What is a Die Variety?
A die variety is any die that exhibits a variation that makes it identifiable from any other die. Technically, all obverse dies of Flying Eagle and Indian Cents through 1908 are die varieties because the date was hand-punched. Dates punched by hand can vary wildly by position and is the reason we have repunched dates. In 1909, they added the date to the master die, which gave all hubs and their dies the same date position. This change eliminated the possibility of a repunched date die variety. To read about leading theories on why overdates occur after the change in 1909, see John Wexler’s article on Repunched Dates, Misplaced Dates, and Overdates.
The definition we use for attributable die varieties is defined: any die exhibiting a variation other than date position.
But we need a bit of criteria because each die exhibits unique features under high magnification, like die lines. Therefore our criteria requires: that one be able to see the variation in the die with a 12x loupe.
Our simple definition of a die variety and the single criteria help make variety collecting fun and objective.
Over its time in the press, accidental or purposeful damage and wear may occur to a die. This alteration can thus make the die identifiable at a certain point in that die’s life. Therefore, varieties that are die states are often exceedingly rare because they occur on only a percentage of all coins pressed by the die. Example of die state varieties are die cracks, cuds, 1875 DOT-001, the 1903 and 1907 Goatees, 1863 OCC-001, and others.
Die states and die varieties are not mutually exclusive terms. Some die states are worth of attribution, some are not. The die failure on the 8th feather tip, often seen in 1899, is an example of a die state that is not attributable.
Wexler’s Lincoln Cent Die Varieties