Mint Error Coins - Fred Weinberg - Appraising Your Coin Collection

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Copyright 2015 by Kevin Flynn, All Rights Reserved

When going through a coin collection for an appraisal or evaluation, if you weren't the collector who bought or found them, you might be amused or frustrated to run across a coin in the collection that's labeled "Error", with a short description of the error on the coin.

As with "normal" coins, there are very worthwhile and valuable error coins, and there are many error coins that are either too common or to minor to be of interest to collectors.

Die Varieties - those variations on the Die itself, are covered in other chapters. But here are a few thoughts on the more common Varieties that don't have much value.

Many collectors, since the 1950's and 1960's, loved to go through their pocket change every evening, looking at every coin closely with a magnifying glass, looking for something "different" on the coin. In many cases, it was easy to find a coin with a die crack, a lamination ("peeling metal") doubled lettering, blob letters or numbers, or other small differences. Most of these pieces (other than those discussed in the prior chapters) are so common and easy to find, that there are simply many more of them struck and put into circulation than there are collectors of them!

In general, such pieces have minimal, if any, collector value - unless they are one of the popular Die Varieties such as the 1955 Doubled Die Cent, or the 1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel. I usually suggest that the owner either put them up on Ebay in lots of 5 or 10 pieces, or give them to a young numismatist who would find such minor errors interesting, and enable them to understand the minting process.

Just because a coin has an error on it - a die crack, a blob in one of the letters or numbers of the date (very common in the 1950's and 1960's cents, for example) or a small area of raised metal, doesn't mean other collectors or dealers will buy them - don't forget - if you (or the original collector) could find them in circulation or rolls, so could others - and they do....that's why the market premium for these errors is low.

Over the decades, I have bought collections of normal coins that have one or more nice ‘major' errors in them - by ‘major', I'm referring to a mechanical error resulting in a coin that is struck off-center, or struck on the wrong intended planchet, or maybe even struck two or three times - some mechanical errors can be very dramatic, and valuable.

Although a common off center Lincoln Cent has a retail value of $5 or so, a Kennedy half that is struck 50% off center (only have the design showing) could be worth $200-$400, depending on condition, if the date shows, etc.

This also applies to other error coins - in general, higher the denomination, the more valuable the coin - but there are always exceptions.

If you believe you have a worthwhile error coin, or might have, you should contact a specialist in the field - I myself have been collecting error coins since 1962, and have been a full-time coin dealer in error coins and currency since 1972 - it's fairly easy for me to view a good clear scan or photo of a coin, and determine if it's a genuine mint error, or a coin that's been damaged after it left the mint and got into circulation.

Many coins are gold plated, silver plated, run over by a train, hit with a hammer, chemically treated - you'd be surprised what people do on purpose or by accident to their pocket change! Before you get too excited about finding an error coin a collection - find out if it's real or not. Most people who find a coin in their change that simply looks ‘different' automatically assume it's a rare error coin - when in fact it is called PMD - Post-Minting Damage.

Fred Weinberg is a highly respected numismatist, with 38 years of full-time experience in the rare-coin marketplace. His interest in mint-errors coins goes back to the early 1960s. He now maintains an inventory of almost 100,000 error pieces. Fred is a coauthor to 100 Greatest U.S. Error Coins and The Error Coin Encyclopedia, and has also contributed to numerous other numismatic books. He can be contacted at

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Next: Examples of Error Coins
Copyright 2015 by Kevin Flynn, All Rights Reserved

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