HomeCollecting StrategiesJeff Garrett: Collecting Error Coins

Jeff Garrett: Collecting Error Coins

How to get comfortable in this challenging and fascinating corner of numismatics


By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
My daily assortment of emails contains quite a few inquiries about rare coins and coin collecting. People run across a news article, or something I have written about, and think they might have something of value. Over the years, some amazing things have surfaced, and I am careful to respond to every correspondence. My recently purchased hoard of 13,000 Morgan silver dollars started with such an email. The “Antiques Roadshow” aspect of what I do for a living makes every day potentially exciting!

Unfortunately, however, about 90% of the emails I receive are from people who think they might have a rare coin, and it is my job to disappoint them. One of the most frequent inquiries is about the much-misunderstood subject of mint errors.

Seldom does a day go by that I do not receive an email or call about mint errors. This morning, a lady called because she had heard that a rare 1975 Roosevelt dime had sold for over $100,000. She is correct, but I needed to then explain to her the difference between a Proof 1975 Roosevelt dime without a mintmark and the common coin she had that was only worth a dime. It took some convincing and patience on my part.

Common Mint Errors

For the majority of Americans, finding a coin with a mint error is extremely exciting and seemingly like hitting the lottery. That’s because most have no idea how common minor mint errors are, and we find it hard to believe otherwise. Examples of common US mint errors are as follows:

  • Off-center – An off-center mint error can range from slightly off-center to nearly off the planchets. Until the last decade or so, these were seen quite often on lower denomination coinage and worth just a few dollars each.
  • Blank planchets – These mint errors are incredibly common, and cents can be purchased for just a few dollars.
  • Die breaks – Die breaks are very common on early coinage and usually do not bring a premium.
  • Cuds – These are caused when a portion of the die breaks off, and part of the design is obscured.
  • Missing letters – Missing letters are usually caused by grease or foreign material on the dies.
  • Clipped planchets – With clipped planchets, the planchets are punched out incorrectly, and portions of the design are missing. These are very common.

The Guide Book of United States Coinage (known as the “Red Book”) has a wonderful section in the back of the book devoted to the subject of mint errors. This guide book will give you an idea of the most commonly seen errors and their values.

Major Mint Errors

Major mint errors are another matter and are highly collectible.

Some have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years. One of the most famous mint errors of all time is the 1943 Bronze cent. These coins were struck by mistake during World War II when the country was producing cents in steel to preserve copper for shell casings.

The 1943 Bronze cent is also one of the most counterfeited coins of all time. There are thousands and thousands of copper-plated steel cents in private hands. This means that every time one of the real mint errors makes the news for being sold for six figures, the phones ring off the hook in coin shops around the country.

Several books have been published about major mint errors. Mike Byers wrote the Worlds Greatest Mint Errors in ‘coffee table’ format, and brought the reader stories of Byers years of buying, selling, and discovering the most dramatic and amazing mint errors and die trials ever found in the U.S. and across the world.

Whitman Publishing also released The 100 Greatest Error Coins by Nick Brown, Fred Weinberg and Dave Camire (NGC) chronicles the amazing world of great mint errors that slipped out the doors of the US Mint over the years. Some of the most famous and spectacular pieces include:

  • 2000 Washington quarter/Sacagawea dollar mule
  • 1968 and 1975 Roosevelt dimes Proof No-S
  • 1906 Indian cent struck on gold planchet
  • 1993-D Lincoln cent mule with Roosevelt dime reverse
  • 1995-P Roosevelt dime mule with Lincoln cent obverse

Watch for Counterfeits

As confusing as the subject of mint errors is for the average individual, the problem has been compounded in recent years by a proliferation of counterfeit mint errors that are being sold on the internet and elsewhere. Counterfeiters are producing an array of complicated mint errors using the same dies they use to make standard fakes. I have seen double-struck Morgan dollars, off‐center colonials, off‐metal Seated coinage… just about everything you can think of fabricating!

The world of mint errors is an excellent study of the coining process, as you can learn a lot about how coins are actually made. You will need to do your homework, however, to determine what to pay for error coins. There are no real price guides, and as I have mentioned many times in previous articles, you should find an expert to assist you in this (or any) complicated part of the market. It is also essential to buy NGC-certified coins because even experts have difficulty authenticating mint errors these days.

Oftentimes, mint errors may seem undervalued considering the rarity of major errors. The good news is that you can start with inexpensive coins that are very interesting and work your way up as your knowledge increases. So, the next time you find a strange coin in circulation, keep in mind that you might not get rich, but you will have the chance to discover a fascinating corner of numismatics.

Jeff Garrett bio

Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garretthttps://rarecoingallery.com/
Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, is considered one of the nation’s top experts in U.S. coinage — and knowledge lies at the foundation of Jeff’s numismatic career. With more than 35 years of experience, he is one of the top experts in numismatics. The “experts’ expert,” Jeff has personally bought and sold nearly every U.S. coin ever issued. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call on Jeff Garrett for numismatic advice. This includes many of the nation’s largest coin dealers, publishers, museums, and institutions. In addition to owning and operating Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Jeff Garrett is a major shareholder in Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries. His combined annual sales in rare coins and precious metals — between Mid-American in Kentucky and Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries in Florida — total more than $25 million. Jeff Garrett has authored many of today’s most popular numismatic books, including Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933: Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues; 100 Greatest U.S. Coins; and United States Coinage: A Study By Type. He is also the price editor for The Official Redbook: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Jeff was also one of the original coin graders for the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He is today considered one of the country’s best coin graders and was the winner of the 2005 PCGS World Series of Grading. Today, he serves as a consultant to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the world’s largest coin grading company. Jeff plays an important role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Department and serves as a consultant to the museum on funding, exhibits, conservation, and research. Thanks to the efforts of Jeff and many others, rare U.S. coins are once again on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. Jeff has been a member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) since 1982 and has recently served as president of the organization. He has also served as the ANA President and as a member of the ANA Board of Governors.

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  1. I would like to know if the 1979 Susan B Anthony dollar with the BLOB where the mint mark should be is worth anything? I have one. Thanks, Mike Garrett

  2. I recently received a batch of errors back from NGC and most of them were severely misattributed or very poorly described. Three of them were named an error that doesn’t even exist. Who is the best person to register a formal complaint? I’ve been collecting over 50 years.

    • I think the thing to do is to talk to is NGC and work together to see how your order was handled and what, if any, corrections need to be made.

  3. I have a 1963 Jefferson nickel wit doubling on both sides date and mint Mark also. And 3/4 of it is off center on one side but not the other side comes out on 3/4 of coin

  4. hi i have a american penny 1968D.. i believe its an error coin. observing the coin.. there was a mis printing on it.. the face of lincoln has been struck with the lincoln memorial which is supposed to be on the other side.. just wondering with this kind of rare coins , they normally a good value.. where should i bring it. thanks

    • This is a great example of a clashed dies error, and humorously, that would be called Lincoln behind bars. What happens at the mint is at times the two dies used to strike the coin smash together with no planchet in between to mint the penny, therefore transferring elements of both the opposite dies onto the other side. So next enter a blank planchet to be struck into a coin, and now one has an upcoming clashed dies coin. Major clashed dies which are easy to see can carry a higher value than minor ones.

  5. I have a 2002 Ohio State quarter with a reeding strikethrough on the front right in the center of Ohio but I can’t seem to find anything on it.

  6. I have a early 70s penny that has a glob of copper covering his eye. To half way into the nose.it accually looks like it belongs there. I’ve found it to be a one of a kind penny. What would think it would be worth? The condition is circulated. What’s a one of a kind coin like that value?

    • It is more than likely a cud error. The values on these can be all over the place, depending on how much of the die used to strike the coin fell away during production. As in if half the penny is unstruck, it would be more valuable than a smaller cud error. The cud errors are all very interesting to me personally.

  7. I have 2008 penny with broken rim of another penny embedded in the observe of the coin approx. 1/8 inch has the R on liberty on embedded part. Where can I go to see if coin is worth getting graded. It has been in circulation. Thanks

  8. I found a 1969d dime.both sides have what looks like diamond machine all over it.it looks like real mint damage.its condition is great.also lacks silver coating.its dull.

  9. I’ve got a 1975 dime error coin. It looks like it was a miss strike on front side and on the back side as well but it’s also got the Lincoln Memorial on it to. I’ve researched and can’t find anything. I would love to have some help and I can send pictures if needed. Thanks

    • It could be only one of two things here. One, it could be a genuine 11 cent piece, in which they do carry a significant value. Or much more likely it would be post mint damage where someone smashed two coins together.

  10. I have a nickle that is dated 2650.n a buffalo nickle with buffalo on both sides .a lincoln penny with lincolns mouth open and one with his tongue out are those mint errors?thxs

  11. I have a 1964 nickel. It feels odd. It seems slightly bigger than regular nickels. There is no letter next to the date.

    • There is a possibility of this being a broadstrike mint error which does carry a premium value. Also the 1964 nickel if it has a mint mark would be on the reverse far right by the building and the rim. Only a D for Denver would be the only mint mark, but no letter there would be Philadelphia mint. The mint mark was transferred to the obverse by the date starting in 1968.

  12. Hi, I have a 1972 dime struck in a penny planchet, smooth edge, no mint mark, a little smaller than the regular dime and it weighs 2.12 grams only.

    • On this one, there actually are such major mint errors called a double denomination error, and if yours is genuine, it would be called an 11 cent piece. They do command a hefty value in the error realm. Although there are people out there that do smash two different coins together, and that would then be called post mint damage.

    • Eddie. The buffalo nickel was minted from 1913 to 1938. The mint mark if any is located on the reverse side at the very bottom between the words ‘five cents’. A letter D stands for the Denver mint, and a letter S stands for the San Francisco mint, and no letter is the main mint at Philadelphia. Now for these nickels, the early years up through the late 20s have a higher tendency to have the date get worn off; you’ll find the date right below the indians neck area. Now the values for these nickels are all over the place, due to many variables in which a reputable collector or coin dealer will tell you all about the value. On the 1902 penny, that is a common Indian head cent date, only minted at Philadelphia. The indian cent was first minted in 1859 to 1909. The 1902 cent starts off at about a couple bucks in the more worn condition on up to tens of dollars or more in the higher grades. I hope this info helps.

    • The buffalo/indian nickel was struck from 1913 to 1938. The mint mark would be on the reverse bottom between the words five cents. No letter is Philadelphia, a D is Denver, and S is San Francisco. The date would be right below the indians neck. The dates up through the late 20s have a higher tendency to get worn off due to the date put on a pedestal. The values are all over the place on these due to many variables affecting the value, so a reputable collector/dealer will let you know about it. On the 1902 cent, it is a common date indian cent from the series minted from 1859 to 1909. That 1902 value could be anywhere from a couple bucks up to several tens of dollars depending on condition.

  13. Appear to have both a nickel and penny struck on a penny planchet. It’s a Lincoln 1978 about 20 percent off center from the top. Superimposed at a 30 degree angle is a Jefferson nickel with almost all of the words in god we trust. Both images and lettering are raised. The same occurs on the obverse with both Lincoln memorial and Monticello also off center and images raised.

  14. I have a 1972 Lincoln penny no mint mark. Double die error. And a 1918 Lincoln wheat penny. More of a chocolate coloring than copper. Both I very good condition. I need to know how and where I can have them examined. For authentication. Thank you

  15. I have a 2008 Alaska State Quarter and the bear has multiple eyes on the left side of his face. All the same size as the original eyes. I can not find this error listed anywhere.


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