Famous Mint Errors
No manufacturing process is perfect, and the coin industry is no exception. Mint errors, while not really common, happen often enough that there is an entire subset of collectors who deal in coin mistakes. Collecting mint errors can be an exciting and very interesting look at the process behind the coin minting industry. There are several types of errors, including mules, double-strikes and off center strikes.
Coins that leave the mint with undetected errors are highly collectible, some collectors focus soley on errors in their collections. And there is a lot out there to collect! Some rather mundane, and some really spectacular errors have occurred in recent years. A recent blatant error is the Susan B. Anthony dollar (a silver-colored coin) being struck out of the planchet for the Sacagawea dollar coin (a gold-colored coin.) This occurred in 1999 and the reverse mistake occurred in 2000. Similarly, cent coins have been struck on dime planchets and nickels have been stamped out of cent metals.
There is a comparable mistake called a mule that can occur during the manufacturing process. A mule is created when the top die and the bottom die do not match, i.e., the head of a penny and the tail of a dime; the resulting coin will have two different denominations! A famous mule example occurred in 1995 and 1999, resulting in a penny bearing the Roosevelt dime on the reverse. One other well-known mule is the Sacagawea dollar struck on the gold colored planchet mentioned above, with the Washington State quarter dollar struck on the back.
Mules are fairly uncommon errors, and generally fetch a pretty penny when they are bought and sold. A more common type of error occurs when the blank does not get centered properly on the die. When this occurs the design of the coin is off center and only partially appears. Some 1999 Susan B. Anthony dollars were struck 50% off center; these are highly collectible and eagerly sought after. In fact off center pieces can often be quite pricey; an 1899 Indian head penny that was struck 35% off center sold in 2003 for $1,150.00.
Still another type of error occurs when a coin gets stuck in the die and is not ejected. It then receives another strike, causing a duplicate image to appear slightly off center. These double-dies are quite collectible. There are 1972 cent coins and 2000 Sacagawea dollars in circulation today that have double strikes; you may even have one in your next batch of change!
Transitional errors occur when the wrong metal is used to mint the coins. A famous mistake was a 1943 penny that was minted using copper blanks from the previous year. All 1943 cents were supposed to be minted on steel, as the copper was needed during World War II in the munitions plants. Twenty years later, in 1965, dimes were mistakenly minted from silver instead of from the clad metal planchet.
The popular State Quarter program is not error free, either. A quarter was found in circulation with the Georgia state design struck over a Massachusetts state quarter. It was authenticated and offered on eBay in September 2000 for an opening bid of $12,500.00.
There are a number of resources available on famous and not-so-famous mint errors. If you want to learn more about this fascinating side of coin collecting, start with your local library, or check out the resources available online. You may also want to check with your local bookstore or online bookseller for some suggestions. The rewards of this numismatic treasure hunt can be worth your effort!