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Ten Extreme U.S. Error Coins Bring Big Prices

By Tyler Rossi for CoinWeek …..

2000-P Sacagawea Dollar and Washington Quarter Mule

2000 Sacagawea Dollar / Washington Quarter Mule Mint Error.
2000 Sacagawea Dollar / Washington Quarter Mule Mint Error. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Described as the holy grail of United States Mint errors, the 2000-P Sacagawea dollar and Washington quarter mule is the culmination of an unlikely series of events. First, a Mint worker responsible for a coin press striking Sacagawea dollars noticed that an obverse die needed to be replaced. Then a worker inserted the wrong replacement die. New dies are packaged with protective plastic coverings that obscure the designs, and since the Sacagawea dollar and Washington quarter have similar diameters, the wrong die was installed in the coin press. Once the mistake was discovered, the Mint was forced to pull thousands of finished coins from the collection bins. While mostly successful, 18 examples are known to have slipped through and entered circulation.

There are three different types of this error. Type 1 has a small reverse die crack at the F in OF; Type 2 has three die cracks below the eagles’ lower wing; and while Type 3 has no reverse die cracks, there is a small die gouge on George Washington’s lips. Even more interestingly, since these 18 pieces had to have been struck from three distinct sets of dies, it is evident that either this was an honest mistake repeated multiple times or additional pieces were intentionally struck. While Stack’s Bowers sold a Type 1 example for $120,000 at public auction, there are rumors that some examples have sold privately for as much as $250,000 USD. Stack’s Bowers sold another example in 2018 for $192,000.

2000-D Maryland State Quarter Struck on a Feeder Finger

2000-D Maryland State Quarter Struck on a Feeder Finger
2000-D Maryland State Quarter Struck on a Feeder Finger. Image: Heritage Auctions.

Modern Mint workers no longer insert coin blanks into coin presses by hand. Instead, a rotary wheel with several cupped feeder fingers spins and pushes the blank planchets into the die collar. As each blank moves into position, the die strikes with up to 100 metric tonnes of pressure. With the ability to produce 750 coins per minute, these machines move quickly and are incredibly powerful.

However, the timing of the mechanical process can sometimes slip out of sync. If a feeder finger fails to clear the die chamber in time, then it can be struck by the dies. When this happens, Mint security and quality control make sure that the feeder finger is recovered and disposed of. But in this case, we have the feeder finger – an incredibly rare occurrence. This feeder finger shows approximately half of the 2000 Maryland 50 State Quarter design, and since the “D” mint mark is visible, we know this error occurred in the Denver Mint’s Grabener press. Standard U.S. Mint feeder fingers not struck by dies are quite rare and sell for around $3,000. However, there are only approximately five known examples of feeder fingers that were struck by dies. This example was last sold by Heritage Auctions for $15,600 in 2019.

1943 Bronze and 1944 Steel Lincoln Cents

1943 Lincoln cents with rare 1943 Copper cent error.
1943 Lincoln cents with rare 1943 Copper cent error. Image: CoinWeek.

These errors, both resulting from the change in metal composition of the Lincoln cent during World War II, are two of the most well known ever produced by the United States Mint. With copper considered vital material for the Allied war effort, the U.S. Mint began using zinc-coated steel planchets for cent production in 1943. While practically the entire combined 1943 issuance (1,093,838,670 coins) was struck in steel, 20 or 21 pieces were struck on old 1942 bronze planchets that hadn’t been cleared out of the storage containers before the production of steel blanks started.

1944 Lincoln Cents. Left: A popular mintmark variety. Right: An off-metal mint error.
1944 Lincoln Cents. Left: A popular mintmark variety. Right: An off-metal mint error. Image: Heritage Auctions.

The next year, the reverse happened. While the denomination was switched back to the bronze alloy for 1944, several pieces were struck on steel planchets. With 25 to 30 known examples, the 1944 steel cent is slightly more “common” than the 1943 bronze cent. Even by the early 1950s, these errors were well known, with some newspapers posting rewards of $10,000 for authentic coins, and others selling replicas for 69 cents. The most recent 1943 bronze cent was sold in January 2023 for $240,000 and the most recent 1944 steel cent was sold in May 2023 for $24,000. Learn more about why 1943 and 1944 Lincoln Cent errors are so valuable.

1862 Indian Cent Obverse Die Cap

1862 Indian Head Cent Mint Error.
1862 Indian Head Cent Mint Error from the Bob Simpson Collection. Image: Heritage Auctions.

 

While perhaps not the rarest of errors, this 1862 Indian cent obverse die cap is one of the most spectacular.

Obverse die cap errors are produced when a coin blank adheres to the obverse die for one or more striking. Since the machine will keep feeding in blanks, the back side of the die cap will not be struck by the reverse die and therefore be blank. Or the reverse design could also have expanded and been forced smooth as a result of the continued striking. Regardless, the larger the number of strikes, the more dramatic the error.

In this case, as the brittle metal expanded, it split into eight distinct fan-shaped pieces. This same force resulted in an unusually well-defined obverse design. As part of the famous Simpson Collection, this example was recorded as number three in David J. Camire, Fred Weinberg, and Nicholas P. Brown’s 100 Greatest U.S. Error Coins (2010) and sold for $40,800 in 2020.

1979-P Anthony Dollar Overstruck on a 1978 Jefferson Nickel

Susan B. Anthony dollar / Jefferson nickel overstrike mint error. Image: Stack's Bowers.
Susan B. Anthony dollar / Jefferson nickel overstrike mint error. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Sometime in 1979, a properly struck 1978 Jefferson nickel found its way into the Susan B. Anthony dollar feeding bin and was struck for a second time. The obverse of the dollar is relatively well centered on the smaller host coin planchet, with two-thirds of the date visible at the bottom. The nickel’s Monticello reverse is rotated approximately 90 degrees clockwise. On the error’s reverse, Thomas Jefferson’s profile is near the eagle’s legs and the date is just visible on the eagle’s right wingtips.

This type of double denomination error is seriously rare for the Susan B Anthony dollar series, and there are only three other known examples: a 1999-P SBA dollar overstruck on a Georgia State Quarter; a 1979-D $1 overstruck on a 1978-D Roosevelt dime; and a 1979-P dollar overstruck on a Lincoln cent. This coin was sold for $15,275 by Heritage Auctions in 2014 and again in 2016 by Stack’s Bowers for the same amount.

Roosevelt Dime on a Nail

A most expensive nail. Roosevelt dime struck on nail. Image: Heritage Auctions / Adobe Stock.
A most expensive nail. Roosevelt dime struck on nail. Image: Heritage Auctions / Adobe Stock.

As one of the more unusual U.S. Mint errors, this dime was struck on a zinc-coated nail. When this piece came to auction in 2016, it was ironically called the ten-penny nail, despite it being struck on a six-penny nail. These names refer to the length of the nail and originate in 15th-century England.

While it is probable that this was an honest error–especially since it was released from the Mint in the standard distribution cycle–it is also possible that a Mint worker slipped the nail surreptitiously into the press.

Surprisingly this undated dime-on-nail error is not the only one of its kind! Three more Roosevelt dime-on-nail errors are known to have been produced at the Philadelphia Mint; seven 1977 cent-on-nail errors are known from the West Point facility; and a 2000-P New Hampshire quarter-on-nail is also known to exist.

Graded as an MS65 error by PCGS, the ten-penny nail was purchased by New Mexico-based collector and U.S. error coin specialist Tommy Bolack for $42,300 in 2016. At the time, Bolack also owned 10 of the 18 known 2000-P Sacagawea dollar and Washington quarter mule coins.

1867 Shield Nickel Split Planchet/Delamination Error

1867 Nickel Split Planchet Error. Image: Stack's Bowers.
1867 Nickel Split Planchet Error. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Officially termed a “split-after-strike” error, this Shield nickel broke in half after being struck by the coin press. A lamination error, split planchets are the result of impurities being trapped in the metal. This means that a full, standard weight planchet was fed into the coin press and then fell apart at some point after being struck. What is quite rare for such an early type is that, despite being fully separated, both halves were kept together by their owners. Both faces, while essentially normal, are set against the internal sides, which display coarse striations characteristic of this error. Each half is graded as AU55 by NGC and encapsulated in individual slabs. Both halves of the nickel were sold together for $517.50 in 2011.

1874 Gold Dollar with Mirror Brockage

1874 Gold Dollar Brockage. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1874 Gold Dollar Brockage. Image: Heritage Auctions.

Any error on a gold coin is rare simply because of the extra care and attention paid to the production of gold coinage by Mint workers. Nevertheless, this 1874 Type 3 Gold $1 coin managed to escape quality control.

A unique first-strike brockage, this gold coin shows a perfect brockage of the reverse design on the obverse. Before this coin was fed into the press, the previous 1874 gold dollar had become stuck to the obverse die. As a result, this coin was struck not by the obverse die, but by the reverse of the previous coin, leaving an incuse imprint. Since gold is such a soft metal, and because this coin was properly centered in the die, the obverse brockage shows practically every detail a normal reverse would display in reverse. One change, however, is that the brockage face is matte-like, while the true reverse is Proof-like.

Between 2011 and 2015, this coin was sold three times by Heritage Auctions, each time for between $30,550 and $32,312.50.

1999-P Connecticut Quarter Bonded Pair

1999 Connecticut Quarter Bonded Error. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1999 Connecticut Quarter Bonded Pair Error. Image: Heritage Auctions.

This eye-catching error coin was created when a press feeder system malfunctioned. The machine inserted a second blank planchet into the striking chamber instead of ejecting the previous properly struck coin. When this happens, the press will continue to strike, either until the coins are fused or until a Mint worker manually removes the offending coins. Due to the sheer volume of pieces produced, this most commonly occurs with one-cent coins, with known cases of five or more cents bonded together. Only 10 examples of two bonded State Quarter errors are known, and none are known with more than two.

On what can charitably be called the obverse of this piece, there are five defined strikes – all of which are off-center. Despite having full mint luster, the reverse is even messier. Displaying a partially struck design, the top planchet is obscured by the second’s smushed and irregular surfaces. This bonded pair sold for $3,120 in Heritage Auctions, July 2021 sale.

1943-? Walking Liberty Silver Half Dollar 60% Off-Center Strike

1943 Walking Liberty Half Dollar Off-Center Mint Error. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1943 Walking Liberty Half Dollar Off-Center Mint Error. Image: Heritage Auctions.

Despite being one of the most common errors across most coin types, very few off-center Walking Liberty half dollars are known to exist – and none are as extreme as this example. An off-center error coin is created when a blank planchet is fed incorrectly into the press so that it is only partially in the die collar. So when the dies strike the blank planchet, the resulting coin will have only a portion of the design.

Most off-center Walking Liberty half dollars are shifted by 10% or less. While all off-center Walking Liberty halves are rare, at 60% off-center this example is extreme and potentially unique. Before its discovery, the finest known and most extreme example was off center by 50%. Below that, a 40% off-center specimen was sold for $25,000 in a private deal. Regardless, this example is much more dramatic and visually appealing.

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Tyler Rossi
Tyler Rossi
Tyler Rossi is currently a graduate student at Brandeis University's Heller School of Social Policy and Management and studies sustainable international development and conflict resolution. Before graduating from American University in Washington, D.C., he worked for Save the Children, creating and running international development projects. Recently, Tyler returned to the U.S. from living abroad in the Republic of North Macedonia, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. Tyler is an avid numismatist and for over a decade has cultivated a deep interest in pre-modern and ancient coinage from around the world. He is a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA).

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for such a fascinating article!

    One tiny quibble … “metric tonne” is a redundancy, a bit like saying “10-cent dime”. The “tonne” IS a metric unit, equal to 1000 kg.

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