof Peg Legs, shown in Figure 4. The first three are Straight Peg Leg (SPL) Design Varieties and the fourth is probably a Design Variety Peg Leg but it’s too early to be sure.
4. WHY THE PEG LEG DESIGN?
Nobody knows for sure but most believe it has to do with Ike’s hair.
Ignoring the fact that Ike was quite bald, the Mint depicted Ike with hair for a technical reason: a smooth central device (bald head) will show dings and scratches that a detailed central device will tend to hide.
The gods of baldness, however, seemed to intercede as Ike’s hair is the weakest feature on the Ike obverse, often striking up with less than half of the intended hair features.
It is thought that the heavy “serif-R” foot on the left leg was making less planchet metal available for Ike’s hair and therefore a skinnier, shorter and less massive left leg would help bring up hair details.
But then why then did the initial BS Ike have a heavy Serif-R left leg”? Maybe it was just designer (Frank Gasparro) artistic preference. Maybe the influence of the Serif-R on the predecessor Morgan DOLLAR (E PLURIBUS UNUM) or the fat–footed left leg on the Peace Dollar R (LIBERTY)? Figure 5:
All we know for sure is only the 1971 and 1972 BS Serif-R Ikes have a massive left foot that almost touches Ike’s hair. The Serif-R left leg of subsequent years, both proof and BS, was modified to be less massive and further from Ike’s hair. Figure 6 (1974-S Silver Serif-R Proof – same design is seen on 1973, 1977 and 1978 Serif-R BS and Proof Ikes):
5. WHAT CAUSED THE DIE-STATE BS PEG LEG IKES?
The authors contend that all BS peg leg Ikes (other than the TYPE-1 Bicentennial Design Variety Peg Legs) are unintentional, the result of die abrasion (we use “polish” when talking about proofs and “abrasion” when talking about Business Strike Ikes regardless of the modalities used).
Mint workers (“Die setters”) abraded Business Strike Ike dies most often to erase or obscured die-clash damage. When dies clash, the fields bang together and bulge into incuse devices on the opposite dies. These bulges are outlined by the edges of incuse devices to the extent the edges are sharply cut off the field. Since dies have a kind of plastic elasticity under the extreme forces of a die clash, as the bulge partly retracts, it takes the very edge of the bulge with it, leaving a slightly depressed linear outline surrounding the slightly elevated bulge. (On subsequently struck coins, the linear outline die-clash image appears slightly elevated surrounding a slight depression.)
Repairing a clashed die, therefore, requires abrading into the die’s field.
Let’s look at the region of the R’s left leg during a die clash. On either side of left foot of the R the obverse die’s field would bulge into the tops of the two “L’s” on the reverse die’s “DOLLAR”. The outlines would be slightly depressed upon partial bulge rebound.
Subsequent abrading of both bulge and depressed outline would then eat into the die’s field over the left foot of the R, occasionally deeply enough to remove its most superficial design elements, the serifs and the end of the foot (the elements closest to the field of the die and thus closest to the field on the struck coin).
It is possible that multiple die-clash abrasion repairs were necessary to create the clad peg leg, explaining their scarcity.
Figure 7 shows various die-state die-abraded peg legs: the heavy abrading required to remove the serifs and shorten the left leg also produces a bend in the field which on the struck coin bends up towards Ike hair. To see this bend you have to catch a light reflection just right by tilting the suspect coin and rotating it (we call it “wobbling”), whether using just your eyes, loupe, or microscope.
Except for the last picture, these Figure 7 peg legs were shot flat to render the most accurate image. The last picture was taken at about 20 degrees from flat: the light reflection catches the bend in the field (outlined with arrows) common to all die-state clad peg legs.
Microphotograph taken under a ring light holding the coin at just the right angle to bring out the field curvature.
On the corresponding die, the field would bend away from you, consistent with the metal removed by abrading necessary to erase the images of the tops of “LL” on either side of the left leg of the R.
6. HOW MANY DIE STATE BS PEG LEGS ARE THERE?
None Very Rare Rare Uncommon Occasional Common All
| | | |
1971 1976-D TI 1971-D
1973 “OK” PEG LEG 1972-D
1973-D | | 1976-D T2
1974 1974-D |
1972 T2 MAJOR PEG LEG
1973-S | 1978-D
1974-S | 1977-D
1977 1972 T1
1978 1972 T3
The list of dates hanging under “None” are those for which we have not encountered a peg leg but can not say they don’t exist. The location of the other dates is our rough estimate of prevalence and undoubtedly we will have make adjustments in the years to come.
For collectors, it is comforting to know that none of these are even “Rare”.
The authors enjoy pointing out the interesting 1974-D “Major Peg Leg” which sports a radically fading and shortened peg leg and the 1976 Type 1 “Off at the Knees” (“OK”) radical peg leg (Figure 8).
It’s fun to compare the extra fading of the Type 1 OK peg leg with the fading of the 1971-S Proof fading peg leg: somewhat different mechanisms, similar result.
7. DO THESE DIE-STATE BS PEG LEGS HAVE ANY VALUE?
Collector interest against supply drives value. At present, substantial price premium exists only for higher Mint State grades. The authors think now is the ground floor opportunity since examples of die-clash BS peg legs can be found with patience in dealer’s bins and on Internet venues at no premium, an interesting opportunity for Ike collectors.
8. ARE THERE DIE-STATE PROOF PEG LEGS?
Yes! The most compelling example is the progressively fading 1971-S Silver Proof peg leg. Figure 9 is a photo montage depicting the unfaded Straight Peg Leg Design Variety on your far left and a continuum of progressive fading to the right. (Thanks to author Ehab Eassa for assembling this montage.)
9. WHAT CAUSED THIS 1971-S PROOF PEG LEG’S PROGRESSIVE FADE?
Multiple, sequential proof die “re-treatments”, each time re-frosting the die face and re-polishing sections of fields to maintain a high proportion of proofs with cameo contrast! The authors propose that such proof die re-treatments caused substantial “fade” in the left leg of the R on all the Ike proofs. The ’71-S Straight Peg Leg started out quite flat so of all the Ike proof R’s it was the most susceptible to re-treatment fade.
10. ARE THERE OTHER DIE-STATE PROOF PEG LEGS?
The 1974-S Ike Nickel-clad and Silver “Eskimo Boot” Proofs (Figure 2(c.)) may be die-state peg legs or they may be Design Variety Peg Leg. It is clear that progressive re-treatment fade created 73, 74, 77 and 78 Ike proofs that fade toward Eskimo Boot Peg Leg.
Figure 10 illustrates the normal 1974-S Proof followed by examples of fade toward the “Eskimo Boot” peg leg in Figure 2. In spite of the harder-alloy steel dies, there is similar fade in the 74-S Proofs we see in the remarkable montage in Figure 9.
Here’s the lesson. Whenever the left corner appears sharp, it is probably not a peg leg even though it can look like a peg leg to naked eye (even sometimes under a loupe). The left corner must be rounded. That is the marker of the 1974-S Proof Peg Leg. But here’s the best part, it is a naked eye marker! You can spot this rare (clad,) and very rare (silver) peg leg in a coin case!
But hold on. Let’s look again at the 1974-S Eskimo Boot Peg Leg (Figure 2 c).
If you compare the progression in Figure 9 with the 1974-S Eskimo Boot Peg Leg in Figure 2 c, you will see why the authors believe there is an additional factor in the creation of this true Peg Leg. The Eskimo Boot Peg Leg has a robust “R” that does not have the appearance of heavy proof re-treatments! We suspect purposeful die polishing localized over the left foot created the 1974-S Proof Peg Legs, silver and clad, and that they are therefore probably a Design Variety.
If you asked us to go out on a limb, we would suggest Gasparro may have created these 1974-S Peg Legs as a bit of cover-up for the proof re-treatment “almost” Eskimo Boot Peg Legs, probably late in the 1974-S production cycle. Call it “Gasparro mischief”, a theme that seems to pop up again and again over the entire Ike Series.
The other Ike proofs also can show remarkable fade. Figure 11 illustrates stunning fade in a 1976-S Type 1 Silver Proof, a Design Variety Peg Leg (remember?). The remarkable fade from proof die re-treatments is reminiscent of the 1971-S fading peg leg proof.
(We have not seen examples of such dramatic fade in any NI-clad ’76 T1 Proofs, possibly because the dies striking silver proofs could have lasted longer before deteriorating due to the softer planchets and thus been subject to more re-treatments?)
11. WERE THERE OTHER REASONS TO POLISH IKE PROOF DIES?
There are anecdotal reports that the proof dies may have received a test polish at the Philadelphia Mint (where they were made) to insure the fields were flawless before shipping. We also have reports that the San Francisco Mint conducted their own test polishing prior to initial production frosting and subsequent polishing.
It is also possible that the small area of field on a proof die between the bottom of the left leg of the R and Ikes hair - rising like a skinny elevated highway from the incuse cavities of the foot and Ike’s head - was more vulnerable to wear damage and thus more likely to be locally re-polished. (We know, more mental gymnastics, sorry…)
Such localized die-repair polishing might explain the 1974-S Eskimo Boot Peg Leg Ike when so far no other Serif-R Proofs have faded all the way to Eskimo Boot. But localized re-polishing would have had to occur identically on both a die used for the clad and a die used for the silver versions, and early in their life (before a lot of re-treatments). And why have we not seen comparable Eskimo Boot Peg Legs on any 1973-S, 1977-S or 1978-S Proofs? While possible, localized die-repair polishing doesn’t seem a likely explanation for the 1974-S Eskimo Boot Peg Leg.
12. THE TYPE 2 1976 NICKEL-CLAD IKE PROOF LOOKS DIFFERENT – WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
The “Serif-R” 1976-S Type 2 Design is unique.
Look at the original design (Figure 12). The original design as seen on an un-faded Type 2 proofs looks exactly like an Eskimo Boot! But Figure 13 seems to show a serif coming off the right foot. What’s this all about?
The Gasparro design Eskimo Boot changes into a foot with a rounded but prominent right-sided serif as the proof die was re-treated, a nifty reversal! This bit of numismatic alchemy is also seen as the business strike TYPE-1 dies begin to age.
The concave, rounded outline at the right-sided junction of foot with leg is very thin and is erased with the early re-polishings, revealing a rounded serif that’s pointed like the underwater prow of an ocean-going freighter.
If Gasparro is not toying with us, it’s an entertaining fantasy with roots in Gasparro’s playfulness and the Mint’s well-documented history of coming to grips with the Ike dollar by trial and error while doing its best to obscure this fact.
The IKE GROUP makes no claim to certitude or completeness. Quite the opposite - our study is a work in progress and we invite feedback, corrections and new ideas which we will happily acknowledge in any future publications: contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and receive a cheerful reply. We love to talk Ikes!
This article was written in December 2007. It’s now September 2008 and the Ike Group has advanced the flag quite a bit in the last nine months:
- We have found 1974-S Proof die-polish peg legs, both silver and CuNi-clad.
- We have found 1977(P) and 1978(P) die state peg legs.
- We have established that the original 1971-S Proof design was the Straight Peg Leg and that the low relief serif-R design used on all 1971 and 1972 Ikes was probably a somewhat neglected design due to the chaos from the original reverse design, the Friendly Eagle Variety, being found not feasible and thus a new reverse design had to be created under time pressure. Thus, although we have documented other explorations into very small serif-R designs, it is likely that Gasparro had to run with what he had on hand for the obverse design and that happened to be the heavy-serif R.
- We are building our own Ike catalog, our “DIVA System” (Ike Group Designated Ike VArieties) in which Cu-Ni clad Ikes are designated “C”, Silver clad Ikes are designated S, and Business Strike and Proof Ikes are designated B and S respectively. Thus, the DIVA shorthand for a CuN-clad proof Ike is “CP” and a Silver-clad business strike Ike would be “SB”: simple and intuitive.
- We now propose that the initial and subsequent frosting of proof dies used templates which more or less covered the fields while having cut-outs over the devices. We have learned that the most common frosting technique in the 1970’s was air-blasted tiny steel pellets. It is inevitable that some pellet scatter would occur and it’s predictable that the one area of field where two devices are very close, the top of Ike’s head and the bottom of the left leg of the R, would suffer from the greatest pellet-scatter damage, hence the need for deeper polishing touch up here and thus the trend toward a die-polish peg leg developing on the left leg of the R on all Ike proofs.