Question: I sent a low-grade 1922 Wheat cent off to be graded recently. Much to my surprise, it was returned to me as a 1922 “Weak D”. I was certain that it was a 1922 “No D”. Are there any diagnostics that I could have looked for to determine which is which? In low grades, they look nearly identical.
Answer: When determining if a 1922 Wheat cent is a No D or Weak D, it is commonplace for collectors to be drawn to the mintmark. It is nearly impossible to be certain if the D is faint or completely faded away based strictly on inspecting that area. Thankfully, there are a few easier ways to tell, with the naked eye, if there is No D or a Weak D.
First, look at the reverse and if it is Strong (Die Pair 2 and the most valuable variety) then you have a No D and there is no need for further inspection. But in most cases the reverse will be Weak (Die Pairs 1, 3, and 4) and this can’t be used to determine which D variety you have.
Instead, rely on these two diagnostics. The best method is found by looking at the date. All No D examples will have a notably weaker struck first 2 (next to the 9) and a stronger second 2 (the last digit in the date). On Weak D examples both 2s in the date will have equal strength of strike or the second 2 may be slightly weaker. The next best diagnostic requires focusing on the striking strength of the word TRUST in the obverse motto. If TRUST is sharply struck in any grade, you have a No D. On the other hand, if the top of all five letters is bleeding into the rim and has no definitive outline then you have a Weak D. You will also notice on a Weak D that the last letter (T) in TRUST will be visible but notably weaker than the first four letters in that word. These two methods work for coins of ALL grades.