[The following article is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its authors, Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert. This information was originally published in 1993 in The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dollars.]
* * *
The figures in the date on a head die are incused (hammered into the die using a punch). The punch (a hand held cutting tool) may be a single figure or a series of figures ganged together (logotype) to give spacing uniformity to the figures in the date. Two, three or four figure logotype punches were used to prepare Liberty Seated half dollar head dies. Considerable force was required to hammer figures (especially gang figures with more surface area) into dies. Punches were constructed such that the figures were beveled (pointed) for easier penetration, but multiple blows from the hammer were always required. Sometimes the punch would bounce or chatter during this process accounting for the signs of “repunching” seen around the figures in dates on early dies states of many Liberty Seated half dollars. These very slight impressions usually disappear from die wear or die polishing (abrasion) as the figures are punched into the outermost surface of the die.
Occasionally after one or more forceful hammer blows, the die cutter would be dissatisfied with the original placement of a figure or logotype, and he would adjust the position of the punch before delivering the final hammer blows. In these instances where a figure or logotype is recut, the original impression is sufficiently distinct that it remains for the entire life of the die unless the die cutter severely abrades (laps, grinds, or polishes) the die in which case other elements of the design in low relief such as drapery, foot support and/or stars are weakened or obliterated in the process.
There are significant variations in the size (height) of the date logotype punch used on the working dies for Liberty Seated half dollars throughout the series. However, 1842 and 1846 are the only dates which have two noticeably different sizes within the same year. In the collecting community there is considerable disparity regrading the identification/labeling of these differences. There is significant yariation in date logotype size in subsequent years (e.g. 1858 is much larger than 1859), but there are no instances in years subsequent to 1846 where two different date logotype sizes exist for the same year. Table 2-4 lists date sizes for all years (1839-1891). The photographs shown with Table 2-4 emphasize the date logotype varieties for the years 1842 and 1846 which exist for both the Philadelphia Mint and the New Orleans Branch Mint.