It may seem odd that large coin producers have a significant amount of erred coins being released. While it may be assumed that only perfect, mint-condition coins are worth large sums of money, flawed, or quirky coins, as this author prefers to call them, are worth a nice lump of cash as well. One Sacagawea/Quarter mule error coin was sold for a record-breaking $155,250!
Errors originating in the mint are almost always by accident. However, these types of glitches are usually prized by numismatists because of their rarity. It should be made clear that mint-made error coin are not equivalent to coins that have been damaged after the minting process.
Planchet errorsPlanchet errors can vary, but can be some of the most easily recognizable errors as they typically involve changes in the structure of a coin.
One planchet glitch is caused by simply having a wrong sized planchet. For instance, if a nickel-sized planchet somehow ends up being struck in the die for a quarter and will have the partial design of a quarter. This can only happen if a smaller planchet enters the die collar of a larger coin, however, not vice versa. Some more prized wrong planchet coins are from before 1984, when the US would strike coins for foreign coins. The designs for the foreign coins would occasionally end up on US coin planchets and vice versa.
Another planchet flaw is what is generally called a “clipped” planchet. A clipped planchet refers to an uneven cut in the body of the coin. This just means that part of a said coin is missing. Straight clips refer to a more even break in the planchet and usually have more of the actual planchet missing than a standard clipped planchet would have.
Every now and then, blank coins are made as well. Every coin error is subject to different values, but some blank coins can be of higher numismatic value than even some flaw-free coins. Normally, these flawed coins are caught before they can be dispersed and are destroyed. If, for whatever reason, the coins are not destroyed, they could potentially be of an immense numismatic value.
Varieties (Die Errors)
Dies that are faulty or mismade are more commonly referred to as varieties, as die errors usually can inflate in numismatic value.
One type of variety is a cud. These are broken dies that leave a portion of a planchet free from design. For instance, if a die is cracked or somehow missing a portion, the middle of the coin could be left blank, while the rest of the design is imprinted on the coin. Cuds can have missing portions on any part of them, depending on the intensity of the break in the die.
Another variety that could potentially occur on a die is having the remainder of some foreign matter on it. There could be leftover material from a certain cleaning substance left on the die, such as a hair from a cleaning brush, or a fallen screw from the machine. This material imprints on the coin as it’s being struck.
Once in a while, there may also be glitches in striking in the coining process. Multi-strikes are not uncommon in coins and multiple-strike coins are identifiable by their repeated impressions of the die design.
Another variety of strike error is an off-center coin. These are identifiable, as the name suggests, by the off-center design on a coin. Part of the design may be missing, but unlike the clipped-planchet coins, the coin is whole and not missing any portion of metal as the clipped and straight clipped coins.
Other coins become distorted upon the striking process. When the collar, or cast which helps keep the coin’s shape, is accidently left off from the striking process, the coin can widen or or become misshapen leaving the rim of the widened coin blank. Strike error coins are sometimes considered more valuable than perfectly minted coins.
Mules are one of the most highly prized of the error coins. With only eleven known in existence, these coins have sold for as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mules are an intriguing amalgamation of two different dies struck on either side of a coin, hence the name mule, a hybrid of a horse and donkey. Mule coins generally have the obverse design of one coin and the reverse design of another, perhaps different denomination, coin.
The most famous mules are the Sacagawea dollar and Quarter coins. These coins have the obverse of the US Quarter and the reverse of the Sacagawea dollar, giving the coin two denominations.
These machines are meant to sift out undersized, oversized, and misshapen planchets. Ideally, the riddling devices would prevent strange coins from leaving the mint, however, the ever-present existence of error coins is enough proof that even with riddling devices, error coins will appear eventually.
Famous U.S. Coin Varieties And Errors
- 1937-D 3-leg Indian Head nickel
- 1943 bronze cent
- 1955 Lincoln cent
- 1978 quarter with dot mint mark
- 1982 "No P" dime
- 2001-P doubled-die New York quarter
- Undated Sacagawea dollar/Quarter mule
Small errors do occur occasionally, but this doesn’t mean that those coins are completely invaluable or even that they won’t be circulated. Today, some meagerly flawed coins are still released from the mint.
There are even some exceptions to only releasing near-perfect coins. For instance, some dies are still used to strike coins despite showing clearly visible faults, like the 1955 Lincoln penny which features a double-impressioned number five in the date.
Flawed coins weren’t always prized possessions. This phenomenon didn’t start until around the 1960s in the United States. Despite it’s relatively short history, the collection of quirky coins has maintained its spirited growth and will hopefully continue to thrive.