From time to time we highlight an interesting numismatic vocabulary word. An article by Tom DeLorey in the May 2009 issue of COINage magazine discussed a term in use at the Philadephia Mint, which Tom visited in February of this year. Be sure to check out the full article: Inside the Mint. -Editor Behind it was a hopper with a sign reading, SPALECKED BLANK DOLLARS READY FOR PRESS. This totally stumped me. I had never, ever in all my days at Coin World, where I wrote "Collector's Clearinghouse," or at ANACS, or as a coin dealer, heard the term "spalecked" in regard to a U.S. coin. What could it possibly mean?
Well, the answer was right behind it, where a machine fed previously annealed (heat-softened) planchets via a conveyor belt into a stainless steel tank. Our guides, joined by the chief coiner, explained that that the brass planchets were tumbled in the tank along with steel pellets and a special solution that greatly slows down the discoloration of the brass once the coins enter circulation (a major problem on the year-2000 Sacagawea dollars, which the Mint quickly fixed).
The manufacturer's name on the machine: SPALAECK. You or I might say that the machine "burnishes" the planchets, but since the Mint uses other burnishing processes for other for other planchets for other reasons, it logically avoids confusion by calling these planchets "spalecked." The sign made perfect sense.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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