One of the most misunderstood terms in numismatics is the word “restrike.” In its strictest sense, a restrike is a coin made from original dies at a later year. However, the word is used for a wide variety of other reproductions, copies, recreations and later issues. This article will describe the various types of restrikes and how they are perceived by the numismatic marketplace.
While many coins are called restrikes, very few pieces fit the official definition. This is because most mints destroyed or dramatically altered original coinage dies; they almost never survived after their year of issue. One notable exception was an 1804 Large Cent die accidentally discarded by the U.S. Mint. It was somehow found at a much later date, perhaps in the 1850s or 1860s. This obverse die was “muled” with an 1820s-era reverse die, from with a run of restrikes were made. These coins look nothing like original 1804 Large Cents, as 1) the reverse design is from the wrong era 2) the dies had rusted and cracked badly and 3) the restrikes tend to be in high grade whereas original 1804 Large Cents are often well-worn.
In a few unusual cases, the U.S. Mint created coins at a later date that did not exist in the first place. The most famous instance is the legendary 1804 Silver Dollar. Official U.S. Mint records show that one dollar silver coins were made in 1804, but these coins were almost certainly dated 1803. In the 1830s, the U.S. Mint decided to assemble a proof set as a gift. They wanted to include a Silver Dollar in the proof set, but the coin had not been officially produced since 1804. So, the Philadelphia Mint simply created a new set of Silver Dollar dies dated 1804. Eight coins were made in the 1830s, then another seven were struck in the 1850s and 1860s. These “1804” Dollars are now major rarities with each worth seven figures each!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are seemingly endless items called “restrikes” with little or no numismatic value. This includes copies, reproductions, and other non-official re-creations. Technically the work restrike does not apply. However, all too often, the term is used by dealers and marketers to lend value and legitimacy to these reproductions. This category of “restrikes” should also not be confused with counterfeits, which are produced for fraudulent and nefarious purposes.