Die Trials are usually uniface (struck on one side) impressions using either the obverse or reverse die. These Die Trials can be from finished or unfinished dies. These are deliberate strikes to test a certain design or example. Sometimes hubs are used, rather than the actual finished die.
Metals other than the adopted composition are frequently used to strike die trials. They are sometimes struck in copper and white metal. Other times they are struck in softer metals like tin or lead. There are even some examples struck in wax and on cardboard. Die Trials that are struck in gold are exceeding rare.
U.S. die trials are listed in the Judd reference book of patterns and die trials. Technically die trials and hub trials are part of the pattern family. However, in the last 5 years the coin market has drastically changed directions.
Many pattern enthusiasts have always wanted a die trial to go along with the specific type or denomination of pattern(s) that they collect. A new demand has emerged for die trials, hub trials and splashers. Collectors of major mint errors are placing these in their collections because they are unusual, exotic and unique.
Even though they are not mint errors, they are aggressively sought after by people who collect off-metals, broadstrikes, uniface strikes and coins struck on larger planchets. In addition, since many of these are struck from incomplete dies and hubs, the design may be only a partial portrait or with parts of the legend and date missing.
Pictured above is a unique, spectacular and dramatic Belgium Franc die trial struck in GOLD. This Gold Franc is an obverse die trial struck to test the die in 1904, which was the first year of issue. The gold planchet that was selected is larger in diameter than the silver planchet used for the regular issue. It was first struck using the 1903 obverse die that has French text. Patterns with the obverse design with French text were only struck in 1903. It was struck again with the 1904 obverse die that has Dutch text. The separation between the strikes is clearly visible in the portrait, lettering and denticles. The difference in spelling is particularly evident in the word BELGES (French) on the understrike and BELGEN (Dutch) on the overstrike.