Scratches vs. Die Polish Lines

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by JeffC, Jun 21, 2021.

  1. JeffC

    JeffC Hogwarts Numismatist Apprentice

    Question: Are these scratches on the coin or die polish lines?

    Some months back, I read about Die Polish Lines here and it's one of those things I remember because it's interesting. But one of the toughest things for me is distinguishing between Die Polish Lines (Die Scratches) and plain old scratches on the coin surface.

    I remember learning some tips for identifying Die Scratches:
    (A) If the scratches are on the field but not on the devices, and
    (B) If the scratches are raised, not incused

    But I don't have enough physical examples to really know how to tell the difference, in hand. Then I saw this 1934 cent. And that's when I know that I indeed have difficulties discerning the two types of scratches.

    20210613_194206 copy.jpg

    The scratches are very fine and not visible in the above photo. But under the right lighting and if you tilt the coin, you can see them here in these two photos below, to the right of Lincoln.



    I believe they are scratches and not die polish lines. But I can't tell if they're raised or incused. Can you let me know what you think they are and please add a little explanation to help me see what you see. Thanks all for this one.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2021
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  3. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    From a picture, this is just a guess from me, but I think those are die polish. The lines going up to the 3 and the 4 also show up below the numbers but are not visible on the numbers. Perhaps they wore off, but that's my guess. I want to be educated!
  4. JeffC

    JeffC Hogwarts Numismatist Apprentice

    Me too! LOL. It's one thing to read about the apparent differences between scratches and die polish lines - but not as easy to actually tell them apart (for me at least) when I get one physically in my hand.
    Cheech9712, Inspector43 and Kentucky like this.
  5. Beefer518

    Beefer518 Well-Known Member


    These 2 lines were the easiest to spot as polish lines. They go right up to, and 'under' the numbers (aka devices), so they'd be polish lines. I can also tell by the shadows that the lines are raised, and not incuse. The light is coming from the 2 o'clock area, and the lines are lit up on that side. If they were incuse, the light would be on the left side of the lines, and the shadow on the right side towards the light source.
    While most things are harder to determine in a photo, I find a photo can sometimes help in figuring out scratches vs. polish lines.
  6. JeffC

    JeffC Hogwarts Numismatist Apprentice

    You're right! Why didn't/couldn't I see that?! Thank you very much.
    Inspector43 and Beefer518 like this.
  7. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    Determining fine incuse or raised polish lines has always, for me, been a case of lighting direction and recognition of shadow and light reflections.
    Also, when with raised devices on the coin, which are incuse in the die, lines that reach the edges of the smaller devices and then continue after, normally would indicate die polishing. How are you going to polish down inside the smaller incuse areas of the die.
    JeffC, Beefer518 and Inspector43 like this.
  8. Inspector43

    Inspector43 73 Year Collector Supporter

    I agree, they look like polish lines to me. Nice coin.
    JeffC likes this.
  9. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    I also agree with die polish lines. At the same time the images make the coin look as if it was worked on.
    JeffC and Inspector43 like this.
  10. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    Yeah they do, and it makes perfect sense that they do when you understand something that a lot of folks seem to miss or simply don't think about it. It's because die polish lines, both on the die and the resulting coins struck with that die, have both raised and incuse lines - just like post strike scratches on a coin do. So that makes it hard for some folks to tell the difference between them.

    The defining characteristics of die polish lines are that they are always basically straight and parallel to each other, and they don't ever cross the devices.

    Post strike scratches on a coin though can run in any direction, they can be straight and parallel, circular, and/or criss-cross all over the place. And they can cross the devices, but only if and when the devices have been scratched. In other words the devices aren't always scratched but they certainly can be.

    And one must always remember that you can, and quite often do, have die polish lines AND post strike scratches both on the same coin.
  11. JeffC

    JeffC Hogwarts Numismatist Apprentice

    Thank you everyone for your comments and explanations. I really appreciate them. I hope to run into more real life examples to look at.
  12. JeffC

    JeffC Hogwarts Numismatist Apprentice

    I assume that die polishing is done manually? In that case, why can't the die polish lines be circular or criss-crossed?
  13. Danomite

    Danomite What do you say uh-huh Supporter

    I’ve not seen circular polish patterns (not say there may be some) but I have seen criss-cross patterns. Take some time to look at some die markers on VV. LC Doubled Dies Vol 2/1984PDDO002.htm
    JeffC likes this.
  14. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Definitely polished with several bag marks. Still, it is a nice looking cent. No great value but a keeper, in my opinion.
    JeffC likes this.
  15. chascat

    chascat Well-Known Member

    Cleaned and polished.
  16. Mac McDonald

    Mac McDonald Well-Known Member

    The coin appears cleaned to be, not so much to do with the scratches but more the "look" of natural v. cleaned copper/luster.
    JeffC likes this.
  17. robec

    robec Junior Member

  18. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    I dunno.........when I see lines like that I think, rub a dub dub.......scrub a dub dub.

    @ op
  19. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    No it isn't, it is done by a machine. And the same basic method has been used since the 1800's. The machines of today are more modern of course but the same large spinning disk impregnated with a paste of diamond dust is what been used to polish dies for well over a century. And it must also be understood that there is more than 1 step in the process. In the early steps a course paste is used, and in each subsequent step the paste used is finer and finer until the desired finish has been applied to the dies. And of course with Proofs, they use the finest grit possible to achieve the mirror finish.

    The link below will show you a video of how dies are polished at the mint.

    That method clearly illustrates why die polish line cannot criss-cross. It's simple, basic physics.
    JeffC likes this.
  20. robec

    robec Junior Member

    How are these criss-crossed?

    charley and Beefer518 like this.
  21. JeffC

    JeffC Hogwarts Numismatist Apprentice

    Thank you! Again!
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