In the world of collecting, collecting coins with errors is a relatively new specialty. The specialty can be traced to the discovery of the famous 1955 Lincoln Cent Doubled Die Obverse (DDO), known as The King of Errors. Finding this coin lead to collectors to search for errors, varieties, and anything out of the ordinary.
What is a “Doubled Die?”
In order to strike coins, the U.S. Mint creates dies from hubs that contain the engraved image of the coins. The hubs are pressed into the dies to transfer the image. In years past, the U.S. Mint used to use what they called a two-squeeze process to make sure the die had a full image. This meant that when pressing the hubs into the dies, the die makers squeezed the two parts twice.
Sometimes, the process does not go smoothly and mistakes are embedded in the dies. In the case of the 1955 DDO Lincoln Cent, the hub and die did not line up correctly on the second squeeze. The result was lettering that appeared shifted or doubled.
Initial Reaction to the Coin
When the coin was discovered, there were two reactions. One group of people saw the coin as an exciting find and wondered whether it happened on any other coins. Another group was not as happy. They referred to the coin as “spoiled” and refused to acknowledge it as a valid collectible. Some considered the coin so unremarkable that one club publication wrote how they were having a hard time selling the coins for one dollar each.
A New Hobby Segment is Born
Those who were excited by the new find began to form clubs dedicated to the finding and education of errors and other variety in U.S. coins. They started the Collectors of Mint Errors (COME) club in 1956. As the nascent club tried to find its footing in the hobby, two factions began to form around different error and variety types. COME disbanded in 1960 because of the in fighting between the two organizations.
Some former members of COME came together again in 1963 to form the Collectors of Numismatic Errors (CONE). The people who formed CONE focused mostly on die varieties such as doubled dies, repunched mintmarks, major die breaks, die cracks, and die chips. Other collectors who were more interested in major minting errors like the 1955 DDO Lincoln Cent formed the Numismatic Error Collectors of America (NECA).
The two clubs existed for many years as rivals believing their form of collecting errors was better than the other. During this time, both clubs provided a lot of research into errors and varieties and how they could have occurred. The publications from both clubs continue to be the basis of the knowledge still used today.
In 1980, the two organizations began to find common ground and discovered that it was better to work together than against each other. As the two clubs started to work together, many collectors became members of both clubs. To strengthen the hobby, both clubs voted to merge in 1983 to form the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA).
Finding Errors and Varieties
Today you can find error coins at your local coin store or by contacting a dealer specializing in errors and varieties. CONECA members will tell you that the thrill of finding errors is in the hunt. Error collectors use magnifying loupes, a good light source, and a lot of patience to examine coins to find something out of the ordinary. While there are some errors that are as visible as the 1955 DDO Lincoln Cent, others can be as subtle as outline of a small crack in the die, imperfections caused by two dies striking because the machine did not place a blank planchet properly between the dies, or the wrong die was used to strike the coin.
Errors can be found on any type of coin from any era. The error collecting community became excited when the processing of the new Presidential Dollars did not include the edge lettering; the edge letters were not aligned properly or doubled. While the U.S. Mint has improved the minting process, error collectors continue to find errors every time new coins are issued.
Starting an Error Collection
Anyone who wants to start searching for errors and varieties might want to buy a copy of Strike It Rich With Pocket Change by Brian Allen and Ken Potter published by Krause Publications (e-reader versions available). Now in its third edition, Strike it Rich will show you what to look for when you examine the coins in your pocket. According to the authors, a collector found a double die cast 1969 Lincoln cent in a roll of coins. When it was auctioned in 2008, it sold for $126,500.
Another great resource is Cherrypicker’s Guide by Bill Fivas and J.T. Stanton published by Whitman Publications. The fifth edition published in 2008 has more pictures, better descriptions, and a more complete resource with additional prices realized from various auction sources. A new edition is due later this year and should be available in e-reader formats.
Do not forget the resources of CONECA, which could be found on their website at conecaonline.org.
The 1955 DDO Lincoln Cent Today
As a coin desired by all types of collectors, a mid-grade coin you could have bought for $1 in 1960 is worth around $1,500 today. It is a coin that has held its value even during the current economic downturn but has not seen significant appreciation in the last ten years. Collectors will be happy the one they own will maintain its value. Investors should look to the highest graded coins that are designated as Red (full mint luster) or Red-Brown (some light copper oxidation) for better future returns.
Rick Snow, noted researcher of Indian Cents and die varieties, carefully examined the high-leaf and low-leaf varieties of the Wisconsin State Quarter. Although mainstream media stories have reported this as an accident, Snow analyzes the coins under an electron microscope in order to do forensic analysis.
Snow concludes that the leaf was made with the same tool in a similar manner by a Denver Mint insider with access to the dies. Here is a video Snow produced about his analysis:
I am not sure if this is the “definitive answer,” but it is one of the better theories I have seen.
The University of Georgia is the nation’s oldest land grant university. The Georgia legislature approved the land grant measure in 1784 and the college was chartered in 1785. The first Board of Trustees meeting was held in 1786 and elected Abraham Baldwin as the college’s first president. Baldwin, originally from Connecticut, was a Yale graduate who moved to Georgia in 1784 and was asked to help draft the school’s original charter.
When the Board of Trustees decided to open the university in 1801, they selected a site. John Milledge purchased 633 acres of land in northeast Georgia and donated it to the Board of Trustees. Part of the land was developed into the town of Athens, the rest is still owned by the University.
Josiah Meigs was named president in 1801 and the Board of Trustees named the first college Franklin College in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Although the charter named the school the University of Georgia, it was known as Franklin College until 1859 when the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences was founded. Meigs held the first classes under a tree on what is now called North Campus. While classes were held, log buildings were hastily built as temporary structures until permanent buildings would be built.
The first permanent building was modeled after Connecticut Hall at Yale University. When it was completed in 1805, it housed classrooms, administrative offices, and dormitories. Today, that building is called Old College. Since the 1950s, it has been used as the administrative offices for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
One evening, I was searching a popular online auction site looking for something to add to my American Revolution Bicentennial collection. While searching, I found this medal for the bicentennial of my undergraduate Alma Mater (see image on right). As an alumnus of the University of Georgia, I had to buy this medal.
Other than the subject, the medal had an interesting because of an error: the lettering on the reverse is doubled (click image to enlarge). It looks as if the dies were punched then repunched with new spacing in the lettering. While it was described in the auction listing, I had to see the medal in hand to try to understand how this error occurred. Even in-hand, it is difficult to tell. It looks as if the dies were re-punched after the letters were reset—as if someone did not like the layout and tried to change it after the dies were created.
What was not described in the auction listing was the doubling I found on the obverse. The error was very subtle and would not have been noticed by someone who was not familiar with the University of Georgia. While examining the medal, I noted that the school’s motto is on the tree’s trunk: Et docere et rerum exquirere causas (To teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things).
Looking just above the motto, I saw that the “200” was doubled and above that, “To Inquire,” was also doubled. Curiosity brought out my loupe and examined the branches for the other two parts of the motto and found “To Teach” above the lower-left branch of the tree and “To Serve” above the lower-right branch. All are doubled! These are clearly re-punched into the dies.
Aside from the subject, the “errors” are fascinating. It is like getting two collectibles in one medal.
HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS!
An interesting part of coin collecting is to find a different niche that adds more to the collection than just the coin. I started with coin covers when the US Mint introduced them for various coins, including the 50 State Quarters series. Then I found that coin covers are popular in Europe, specifically in Great Britain and Australia where they refer to these collectibles as philatelic numismatic covers (PNC), to distinguish them from others like first day covers (FDC).
Recently, I was searching for PNCs on that famous online auction website when I came across an interesting cover. It was postmarked in 1972 and included a coin with an off-center strike. I did not know much about the cover but purchased it anyway because it had that “oh neat” quality.
When I received the cover, I examined it closely. It appears to be a souvenir from the Error-A-Rama Error Coin Convention held in 1974 at the El Cortez Hotel in San Diego. The convention is sponsored by the Numismatic Error Collectors of America, one of the two clubs that were merged to form today’s Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA). The stamp was the common 8-cent stamp for the day and the postmark was made on the first day of the convention.
The coin is a Lincoln Cent that was struck 90-percent off center. The coin is held in place by a piece of cellophane tape on the reverse wit the entire inner card being wrapped in plastic. The envelope is sealed with the logo of the San Diego club and initials on the flap.
To find out more information, I wrote to several error experts sending images of the cover. I received a response from noted error expert and dealer Fred Weinberg. Weinberg said that the initials on the back of the cover are of Jim Heine, one of the organizer’s of the San Diego error club—one of three Southern California error clubs of the late 1960s through the mid 1970s.
“Covers like this were signed to both ‘authenticate’ the item,” Weinberg wrote, “and to show that the envelope hadn’t been opened or tampered with.”
Weinberg reports that these covers were issued for the Error-A-Rama shows in the 1970s. While there are no records of the number of covers made, Weinberg estimates that “at least 100-200 or so covers were made up” He also said that Heine also sold his own series of error covers with different error coins.
Aside being an interesting collectible, it is wonderful to be part of a hobby where you can email a leading expert for more information. I met Fred Weinberg at the World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore and thanked him in person. But I would like to repeat my appreciation here: THANK YOU, FRED!
Now that we have seen the fireworks and enjoyed our barbecues, it is time to add a numismatic touch to the celebration. This one is a new purchase of a 1976 Type 2 Eisenhower Dollar with an error at the US Mint.
Struck in 1975 and 1976, the dollar, Kennedy Half-Dollar, and Washington Quarter were minted with the dual date 1776-1976 and commemorative reverses designed by Dennis Williams to honor the nation’s bicentennial. In 1975, the lettering on the Eisenhower Dollars had a bolder reverse that did not strike well. For 1976, the dies were changed and the letters were thinned giving us the Type 2 variety.
Thirty-two years later, I purchased a 1976 Type 2 dollar with an error from the US Mint. The dollar in the image on the right, you can see the lettering in “AMERICA” disappearing. The star after the word is also missing. This error is called strike through grease filled dies.
Strike through grease errors are relatively common and only add a small premium to the value of the coin. They occur during the Minting process when Mint employees apply a thin layer of grease on the dies to prevent the newly struck coins from sticking to the die after being hit with more than 40 tons of pressure. When the grease is not applied evenly, it creates a buildup. Those areas where the grease is applied too thickly prevents raised elements from striking properly.
This is not a commentary on the US Mint or the Independence Day celebration. Just something neat I found to add to the patriotic definition of the day. Enjoy your weekend and I hope you find something neat in coins, too.
Error collecting is an interesting part of the hobby. Combined with variety collectors, those interested in finding coins that are not what the U.S. Mint intended is a specialty that requires a bit of education and persistence. Some of the errors and varieties collectors look for are doubled dies, repunched mint marks, clipped planchets, off-centered coins, off-metal coins, strike-throughs, and even differences in one set of dies from another.
Error collecting is a relatively new specialty. The specialty can be traced to the discovery of the famous 1955 Lincoln Cent Double Obverse, now called the king of errors. Its discovery lead to people beginning to search for errors, varieties, and anything out of the ordinary.
As a result, two organizations were formed to serve various collectors. After two decades of competition, they joined forces to create the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA). CONECA now provides education services, publications, and attribution services. Its membership are responsible for some of the definitive guides to errors, including the Cherrypicker’s Guide to Rare Die Varieties by J.T. Stanton and Bill Fivaz.
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of CONECA. To commemorate this milestone, CONECA has created a medal that will be produced in silver, silver clad, and bronze. What makes these medals special is that CONECA will be offering various “error” versions of the medals. The five variety of errors will include an off-center and various form of double strikes. You can also buy a medal that does not simulate an error.
For ordering information, see the CONECA website. When you get there, search for “25th Anniversary Medals Program” to see the medals and ordering information.
Whomever thought of creating errors from the commemorative medal deserves a pat on the back. It is a wonderful idea!
Medal images courtesy of CONECA.
James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States. Monroe, a Democrat-Republican (the forerunner of the modern Democratic Party) and former governor of Virginia, believed in the Jeffersonian principle of a stronger federal government who would look out for the welfare of the states. He was opposed to the colonization of the Western Hemisphere by foreign powers and worked to have them withdraw from the hemisphere.
Monroe was elected during a time of good feeling after the War of 1812 where Great Brittan tried to prevent the US to trade with France while they were at war with Napoleon. Monroe worked to set the US place in the world, first by convincing Spain to cede Florida to the United States in 1821. Subsequently, Great Brittan, weary of war, wanted the US to oppose the reconquest of Latin America.
Monroe consulted ex-presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who agreed with the concept. Monroe then consulted with Secretary of State John Qunicy Adams. Adams was not only concerned about British meddling in the region, but there was a concern about France and Russia also meddling in the Americas. Adams suggested making it US policy against nation trying to recolonize the west.
Monroe accepted Adams’ suggestion. In a message delivered to congress on December 2, 1823, Monroe say “… the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European Power.“ Twenty years after Monroe died, this became known as the Monroe Doctrine.
The James Monroe $1 coin was released to the public on February 14, 2008. However, prior to the coin’s release, there was a report that a number of “irregular” coins were returned to the Mint by the contractor hired to wrap coins.
It was reported that between 70,000 and 100,000 Monroe Dollars were struck on quarter planchets at the Philadelphia Mint. When questions, the US Mint issued the following statement:
In mid-January, the United States Mint’s coin-wrapping contractor alerted the agency when it found some irregular James Monroe Presidential $1 coins. The coins in question were immediately returned to the United States Mint. The United States Mint has performed an internal inquiry and presently has no evidence to indicate that any irregular James Monroe Presidential $1 Coins have been sent to the nation’s banks. The United States Mint expects to make an estimated 103 million James Monroe Presidential $1 Coins.
When I go to the bank tomorrow to pick up some rolls, I will be buying a few extra rolls to check for these wrong planchet errors because I do not believe that all of these “irregular” coins have been found.
As I was preparing to write this entry, I was looking for the posting where I wrote about a coin my wife gave me as a gift. I had taken a new picture of the coin before sending to NGC for grading. Apparently, I posted it elsewhere and not here. How dare I do something like that! I need to make up for this and now is as good a time as any.
My wonderful wife seems to be into errors, which sometimes makes me wonder. But the errors she finds are coins. For Chanukah in 2005, she gave me a 1955 DDO that ended up being graded by NGC as AU58BN. Last Chanukah, she gave me a 1937-D 3-legged buffalo. I did not get that graded. After a cent and nickel, what’s next?
On my birthday, I found a wrapped package on the table. I sat in my chair and unwrapped the package. It is a book. But not just an ordinary book. It is a children’s book about the planets. She tells me I have to read the book. I read the book aloud noting that the book is up to date since it shows that Pluto was voted out of the solar system! As I flip the pages, the book then explains the different parts of the solar system starting with the Sun. I turn the page to start with the planets and in the middle of the page is a piece of paper taped over the description of Mercury that says “Did you know that dimes come from Mercury?” Next to the note is a 2×2 holding a Mercury Dime. The holder had “AU” written on it by the dealer.
But this is just not an ordinary Mercury dime. It is a 1942/1 Mercury Dime! One of the most desirable Mercury dime errors. A beautiful coin with nice luster. The grade of AU is probably accurate.
While I am preparing to send the 1942/1 Mercury Dime for grading, the 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo Nickel is also being submitted. For a while, this coin was sitting in the album with the rest of my Buffalo Nickels. But a number of people suggested that I get this coin slabbed for many reasons including for insurance purposes. Although I would rather have the hole in the album filled, I agree with the arguments about protecting the coin and having a record for insurance purposes for this key date coin.
As I celebrate the start of another year of life on this rock we call Earth, I unbury my head from my work responsibilities to catch up on the news and events of the week. It seems the US Mint has been busy, so let’s get started.
The Mint published a Hot Item consumer advisory discussing the altering of the edge lettering on the George Washington Dollar Coin. Although I discussed this in my posting “NGC Warns About Altered Washington Dollars,” the Mint adds the potential for this being a criminal act. According to the Mint:
Although altering and defacing United States coinage generally is not illegal, doing so violates a Federal criminal statute (18 U.S.C. § 331) when the act is accompanied by an intent to defraud. Accordingly, a person is committing a Federal crime if he or she intentionally alters an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin to make it look like an error coin for the purpose of selling it at a premium to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Under this statute, it is also a Federal crime to sell at a premium an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin that one knows has been altered so it looks like an error coin to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Penalties include a fine and up to five years in prison.
The Mint announced that the Secretary of the Treasury appointed thre new members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC). The CCAC advises “the Secretary of the Treasury on the themes and designs of all US coins and medals. The CCAC serves as an informed, experienced and impartial resource to the Secretary of the Treasury and represents the interests of American citizens and collectors.” The three appointees are
- Gary Marks, the City Manager of Whitefish, Montana and the Commissioner of the Montana Quarter Design Selection Committee
- Michael Brown, Vice President of Public Affairs for Barrick Gold Corporation and former Special Assistant to US Mint Director Donna Pope from 1981 to 1989
- Reverend Dr. Richard J. Meier, a hobbyist and current Pastor of the Alpine Lutheran Church in Rockford, Illinois.
The Mint also began to take subscription orders for the uncirculated American Silver Eagle coins. These coins will be dated with the “W” mint mark to be sold for collectors. Silver Eagles without the mint mark will continue to be available for the bullion market and sold through dealers. As a reflection of the rise in the price of silver, the 2007-W coins will cost $21.95, up $2 from last year.
Finally, as a celebration of my birthday, I would like my readers to consider joining other numismatists and collectors to promote the hobby. If you are not a member of the American Numismatic Association, take this opportunity to join. If you have access to a local coin club, why not join others in your community. There are national clubs based on your interest, so consider joining them. Finally, if you know of a collector who is not a member, whether they are a young numismatist or otherwise, get them to join. It is fun and will help promote the hobby as it is showing a lot of growth. Just join!
Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NCG), published an article on their website warning about Washington Dollars with edges altered to resemble no-edge lettering errors. NGC said that “[less] than a month after their official release, Presidential $1 Coins with altered edges are being submitted to NGC for certification.” In the article, NGC provides detailed dimensions of the coins along with images of genuine and altered edges.
Collectors are urged to use the information to make informed decisions as to their purchase of these coins. Although it is popular to buy coins from online auction sites, collectors may want to ensure that the coins are certified from a reputable third party grading service. You may want to inquire as to the seller’s return policy should the coin be altered. Remember, a seven day return policy will not be enough time for a coin to be certified by most grading services. Here are some resources to learn more:
Image of altered Washington Dollar edge from NGC.