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 Errors Sometimes Look Like Something Else
By Ken Potter

error coins


 Steve Conner of Texas sent in a 1952-D Lincoln cent that shows die cracking and chipping from the "9" in the date to the Denver mintmark. This was a fairly common area of breakage this year that even today often fools many collectors into believing that the series of cracks and chips might be a secondary Denver mintmark hanging between the tail of the "9" and the primary "D."

It's a question that has come into me about this date so many times over the past 25 years that I'd have to guess that for every person who asks about it that there are hundreds of others who are wondering what this effect is but didn't bother to ask. So now you know. It should also be mentioned that similar effects are also frequently seen on cents dated 1951 and in the early 1970s.

Conner's second coin is another 1952-D cent with a series of similar die breaks and chips from a different die. It demonstrates just how extremely similar these effects can be on this date. His next coin is a 1955-S Lincoln cent that shows a good size die break between the "B" and "E" of LIBERTY and a die break within the lower loop of the "5" of the date. Error-variety specialists refer to elongated die breaks found between the "B" and "E" of LIBERTY as "BIE Cents" as the die break often looks like the letter "I" sandwiched between the "B" and "E."

Though the error-variety type is largely ignored today, at one time it was so popular that an entire club, known as the BIE Guild (BIE in this case stood for the "Best In Errors)" was formed around the collecting of these minor variations and guidebooks were published in the late 1960s through the early 1970s.

This one was listed in the BIE Guild's 1972 BIE Handbook as 55S-4F+5 where it is one of the very few BIEs they nicknamed, which in this carried the moniker "Sausage BIE" perhaps because it is one of the larger BIEs known.

The variety is also listed in Gene Cohen's massive 600-page 1969 limited edition hardcover classic, The Classification and Value of Errors on the Lincoln Cent as 55S-B650. Interestingly, Cohen, listed a fair number of Lincoln cents of various dates with the lower loop of the "5" completely broken out (along with some earlier stages before it was completely broken out) but these coins, even today, often get mistaken for exhibiting a secondary Denver mintmark within the lower loop of the "5" just because it's shaped that way. The big clue here that it is not a "D" is that none of these show the open center of the Denver mintmark, but are solid just like most other die breaks. The reason that these are shaped like a "D" is very simple: the lower loop of the "5" is shaped like a "D."

His next coin is a 1952 Lincoln cent with large curved die cracks that surround a large die break on Lincoln's head. Die cracks that emanate from within Lincoln's head and extend through the rim are nicknamed "Spiked Head" die cracks by many in the hobby even though it is an error-variety type that has lost favor with collectors over the decades (except when they are found on proof coins).

Die breaks within the head of Lincoln were often referred to as "Cracked Skulls" and were also somewhat popular in the early days of the error-variety hobby but considerably less so than the so-called Spiked Heads and BIEs. Cohen listed this as a Spiked Head and assigned it listing number 52-47B+57.

Conner also sent in a 1958-D cent that shows multiple die gouges below the date and about the mintmark. I normally ignore the vast majority of smaller die gouges that I encounter but in this case the fact that there is a series of them side by side in the same locality is unusual and at least worth a second look. It is one of those kinds of varieties that even when a seasoned error-variety collector finds a few in a roll and knows they are minor, just has to keep one or two of them anyway "just because."

David Thorne of Florida sent in a 1984 cent that shows what appear to be long dashes through in the US of TRUST. Plating blisters cause are the culprit here. This is a common defect found on the cents produced by the Mint since mid-1982 when the U.S. Mint changed the alloy of the cent from a homogenous brass composition to copper-plated zinc. These blisters can range from round to long streaks like this and any other shapes you can think of. While these blisters are technically an error of a sort, the defect is so common that it is considered inherent to the barrel plating process and not collected as an error by the hobby, but rather looked upon more as a nuisance than anything else.

John Horengic of Maryland sent in a 2008-P $1 Martin Van Buren Presidential dollar with a common error with an unusual effect. This one shows a displaced mostly raised "8" within a recess (ding) on the edge of the coin to the left of WE. The most common explanation for this error type is that it is the result of another coin that has already been edge-marked being pressed up against the rim of an unfinished-edge coin.

Since the edge inscriptions are incuse, the offending coin upon pressure raises a displaced character on the edge of the second coin, (which in this case resulted in an inverted "8" from the offending coin being impressed onto the edge of the second coin).

This is presumed to occur while both coins are passing through the edge-lettering machine. The edge-lettering machine later flattens down most of these displaced elements as the normal inscriptions are applied. The effect is very common, though this one is very interesting because it is barely flattened down due to it being in the recessed area of an edge ding.

The jury seems to still be out on whether or not these can be considered errors or damage from another coin. However, since it starts prior to the end of the minting process and ends within the edge lettering process, I lean towards them being considered errors.

Typical flattened down examples seem to be very common. I found so many of these while looking through rolls of John Adams dollars that I went through looking for doubled edge letter and smooth edge errors in 2007 that I started throwing the ones with a displaced flattened character(s) back into the rolls. Still, this one is unusual in that is shows just a bit of flattening and exhibits more eye appeal than most. It's one I'd keep.

My photo of the edge showing it diagonally, exhibits the errant "8" to best advantage whereas the second image of the edge taken horizontally shows how it lays within an edge ding to best advantage. The edge ding is what protected the "8" from being flattened out more than we see on typical examples of this error type.

For comparison, I also show the edge of a 2007-P John Adams dollar that displays a tilted "T" between the "U" and "S" of TRUST that is flattened down in typical fashion.

Finally, we take a look at a 2009-P William Henry Harrison Presidential dollar that John King Jr. of South Carolina sent in described as exhibiting a peg leg "P" mintmark. The coin has a rather light inscription about its edge and when we get to the "P" mintmark we see that it appears more like a small stubby "D" than a "P."

Last year in December and again in a follow-up story in a January Numismatic News, I featured a 2008-P Martin Van Buren dollar that after some study I was able to prove featured a peg leg "P" due to the leg of the "P" mintmark on the edge-lettering die chipping and the leg of the "P" falling away. Thousands of these coins were later found in rolls across the country with the majority of reports coming in to me from within Michigan. These later reports allowed me to isolate the cause. However, before I made that determination, my earlier writing in December suggested it needed more study to determine the exact cause, suggesting it could also be the result of a weakly set edge-lettering die (which would have been somewhat less significant).

At this point, I am again in the same position of not being able to make a positive call unless more of the errant "P" mintmark Harrison dollars are found and made available to me for study. If nothing else, it gives us all something more to look for. Let me know what you find.

Ken Potter is the official attributer of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collectors Association of Die Doubling. He also privately lists other collectible variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register. He is a regular columnist in Numismatic News' sister publication, World Coin News, where he writes the Visiting Varieties column. More information on either of the clubs, or how to get a coin listed in the Variety Coin Register may be obtained by sending a long, self-addressed envelope with 60 cents postage to P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076, or by contacting him via e-mail at KPotter256@aol.com. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his Web site at www.koinpro.com.


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