The History Of Trail Dies

It was late in the year 1994 that John Wexler received for attribution a Lincoln cent from G. J. Lawson. This coin had a strange bending of the steps in the Lincoln Memorial Building beneath the columns. After John had finished his examination, he was convinced that it was a doubled die caused by the replication of the fluting lines in the columns into the stairs below. He listed it as 1994P, 1c, WDDR-004 as a doubled die.

In June of 2000, this peculiar die resurfaced again. This time it was Kenneth Edgar who submitted his find to Ken Potter. Ken recognized the die as the one that had been previously listed by John Wexler and assigned his number of 1994P, 1c, VCR#2/DDR#2. Ken was also the first person to make note of the lines that came from the bottom of the designer’s initials (FG). He called them “trails” for the way that they trailed off as they lengthened.

It took three more years of this die type anomaly to break into the news again and this time it was on a 2003 Lincoln cent. Harold Kuykendall was the one to find this odd type die anomaly and he sent to Ken Potter for his analysis. Again, Ken recognized the anomaly type, although it was not as strong as on the first 1994 Lincoln cent. Another oddity was that this die was not likely to have a doubled die since it was made with the single squeeze hubbing method.

Soon after this find, Billy Crawford found a similar 2003 Lincoln cent that had the same peculiarities, although this die was similar in strength to the 1994 die. Up until 2003, this die anomaly had not been named; however, Harold Kuykendall referenced the steps as being “wavy” in his submission letter to Ken Potter. Ken picked up on that name and from then on it became known as a “wavy step” due to the undulations of the stairs below the columns.

The third date was found soon after by me, a 1999 Lincoln cent that can be seen under the file heading of 1999P-1DER-001WS. From that point on, more and more wavy step dies were found. We have now reached this point of over 1100 different dies, on cents, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar coins, from 1961 to the present.

Just how long will these die anomalies called trails last? It is anyone’s guess. The MINT does know that they exist; however, they do not plan to do a study on the possible cause. I have a feeling that we will see this die anomaly for a long time to come.