THE 1971-S EISENHOWER PARTIAL PEG LEG PROOF
Lead author Rob Ezerman, Ehab Eassa, David R Golan, Herbert P Hicks, Gary D Hoop, Andy Oskam and Brian Vaile
Wexler, et al1 reported a “Partial Peg Leg” 1971-S Silver Proof Eisenhower Dollar, concluding the “PPL” was struck from “a few” working dies hubbed from a “partially hubbed working hub”.
This article is the Ike Group’s report on our examination of five 1971-S “PPL” Ike Proofs which led us to a different conclusion.
Our observations and conclusions include:
1. The entire PPL obverse appears slightly “sunken” into the field.
2. The rather uniform loss of obverse relief is not comparable to the more focal loss of relief we see from “Proof Re-treatments” used to maintain a high percentage of proofs with cameo contrast.
3. The PPL was struck from incompletely hubbed working dies
4. The PPL is quite rare: our ball park estimate of mintage based on the number of 1971-S proofs we have looked through in shops, shows and Internet venues is 10,000 to 20,000.
In this article we will first summarize our refined theory of Ike proof re-treatments, then present our PPL microscopic findings, and finally discuss this unique Ike proof.
Eisenhower Proof Re-treatments
Frank Gasparro, Chief Engraver of the US Mint and the designer of both sides of the Eisenhower Dollar, made it clear that he wanted to produce an Eisenhower Proof that was “as perfect as humanly possible”, in part to justify the $10 selling price (about $50 at today’s prices) and in part because he was a perfectionist. He also promised that a majority of Ike Proofs would have cameo contrast.
In the 1960’s, however, cameo contrast usually faded rapidly during the first few dozen strikes. Each Franklin half-dollar proof die, for example, struck only “a handful” with full cameo and probably well under a hundred coins with any cameo contrast. The great majority of proofs in this era had no cameo contrast.
The authors propose that the only way a preponderance of Ike proofs could have decent cameo is through proof die re-treatments consisting of frequent re- frosting and where necessary, touch-up re-polishing of the fields.
We think the re-frosting may have been carried out by hand-held mini “sand-blasters” using corrosive particulates suitable for frosting die-tool steel and suspect that such mechanical impact frosting might have led to longer lasting cameo than the historic acid dip treatments, perhaps extending decent cameo to 100 strikes or even longer.
We further suspect that the operator who refreshed the cameo used stencil forms on each die to minimize frosting of fields, thereby decreasing the amount of field re-polishing required after each re-frosting.
Proof Obverse Die Re-treatments and the Fading Peg Leg “R”
The salient observation leading the Ike Group to our theory of Ike proof die re-treatments is the remarkable continuum of “fade” of the original Design “Straight” (“Full”) Peg Leg on the 1971-S Ike Proof. 5-10% of 1971-S Proof Ikes with this original Design Variety Peg Legs show no fade, 5-10% show dramatic fade and the rest present in a continuum of fade between these two extremes (Figure 1A)
Figure 1A – Continuum of fade in the 1971-S Peg Leg Proof from proof re-treatments.
The degree of peg leg fade with proof re-treatments correlates well with a lesser degree of fade in the bottom arm of the adjacent “E” (Figure 1B) and even the “B”.
Figure 1B – Corresponding fade in the bottom arm of the adjacent “E”.
The closer the letter of “LIBERTY” is to Ikes hair, it seems, the greater the fade. It is important to note that there is no corresponding fade in the other letter or number devices on the obverse.
The authors suggest that the fade of the lower elements of “BER”, LIBERTY’s letter components nearest the central device, is due to the greater likelihood that the narrow strips of die field separating those letter components from the bust will receive stray particulate damage from the cameo treatment given both to the bust and to the letters: a kind of double jeopardy. Compounding this damage from stray frosting particles is the likelihood that reparative polishing (by means of a rotating disc of felt or leather with diamond-dust paste) would take down a disproportionate amount of these narrow elevated strips of die field steel.
Since the original Design Variety Peg Leg is quite shallow on the proof die it would become progressively shallower as successive re-polishings of the die in this precise region cumulatively lowered the plane of the field into which the shallow left foot is sunk. The lower elements of “B” and “E” are also somewhat low in relief and sloping off the field and therefore would also fade and contract from successive field polishings but not as severely. We thus have significant fade in BER, especially in the left leg of the R, but no noticeable fade elsewhere on the obverse: this distinction is important as the PPL has some degree of “fade” across its entire obverse.
With the loan of a PPL from Aaron Miller we had five to examine. All five showed the same “sunken” look to the entire obverse, that is, all features are in somewhat “faded” and in lower relief as if all the obverse features had sunk just a bit into the field.
The best PPL “markers” are the obverse devices normally in lowest relief or which have a sloped low profile off the field (Figure 2) and therefore appear in lower relief and/or contract (skinnier) on the PPL. The markers we have chosen to illustrate are:
- The peg leg of the R;
- “IN GOD WE TRUST”, especially the “G” and “O” of “GOD” and the “T” of “TRUST
- The separation of the loop of the “9”;
- The sunken corners of the bust truncation;
Figure 2, PPL markers.
PPL, left column Fading Peg Leg, right column
Our five PPLs all had the same range of hair and other high-relief detail seen on 1971-S Straight Peg Leg proofs and on 1971-S fading peg leg proofs.
Of the PPL markers, the most dramatic is the shallow relief of “IN GOD WE TRUST”, especially the O of GOD which on four of our examples did not even fully close at 7:30.
Please understand that all the markers are subtle and usually require side-by-side comparison with a common ’71-S Ike Proof before a candidate PPL can be confirmed.
For ease of screening 1971-S Ike Proofs for the PPL, look first for a fading peg leg with a rounded bottom: most (not all) 1971-S die-state fading peg leg Proofs are rounded on the left (viewer’s left) and square on the right bottom corners whereas the PPL usually has a rounded bottom(Figure 2A). Then glance down at “GOD”: if you an incomplete “O”, you can stop right there, you have a PPL. If the O seems shallow but closes, methodically examine all the markers.
Discussion and Comparison with a weak “Die Test Strike”
The authors discussed the sharply localized continuum of fade in the left leg of the “R” of the “Fading Peg Leg” (FPL) Proof to make clear the distinction between that localized fade and the generalized “fade” (sinking”) of all the obverse devices on a PPL Proof. While it is technically possible to explain the PPL by heavy polishing of the entire plane of the die’s field, thereby reducing the incuse depth of all the devices, this is a most unlikely scenario which the authors comfortably discard.
Wexler, et al, concluded that the PPL resulted from several different dies struck from the same partially hubbed working hub, “partial” meaning either hubbed only once instead of the normal 3 or more hubbings needed to fully “raise” a working hub, or, weakly hubbed due to a mechanical problem.
To test this theory, let’s try to picture what would happen when raising a partially hubbed working hub from a master die with a single hubbing.
We began by imagining the slightly conical blank approaching the Master Die in the hydraulic hubbing press. The press moves the blank inexorably closer to the master die until they touch. Softened tool steel from the blank immediately begins squeezing into the incuse declivities of the hardened Master Die. The blank continues to fill the devices of the Master die but the hubbing is stopped with only a partial first impression as the tremendous squeezing forces have generated enough heat in the blank to cause some “work hardening”: any further hubbing would cause the working hub to fail down the line. The partially hubbed blank must be pulled from the press and annealed (softened) before the second hubbing and before all subsequent hubbings (sometimes as many as 5 hubbings were required to fully “raise” a working hub).
What would this singly hubbed working hub look like?
- First, the blank would not have filled the large incuse cavity of Ike’s bust: the bust on the partially hubbed working hub would be in low relief with little if any hair detail since the master die’s deeply incuse hair detail would be the last to be raised (struck up, hubbed up) on the working hub.
- Second, one would expect differing relief of the minor devices as a function of which areas of the master die were filled with the first hubbing and which were not. Specifically, since the blank is slightly conical, we would expect the letters closest to the center of the master die to be struck up first: “OD WE”, and “ST” are the letter devices closest to the center of the master die! They should be the strongest letters if the PPL was due to a partially hubbed working hub!
That’s all we need to “see”. Since the working hub would look exactly like the struck coin and since our PPL’s have decent hair detail and uniformly sunken minor letter devices, we can conclude that a partially hubbed working hub is not the explanation for the PPL.
Confirming this thought experiment are examples of the equivalent of a partially hubbed hub, partially struck coins! In both situations, a die also imparts a partial raised in-relief image. We have two “Die Adjustment” Ike in Figure 4: as you can see, Ike’s hair is flat and “OD WE” has relatively robust relief, exactly what we visualized.
Figure 4 – Two Die Adjustment Strikes showing little hair detail and relatively robust, comparatively, relief of “ OD WE”.
Casting about for a better explanation, we repeated the thought experiment, this time picturing a normal working hub partially sinking a working die and here we found a match.
As a normal working hub approaches the slightly conical blank in the hubbing press (Alan Herbert pointed out to the authors that all blanks are slightly conical), the highest in-relief details of the working hub are the first to contact and sink into the softened blank. The first hubbing is partial, however, so the in-relief details are only partially sunk into the working die.
Looking at this partially sunk die we would see all the incuse devices are shallow and all would have their deepest details reasonably intact (subsequent die hubbings (“sinkings”) would add strength of these details but they are all basically present in the partially hubbed PPL die).
Thus, the partially hubbed working die would have relatively shallow devices with their “top side” details present though probably not strong, exactly what we see in the PPL Proof.
Since we think there are several PPL dies, it is likely that the partial hubbings occurred by human error, perhaps a substitute worker prematurely bumping a small number of single-hubbed working dies anonymously into their final stages of preparation before production (punching the dies with their “S” mintmark, final die tempering and any test polishing done at the Philadelphia Mint prior to shipping the dies to San Francisco).
Ten to twenty partially hubbed working dies would account for our estimated PPL mintage of 10,000 to 20,000.
Lastly, since the PPL’s peg leg is already quite faded, multiple proof re-treatments are not likely as the faded peg leg would have disappeared entirely. Of our five PPL’s, only one left leg seemed to disappear (Figure 5).
The 1971-S Partial Peg Leg Ike Proof is not a product of any Proof re-treatments (re-frosting and touch-up re-polishing to maintain a high proportion of Ike proofs with cameo contrast). While the authors believe Ike Proof re-treatments caused variable fade to “BER” of “LIBERTY”, most noticeably to the left leg of the “R”, the rest of the obverse was not much affected.
The PPL, on the other hand, looks as if all the obverse devices are slightly “sunk” into the field, as if they were not fully “raised”. Most shallow is the “O” of “IN GOD WE TRUST” which in four of our five PPL’s does not even close at 7:30, but all the letters of LIBERTY and IGWT, and, the “9“ of the date are also in uniquely low relief.
While it is possible to explain the “sunken” obverse of the PPL by heavy uniform polish of the entire plane of the field of the die, it is not necessary to employ this unlikely scenario.
The authors reviewed and discarded Wexler’s explanation of a partially hubbed working hub based on a thought experiment and photos of two partially struck circulation Ikes. We propose instead that a few partially hubbed working dies struck the PPL Proof.
Based on the paucity of PPL’s the Ike Group has found, we estimate its mintage to be in the range of 10,000 to 20,000 which would require 10 to 20 partially hubbed working dies.
While gathering the six PPL’s discussed in this article, the authors came across three 1971-S peg leg Ike Proofs that are half-way between the Fading Peg Leg Proof and the PPL. Each of the three can be distinguish from both the Fading Peg Leg and from the PPL Proofs but each has a distinct “PPL” look. We are calling them the “Almost PPL” (APPL).
Here are a few photographs with comments.
FIGURE 1 - The “O” of “GOD” is closed but one can see die-polish lines through the cameo frosting. The “ankle” of the G is skinnier and more fragile-looking than the same feature on the FPL proof but is more robust than that seen on the PPL.
FIGURE 2 – The R’s peg leg is less faded and more likely to have a rounded foot on only the left side, like the Fading Peg Leg.
FIGURE 3 - On average the loop of the nine is not quite as open.
Between our six PPL’s and three “Almost PPL’s” there is no overlap. The two populations seem distinct, with the differences within the two populations not as great as the differences between the two populations.
These two populations raise interesting questions:
- Is the “Almost PPL” a PPL? Time will tell: it will come down to consensus by the larger numismatic community over time based on ongoing research.
- Could the APPL be the result of a deeper single hubbing or perhaps the result of two instead of three hubbings?
- What roll, if any, do proof re-treatments play in the differences within these two populations?
Answering these questions will take time and on-going research, a process that is inevitably uneven and unpredictable. But the authors strongly believe that the study of unique Eisenhower Dollars like the PPL and APPL is worth whatever time and energies we can commit because such focused study is most likely to yield results that deepen our understanding of the series as a whole.