Errors verus Varieties: Varieties are spice

This is second article of a 2 part series:
  1. Errors versus Varieties: About Errors
  2. Errors verus Varieties: Varieties are spiceyou are here

A variety is a coin that differs from its basic design type in some distinctive way and is thus differentiated by collectors. Varieties are not errors. They are deliberate changes to the design whether it is to better define the design, adjust the design to strike better, or to add or change elements like dates and mintmarks.

A key difference between a variety and an error is that varieties are replicated for multiple strikes. Die changes, repunched mintmarks, repunched dates and over polishing of dies can reproduce the variety for the life of the die or until it is detected by Mint workers.

Nearly every series of coins has its own traceable die varieties that have been studied and catalogued by researchers. Researchers assign the varieties a number that is used by the third-party grading services to provide attribution to the variety on their holder.

Variety collecting is a very specialized subject. If you are going to collect varieties, you should read the references to understand the characteristics of the varieties. Some of the more well recognized and documented varieties include:

Catalog Coin Series Main or Initial Reference
Cohen (C#) Half Cents (1793-1857) American Half Cents – The “Little Half Sisters” by Roger S. Cohen, Jr.
Sheldon (S#) Large Cents (1793-1814) Penny Whimsy by Dr. William H. Sheldon
Fortin (F#) Liberty Seated Dimes (1837-1891) Liberty Seated Dimes – Die Varieties, 1837 – 1891, by Gerry Fortin
Overton (O#) Half Dollars (1794-1836) Early half dollar die varieties, 1794-1836, by Al C. Overton and Donald L. Parsley
Van Allen-Mallis (VAM#) Morgan and Peace Dollars (1878-1935) Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars, by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis
Fivaz-Stanton (FS#) Varieties from the Cherrypickers’ Guide Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins, by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton

Arguably, the most collected series by varieties are Morgan Dollars. VAM varieties and catalog numbers were introduced to the hobby by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis who discovered the varieties while examining Morgan and Peace Dollars. Their book, Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars began a hunt that has seen hundreds of more varieties found and cataloged.

Most VAM varieties cannot be seen without magnification and detailed knowledge of what to look for. The primary resource for VAM collectors is the VAMworld website. Aside from listing the identified VAM varieties, there are instructions how to identify VAM varieties.

Examples of VAMs from VAMworld

The third-party grading services have an optional service that will identify VAM varieties on their holders. However, they do not recognize all VAM varieties. There are three sub-lists of catalogued VAM varieties that are recognized. These varieties are as follows:

  • TOP 100: The 100 most significant VAM Varieties known
  • HOT 50: A list of additional 50 VAM Varieties that collectors are interested in finding. Many of these varieties are scarce and have sold for significant premiums
  • HIT LIST 40: A list of 40 new VAM Varieties that have been discovered since the publishing of the HOT 50 list

General searching for varieties and errors should consider picking up a copy of Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton. The book comes in two volumes. Volume 1 covers die varieties of half cents through nickel five-cent pieces. Volume 2 covers everything else including gold and bullion issues.

VAM example images courtesy of VAMworld

Errors versus Varieties: About Errors

This is first article of a 2 part series:
  1. Errors versus Varieties: About Errorsyou are here
  2. Errors verus Varieties: Varieties are spice

FDR dime struck on a nail (stand in for Festivus Pole)

Over the years, I have been asked what are the differences between errors and varieties. While some errors are distinctive, some wonder why some errors are not varieties and some varieties are not classified as errors.

A basic rule of thumb is that even though errors and varieties represent changes to the basic design of the coin, they differ in how they occur and the resulting appearance of the coin.

A Mint Error is the result of an issue with the manufacturing processes causing the coin to be damaged in some way. Errors can be the result in malfunction of the equipment, imperfect coining materials, or created by human error.

Even though modern equipment is supposed the make the striking process more consistent, when the manufacturing process involves striking billions of coins, there are bound to be a few errors. Coining machines have so many moving parts and everything has to work in concern, one variation in speed, force, vibration, or tilt can make the coins look very different than intended.

Then there is the human factor. Humans are imperfect beings subject to making mistakes. Even though the machines are supposed to help guide the humans to reduce mistakes, something can go wrong, especially in an operation that involves making billions of the product.

To help understand where some of the mint errors come from, they can be categorized as three different types: Planchet Errors, Die Errors, and Strike Errors.

Planchet Errors

1943 Lincoln cent struck on a copper planchet (Courtesy of CoinTrackers)

Planchet Errors are defects of a coin that was caused by the planchet, the coin blank, being imperfect prior to the coin being struck. Planchet Errors occur prior to striking the coin but in ways that could sometimes not be detected. Types of Planchet Errors include:

clipped planchet: Term used to describe a planchet that may have been cut incorrectly from the metal sheet. The clipped area may be curved if cut into the area where another planchet was cut out or straight if cut beyond the edge of the metal strip.
delamination: A form of planchet flaw caused by imperfections in the metal whereby a thin strip of the metal separates itself from the coin.
lamination or planchet flaw: Lamination is a type of error in the planchet that occurs when a thin layer of the metal splits or peals away from the surface of the coin.
off metal or wrong planchet: A type of error that occurs when a coin is struck on a planchet that it is not normally struck, such as striking of a quarter on a planchet that was supposed to be for a nickel.

Die Errors

A Die Error describes a defect caused by a flaw in the dies used to strike the coin. Types of Die Errors include:

cud: The area of a coin struck by a die that has a broken area across part of its surface. The result appears as a blob of metal on the surface of the coin.
die break or die crack: Fine raised lines can appear across the coin when something causes the die to break or crack. A cracked die opens a fine line in the design allowing the flow of metal to fill in the space when struck.
filled die: A type of error that appears on a coin when a foreign substance, such as grease, fills the elements of a die used to strike coins. A filled die error can also occur when the dies are polished to remove debris during the striking process. Modern minting processes have eliminated the polishing of dies but the problems with filled dies continue.
hub doubling: Refers to the doubling of the elements on a coin that was caused by the hub being pressed more than once into a die in different angles. Hub doubling occurs prior to the striking process when the dies are created. Master hubs are pressed into the dies to create working dies for the coining process. Mistakes in this process can result in the production of many coins with the error struck into them.
mule: A mule is a type of mint error that occurs when a coin is struck with two dies that were not intended to be used together.

1955 DDO Lincoln Cent

1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel

Two of the most famous dies errors are the 1955 Double Die Obverse (DDO) Lincoln cent and the 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo nickel. The 1955 DDO Lincoln cent and is known as the King of Errors. It is the result of hub doubling that created the double-looking lettering on the coin. It is the coin that really started the error collecting segment of the hobby.

The 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo nickel occurred when a mint worker polished the reverse die of the Buffalo nickel too aggressively without checking his work. The result was the front-right leg of the buffalo being eliminated from the die. A few thousand were created before the Mint officials figured out they had a problem.

Strike Errors

Off-center 50 States quarter struck in Denver

The strike occurs when the top die, usually the obverse, is pushed with such forced on a planchet sitting in a position on the anvil dies, usually the reverse, that will make the impression on the coin. Strike errors are the result of a mechanical problem that occurs during this process.

broad strike: A coin that is struck in a way that expands beyond the boundaries of the collar. A broad strike can give the coin n flat or elongated look.
brockage: A type of striking error when the coin is not ejected properly from the press and causes the mirror image of the exposed design to be struck on the next coin.
capped die: An error in which a coin gets stuck on a die and remains stuck for successive strikes. Eventually, the coin forms a “cap” on the die and imparts its image on coins it strikes. When the cap falls off, it usually resembles a small bowl.
clashed die: One of the more interesting errors occurs when during the striking process, a malfunction prevents a planchet from being in place when the dies are forced together causing them to crash into each other. This leaves the design from either side on the other. Subsequent coins are then struck with the latent image of the other side pressed into the coin.
cracked die: An error that occurs when during the stress of striking coins, the die cracks across its face. When a cracked die strikes a coin, the metal flows into the crack that impresses a raised area in the coin that is not part of the design.
filled die: A type of error that appears on a coin when a foreign substance, such as grease, fills the elements of a die used to strike coins.
incomplete strike: A coin that is missing design detail because of a problem during the striking process.
misaligned dies: A striking error caused by one or both dies not set properly in the coining machine or worked loose during striking.
multiple-struck: A type of mint error when the coin was struck more than once. A multiple-struck coin can show the design as it is struck in multiple places.
off-center strike: During the striking process, the coin is not seated in the right place in the area over the anvil (lower) die causing the coin’s design to not be properly centered on the coin.
overstrike: A type of minting error when a coin, token or medal is struck on a previously struck coin, token or medal.
partial collar strike: A type of striking error where a planchet does not enter completely into coining position and is struck partly within the collar and partly outside.
rotated dies: A type of mint error caused by the dies not being aligned when striking the coin, token or medal.

1999-P Georgia state quarter double struck and off center.

strike doubling or doubled strike: A coin that is struck more than once while in the coining machine resulting in doubling of design elements. Double strikes are different from hub doubling in that this type of error is a mechanical failure within the coining machine whereas hub doubling happens before striking. Double strike errors are rarer than hub doubling.
weak strike: refers to a coin that does not show its intended detail because of low striking pressure or improperly aligned dies.

When going to coin shows you can see some of the most fantastic errors. Some boggle the mind how they were done and how they escaped the U.S. Mint. Dealers whose concentration are errors do not reveal their secrets but I have been told that some have contacts with some of the security companies that haul money on behalf of the banks.

This topic is not complete until we talk about varieties. That will be the next post.

Credits

POLL: The 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set

It has been a while since I did a poll and was curious how readers feel about the upcoming 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set.

If you have not heard, the U.S. Mint announced that they will produce a set of enhanced uncirculated coin featuring all of the coin releases for this year in a package similar to that used for their proof sets. Enhanced Uncirculated coins are struck using dies that have been specially laser etched to use levels of frosting to give the designs a more in-depth look.

An advantage of the enhanced uncirculated process is the ability to selectively apply the frosting to the die. One of the coins where this had a real dramatic effect was the 2013-W American Silver Eagle. The enhanced uncirculated American Silver Eagle was only sold as part of the 25th Anniversary set.

Previous Enhanced Uncirculated issues

According to information currently available, the coins will be struck on the same planchets as what is used for business strikes.

No price has been set, but the 2017-S Silver Proof set costs $47.95 and the non-silver 2017-S Proof set is selling for $26.95. To be complete, the 2017 Uncirculated set that contains 20 coins, one of each type from both the Philadelphia and Denver Mints is selling for $20.95.

If I had to guess, I think the 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set will sell somewhere between $28.95 and $32.95.

That being said, will you buy one a set?

 

Are you planning to buy the 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set?

Yes, I want the enhanced uncirculated coins (41%, 28 Votes)
Yes, I always buy mint/proof sets (28%, 19 Votes)
No, I am just not interested (9%, 6 Votes)
I'm not sure one way or another (9%, 6 Votes)
Yes, but I will not buy them directly from the U.S. Mint (6%, 4 Votes)
No, I do not buy mint/proof sets (4%, 3 Votes)
Maybe I will buy a few of the coins when they hit the aftermarket (3%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 68

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Jovita Carranza Sworn in as 44th Treasurer

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, administer the oath of office to Jovita Carranza, left, as the 44th Treasurer of the U.S., Monday, June 19, 2017, at the Treasury Department in Washington. Jovita Carranza’s daughter Klaudene Carranze, holds the Bible and her goddaughter Lily Hobbs stands second from right. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Through the din of Washington, it was lightly reported that Jovita Carranza was sworn in as the 44th Treasurer of the United States on June 19, 2017, by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Joining Carranza at the ceremony was her daughter Klaudene Carranza and goddaughter Lily Hobbs.

Since the appointment of Georgia Neese Clark by President Harry S. Truman in 1949, there have been 16 women appointed as Treasurer of the United States. Carranza is the seventh Latina to hold the job and the fourth straight since the appointment of Rosario Marin in 2001 by President George W. Bush.

Carranza will oversee the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and U.S. Mint. Since there have been problems reported with Cabinet secretaries getting senior officials to be accepted by the head of the presidential personnel office, the current structure at the U.S. Mint will stay in place. Carranza will take an active role overseeing the mint until a director is appointed.

Image courtesy of the Wasihngton Post

Collecting Small Dollars: Presidential Dollars

This is last article of a 4 part series:
  1. The Susie B
  2. The Golden Dollar
  3. Native American Dollars
  4. Presidential Dollar Seriesyou are here

Presidential $1 Coin Common Reverse

The Presidential Dollar program had an interesting history. Passed by congress in December 2005 and later signed by President George W. Bush, the Presidential $1 Coin Act (Pub. L. 108-145) ordered the U.S. Mint to create a $1 coin to commemorate the Nation’s past Presidents and an accompanying $10 gold coin to commemorate the President’s spouse (First Lady). Coins appeared in order that the president served and the president must be deceased for two year prior to the coin’s issue. Since Jimmy Carter is still living, he was bypassed and the last coin was struck in honor of Ronald Reagan.

For the first time in the modern era the date, mintmark, and mottos “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” struck into (incuse) the edge of the coin. The last time edge lettering was used on circulating U.S. coinage was in the 1830s.

Altered Washington Dollar Edge. Read more here

When the Presidential dollar was struck by the U.S. Mint, the coin went through the normal striking process. To add the edge lettering, the coins were sent to a press that would add the edge lettering before sending the coins to be bagged. With the edge lettering being a new process for the U.S. Mint, it was no surprised that coins left the Mint without the mottos stamped in the edge. Dubbed the “godless dollar” the error caused an uproar over some people suggesting that the government was conspiring against religion by leaving the motto off of the coin. This was described as either a willful omission or a way to attack religion. There was no narrative that accepted that the U.S. Mint said this was just a mistake. Reacting to the outrage, congress passed a law to move the motto from the edge to the obverse of the coin. “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” the date and mintmark was left on the edge.

If you are going to buy Presidential dollars with missing edge lettering, it is advisable to buy them encapsulated by a third-party grading service. After the error was discovered, unscrupulous people began to file the edges of the coin in an attempt to fool collectors. The third-party grading services know how distinguish the legitimate error versus the fake.

Dollar Coin Edge Lettering

Other collectible edge errors include the doubling of the lettering. When encapsulated by the grading services, it is called either “DOUBLE EDGE LETTERING” or “OVERLAPPED LETTERING” depending on the service. Doubled lettering is a rarer mistake than missing edge lettering. Similar to the missing edge lettering error, there has been attempts to alter coins to make it look like they have these errors which it is advisable to buy these coins encapsulated by a third-party grading service.

If you are looking for different ways of collecting Presidential Dollars, the U.S. Mint offered First Day Covers for each of the presidents. Each colorful cover includes the stamp of the day postmarked from the capital or city the president was from on the first day that the coins were issued. They also include one uncirculated Presidential dollar struck on the first day of production. These first day covers are the only way to guarantee that you own coins that were struck on the first day of their production. With information about each president, it makes for an attractive set.

Another option to collecting Presidential Dollars is to collect the coin and medal set. Each specially produced card includes an uncirculated dollar for each president and a 1.5-inch bronze medal of the corresponding first spouse coin. The only difference in design between the medal in this set and the first spouse coin is the medal does not have a denomination. If the president was widowed or not married at the time of his presidency, a special Liberty gold coin was produced. The coin and medal set contains a medal similar to the gold coin. Remember, John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson became widows and then remarried during their term. There are two cards for each president with different first spouse medals.

Series Details

Presidential Dollars
2007:
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
2008:
James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren
2009:
William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor
2010:
Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln
2011:
Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield
2012:
Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland
2013:
William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson
2014:
Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt
2015:
Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson
2016:
Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan

First Spouse Gold $10 Coins
2007:
Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty,† Dolley Madison
2008:
Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Andrew Jackson’s Liberty,† Martin Van Buren’s Liberty†
2009:
Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler,‡ Julia Tyler,†† Sarah Polk, Margaret Taylor
2010:
Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, James Buchanan’s Liberty,* Mary Lincoln
2011:
Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield
2012:
Alice Paul,¶ Frances Cleveland (first term), Caroline Harrison,‡ Frances Cleveland (second term)
2013:
Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson,‡ Edith Wilson††
2014:
Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
2015:
Elizabeth Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson
2016:
Patricia Ryan “Pat” Nixon, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan
Footnotes:

President was widowed prior to inauguration
First Spouse died during the president’s term
††
Married the president during the president’s term
*
James Buchanan was the only bachelor president
President Chester Arthur was widowed prior to inauguration. However, the authorizing law gives the coin honor to Alice Paul, a suffragette who was born during Arthur’s administration

The Presidential Dollar series covered 39 presidents representing 40 terms were issued.

Along side of the presidents, there have been 35 first spouses were honored (Frances Cleveland appeared twice), four different Liberty coins were issued, and one First Spouse coin was issued to honor suffragette Alice Paul.

Credits

Collecting Small Dollars: Native American Dollars

This is Part 3 of a 4 part series:
  1. The Susie B
  2. The Golden Dollar
  3. Native American Dollarsyou are here
  4. Presidential Dollar Series

As part of the law that created the Presidential $1 Coins, congress authorized the creation of the Native American dollars. The law says that the obverse would continue to feature the portrait of Sacagawea and the revers depict “images celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.” Selection of the theme is to be made in consulting with the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Congressional Native American Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Congress of American Indians, and after public review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

Although the law required Sacagawea to remain on the obverse, the date, mintmark and the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” were relocated to the edge of the coin.

Dollar Coin Edge Lettering

Aside from being thoughtful themes, the designs have been met with critical acclaim by the Native American interest groups, historians, and artists. As part of the program, the U.S. Mint has created lesson plans for teachers to use as supplementary material for their classes that coordinate with the release of the coins. These materials show how the lessons fit within the Common Core education requirements.

The Native American $1 Program is a straight forward series. Each year the reverse changes for the chosen theme. Business strike coins are struck in Philadelphia and Denver while proof coins are struck in San Francisco.

For collectors of special sets, the U.S. Mint includes the Native American $1 coin in the Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set. These sets also include the uncirculated Presidential $1 Coins (through 2016) and an uncirculated American Silver Eagle coin that was minted at West Point. The American Silver Eagle is the collector version, not the bullion coin that is sold through investment channels.

Since 2014, the U.S. Mint has produced a Coin and Currency Set that includes a proof Native American $1 Coin and a $1 Federal Reserve Note in the most recently issued series printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The coin and note are attached to a folder with information about the theme of the coin. In 2015, the Mohawk Ironworkers coin was struck as an enhanced uncirculated coin minted in West Point and included a Federal Reserve Note from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Since the Mohawk Ironworkers were depicted as helping build the New York skyline, it was deemed appropriate to pair the coin with a Federal Reserve Note also from New York.

Reverse Designs

Future Designs

Currently, the following reverse themes have been approved for future Native American $1 coins:

  • 2018: Jim Thorpe
  • 2019: Native Americans in Space
  • 2020: Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945

In the last installment, we look at Presidential Dollars.

Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Collecting Small Dollars: The Golden Dollar

This is Part 2 of a 4 part series:

2000 Sacagawea Dollar

With the failure of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar, congress produced legislation to change the coin to have a golden color and a smooth edge. After several suggestions, Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was eventually chosen. When the deisgns were reviewed, Treasury picked Glenna Goodacre’s design with the profile of Sacagawea in three-quarter view and her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, carried on her back.

Since there are no known images of Sacagawea, Goodacre searched for someone she could model her design on. Goodacre found Randy’L He-Dow Teton is a member of the Shoshone-Cree tribe to be the model. Teton was a student at the University of New Mexico majoring in art history and was working for the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe when Goodacre visited looking for Shoshone woman to be her model.

The unveiling of the Sacagawea Dollar design at the White House with (L-R) First Lady Hillary Clinton, Sacagawea Model Randy’L He-dow Teton, and Designer Glenna Goodacre.

The reverse was a beautiful flying eagle designed by Thomas D. Rogers. The original Sacagawea dollar was produced from 2000-2008 with the only changes in the treatment of the coin to prevent toning.

The 2000 Cheerios Dollar

There are two significant varieties of Sacagawea dollars from the 2000 first year of issue. As part of a promotion, the U.S. Mint partnered with General Mills to include a 2000-P Sacagawea dollar with a special card in boxes of Cheerios cereal. Others would contain a certificate for a coin or a similarly packaged uncirculated 2000 Lincoln cent. It wasn’t until many years later that it was discovered that the coin from the Cheerios box was different from the circulation strikes. The difference between the Cheerios dollar and the circulation strikes is the Cheerios dollar has an additional tail feather and has a different, bolder shape. Of the 5,500 reported Cheerios dollars struck, only a few hundred have been found.

There have been stories of estate finds where the coin was selling for under $100. Most of the time the coin has been encased in a third-party grading service holder and selling in excess of $4,500. Finding them in the original package as they were part of the Cheerios box would be a great find.

A Goodacre Dollar encapsulated by ICG

When Glenna Goodacre was to be paid $5,000 for her artwork, she asked to be paid with 5,000 Sacagawea dollars. Goodacre had the coins encapsulated by third-party grading services. These dollars were specially burnished and presented to Goodacre by Mint Director Philip Diehl. Goodacre subsequently sold the coins herself and earned more money. These coins are only available encapsulated and average $500-650 per coin. A few at higher grades may cost more.

A special issue was struck in 1999 in 22-karat gold in an attempt to convince congress to authorize their sale. On twelve have survived and they sent into space aboard Columbia on mission STS-93 in July 1999. The U.S. Mint reports that the coins are stored in the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Anyone selling gold Sacagawea dollars is likely selling a gold-pated coin that is not a genuine finish by the U.S. Mint.

In the next installment, we look at the Native American dollar series.

Credits

  • Sacagawea Dollar image a composit of images from the U.S. Mint.
  • Image of unveiling courtesy of USA Coinbook.
  • Cheerios Dollar image courtesy of user Yokozuna at the Coin Community Forum.
  • Image of the Goodacre Dollar courtesy of ICG.

Collecting Small Dollars: The Susie B

This is first article of a 4 part series:

By the mid-1970s, the appeal of the large dollar had diminished when the U.S. Mint found that the Eisenhower dollar was not circulating. After conducting the study, it was decided to replace the 38 mm (1.5 inches) coin with something smaller.

The U.S. Mint tried testing several different shapes and composition only to be met with opposition from the vending machine industry and their powerful lobby. Even though the U.S. Mint tried to convince congress to approve a multi-sided coin, congress made the decision to change it to a round coin with an eleven-sided inner border.

As the discussions about the coin continued, Treasury proposed a bust of Liberty with a Phrygian hat on a pole, a modern update to earlier designs designed by Frank Gasparo. However, the League of Women Voters lobbied for the inclusion of a woman on a coin. As the idea gained support in congress, chose suffragette Susan B. Anthony for that honor.

U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro proposed a classic Liberty design for the new small dollar coin

When the coin was released to an excited public, the excitement disappeared when it was mistaken for a quarter. Since the coin, nicknamed the Susie B, was only 2 mm larger than the quarter, it did not help that the coin was made of the same alloy and had a reeded edge. It was even denounced by the seeing impaired community as not being distinctive enough to tell the difference tactically.

There were over 757 million coins struck in 1979, 89 million in 1980, and 9.7 million in 1981 that did not circulate well. By the end of 1981, the U.S. Mint reported that they had 520 million surplus coins. The lack of circulation gives the collector the ability to collect a nice set. Even with the 41 million dollars struck for 1999, there are 12 coins to make a complete set.

To extend the collection besides the usual date and mintmark series, a collector may add proof coins and varieties. For circulated strikes, there was an alteration in the design of the 1979 coin that is noticeable around the date on the coins struck in Philadelphia. The 1979-P Type 1 coin is called the Narrow Rim or Small Date variety where it looks like there room between the date and the rim. When looking for Type 2 Wide Rim or Near Date coin, it looks as if the date is almost touching the rim. The Type 1 coin is more plentiful and is inexpensive. The Type 2 Wide Rim coin is less plentiful but still affordable at less than $40 for a nice example.

1979 Susan B. Anthony Varieties

Comparison of “S” Mintmarks on Susan B. Anthony Proof coins

If you add proof coins to your collection, the 1979-S and 1981-S proof coins also have two varieties based on the condition of the “S” mintmark. The 1979-S Type 1 has an “S” that is filled in, almost looking like a blob. It was later fixed to look clearer later in the year creating a Type 2 coin. The difference between the Type 1 and Type 2 1981-S proof coin is subtler. The Type 1 “S” looks the same as the one used for the 1979-S Type 2 and on 1980-S coin. The 1981-S Type 2 proof coin has a much clearer “S” than the others. When trying to assemble a complete series of Susie B Dollars, the 1981-S Type 2 proof coin is the most expensive with an average of $120 and considered the key to the series.

When putting together a complete 16 coin Susan B. Anthony Dollar set, remember that the 1999 proof coin was struck in Philadelphia. It was produced for the regular proof set and in its own presentation case, both are readily available.

In the next installment, we look at the Golden Dollar.

Credits

  • Coin image is a composite of images from the U.S. Mint.
  • Composit image of proposed dollar design courtesy of National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History via Wikipedia.
  • 1979 SBA Rim Variety identification image courtesy of PCGS CoinFacts
  • “S” mintmark comparison image courtesy of Stuart’s Coins

May 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Just because congress is dysfunctional does not mean they cannot curry favor with various constituencies. This month we see bills introduced for a Coast Guard and American Legion 100th Anniversary commemorative coins programs. Both are worthy organizations but given the toxic nature of Congress, who knows if these commemorative programs will be passed.

To pair with the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings (COINS) Act (S. 759) introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), there is now a version introduced in the house (H.R. 2299). Even though it is a good idea, it will not be supported in the current environment.

I wish some of these bills had a chance….

H.R. 2299: Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017
Sponsor: Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY)
• Summary: To save taxpayers money by improving the manufacturing and distribution of coins and notes.
• Introduced: May 2, 2017
• Last Action: May 2, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-hr2299.

H.R. 2317: United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)
• Introduced: May 3, 2017
• Last Action: May 3, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2317.

S. 1021: United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
• Introduced: May 3, 2017
• Last Action: May 3, 2017: Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1021.

S. 1182: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)
• Introduced: May 18, 2017
• Last Action: May 18, 2017: Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1182.

H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN)
• Introduced: May 18, 2017
• Last Action: May 18, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

U.S. Mint to stop taking mail orders

When official Washington has an announcement or news that they want to bury as much as possible, they issue press releases after 5:00 PM on Friday, especially before a holiday weekend. Although this type of announcement was coming sooner or later, the U.S. Mint announced that they will stop accepting and filling orders mailed to them after September 30, 2017, the end of the 2017 federal government fiscal year (FY2017).

Beginning on October 1, 2017, the only option to order products directly from the U.S. Mint will be through their online catalog or via telephone at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468). Telephone orders may be placed seven days a week from 8:00 AM to midnight Eastern Time.

The U.S. Mint tried this once before but after a lot of pushback from congress the policy was reversed and they just removed the order insert from their promotional mailings. This announcement sets the cut-off date one year later than the previous announcement.

This will probably not sit well specifically with older collectors that have not adapted to the online world. Unfortunately, these are becoming the vast minority of collectors since the U.S. Mint fills more orders from online purchases than any other option. In fact, when you call the toll-free number to order, the customer service representative (CSR) is using the same website that the rest of us are doing to enter your order. I found this out when I called to inquire about and order and questioned the CSR about what she was doing.

With the youngest of the Baby Boomer generation becoming 53 this year, the markets are geared for the GenX, Millenials (GenY), and GenZ (those born after 2000). The U.S. Mint has to keep up with the markets while being able to hold down costs. Removing the snail mail option will help keep costs down. As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, with my own AARP card, I do not remember the last time I purchased something from the U.S. Mint by mail or telephone. Almost everything I have bought has either been online or when the U.S. Mint has had a presence at coin shows.

Even my father, who was born before World War II, orders using the U.S. Mint’s website!

Do not worry if you do not want to use the website. The U.S. Mint will not be ending their telephone ordering system anytime in the near future. Telephone ordering allows the U.S. Mint to support universal access even for those whose abilities prevent the use of the website or who may not have access to the Internet, for whatever reason. It is part of the laws and mandates to keep the government accessible to all of its constituents. Until the technology is available to support universal access online, then the telephone ordering system will continue to be there as an alternative.

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