One of the most interesting aspects of coin collecting is hunting for error coins. Such coins have great numismatic value. They can greatly appeal to coin collectors or a coin dealer. Looking for these kinds of mint errors in your pocket change can be a fun and profitable hobby.
An error coin is a coin that was produced with one or more types of flaws, also called mint errors. They refer to defects in the minting process rather than post-mint damage. The most common ones include coins struck off center or with a wrong blank planchet, coins bearing doubled dies strikes, missing edge lettering, or even missing elements on the coin's design.
In this article, we will briefly cover the coin errors you can possibly find and make a list of the most valuable error coins according to the most prestigious coin grading services. Keep reading to find out more.
There are three main categories:
- Strike errors - problems in the coining process itself. They include different forms of improper strikes, such as off-center strikes, multiple strikes, and overstrikes.
- Planchet errors - problems relating to the coin planchet, e.g., wrong metal planchet. Other errors might include using planchets of the wrong size or planchets being chipped or clipped.
- Die errors - dies are the inverse mold of the coin's design that is used in the coining press to strike the coin, giving it obverse and reverse designs. There's usually an obverse die and a reverse die. After a succession of strikes, a die may be damaged, causing all subsequent planchets to be struck with design imperfections.
A coin might contain one or more types of mint errors. Let's go into further details below:
Off-centers occur when the planchet is not properly centered between the two coin dies in the coining press.
A die cap is a coin that got stuck in one of the dies. The press continues to operate, striking the next planchets in the production line. After a while, the coin that got stuck to the die takes the shape of a bottle cap.
A doubled die coin is one of the most common coin errors you can find. It's a coin struck twice by a die, resulting in two identical designs, slightly offset.
This term refers to possible damages to the coin dies themselves. If no blanks are fed into the machine during the striking process, it can cause the obverse and reverse die to clash against one another. As a result, subsequent blanks fed into that coining press may show alterations to the design elements. Elements of the obverse design may show on the reverse and vice-versa.
Broad strikes occur when the coin is fed into the coining press without the collar to form the rim and the edge. It causes the struck blank to spread outwards on the edges because the collar that was supposed to contain it and mold it is missing.
Although extremely rare, this type of mint error occurs when the blank planchet of a coin's base metal misses the coining press and, somehow, still gets released into circulation, resulting in a totally blank coin.
This type of mint error results from a problem in the process of making the planchets. Planchets are made by cutting blank discs from a base metal sheet. If any sort of scrap metal or other materials are left on top of the sheets, it can damage the blanks. These damaged planchets might end up in the coining press, resulting in one of the rarest mint error coins there is.
Re-Punched Mint Mark
Mint marks are stamps indicating from which US Mint facility the coin came from. If a coin is struck in the Philadelphia mint, it is punched with a "P" mark. "S" is for the San Francisco Mint, "D" for Denver, and "W" for West Point.
Ever since the '90s, mint marks are no longer manually punched, but when they were, occasionally, a coin would be punched more than once. This was a common type of mint error due to the number of hand-punched coins over the years.
Transitional Error Coin
Transitional errors occur when coins are struck on the wrong planchet type, usually from the previous or the following year. A notable example involves the 1943 and the 1944 Lincoln Cents. Read more below.
The following is a list of 20 valuable error coins in order of their denomination.
1922-D "No D" Lincoln Penny
In 1922, every Lincoln Cent produced by the US Mint came from the Denver facility. They produced 7,160,00 Lincoln pennies that year. Some of them bear a really weak D mint mark, whereas another extremely popular variation came into circulation with no D mark at all. One MS64 sample sold at an auction in 2008 for $92,000! However, even samples in bad condition are worth way more than their face value and can sell for around $500.
1943 Copper Lincoln Penny
This extremely rare and valuable Lincoln Wheat cent is the result of a transitional error. In 1943, the Lincoln Cent was supposed to be struck using a steel planchet covered with zinc due to a copper shortage because of the war. However, some leftover copper planchets from 1942 somehow ended up in the coining presses. This is arguably one of the rarest error coins in U.S. coin history. One sample has sold for over $1 million in a private transaction!
1944 Steel Lincoln Penny
Likewise, the following year, the US Mint was to abandon the steel planchet on the Lincoln Wheat Cent and return production with the bronze alloy. Just like it happened the previous year, some steel planchets were mistakenly fed into the coining presses. It is estimated that only 25~30 examples have survived over the years. The record sale is $180,000 in 2021. As we can see, wrong planchets can make for some of the most valuable errors in numismatics.
1955 DDO Lincoln Cent
This doubled die coin is one of the most iconic and sought-after error coins by numismatics and collectors. In fine condition, this coin is valued at around $1500, but it can sell for more than $125,000 if in mint state.
Check out our article for a comprehensive list of Penny Errors to look for.
1935 DDR Buffalo Nickel
The only case of major doubled-die reverse in the whole Buffalo Nickel series. Although very subtle, we can see the doubling on the "FIVE CENTS" inscription on the lower face of the reverse design. The auction record is from 2007 for $104,650!
1937-D 3 Legs Buffalo Nickel
This funny-looking error coin is possibly the result of a damaged reverse die. We can see that one of the front legs of the American Buffalo on the reverse is missing. The auction record is $99,875, but if you find one in your pocket change, even in bad condition, it can sell for around $450.
Missing design elements on the 1937-D 3 Legs Buffalo Dime
1955-D/S Jefferson Nickel
This is an example of a re-punched mint mark error. The coin was initially marked with the S of the San Francisco Mint, but the D from Denver was later punched over it. The best condition of this error coin ever graded by PCGS was in MS66+ condition and is valued at $4,500.
1942/1 Mercury Dime
Overdate coins are a type of striking error that happens when the mint does not entirely remove the last digits of the previous mint year from the obverse die, resulting in two different dates visible in the design. In the case of the 1942 Mercury Dime, we can see the number "1" from 1941 behind the "2" of 1942. Common examples in fine condition can sell for around $500, but one sample graded MS66 sold at an auction in 2018 for $120,000.
The overdate detail on the coin design.
Read more on how much silver dimes are worth in our article.
1975 No S Proof Roosevelt Dime
The U.S. Mint produces proof coins in annual sets. They are usually intended for collectors. Therefore, mintage numbers are much lower than circulating coins. In addition, mint employees responsible for producing proof coins take extra care to avoid any errors. In the case of the 1975-S Proof Roosevelt Dime, though, two samples are known that bear no S mint mark. One of them, graded PR66, is valued at $350,000. The other, graded PR68, sold at an auction in 2019 for $456,000.
1982 No P Roosevelt Dime
In 1982, mint marks were still hand-punched by a mint employee. By that year, the Philadelphia branch had only recently begun punching dimes with their mint mark. So a few came out bearing no P above the date. They can usually sell for a couple of thousand dollars if in a good condition. Some of these coins were donated to the Smithsonian Institute and the ANA - American Numismatic Association.
1943 Doubled Die Obverse Quarter
There are a few cases of doubled-die mint errors in the Washington Quarter series, but this one takes the cake. A mint state sample can sell for over $20,000! The doubling is mainly visible on the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" and on the word "LIBERTY" above Washington's bust. This is arguably one of the most valuable quarters you can find.
1965 Silver Washington Quarter
1964 was the last year the U.S. Mint produced 90% silver quarters as business strikes. As of 1965, the silver alloy was replaced with a cupronickel composition because of silver price inflation, ultimately leading to silver debasement in the US. However, due to a transitional error, some coins were struck on leftover 90% silver planchets. Coin values can range from $5000 to $9000, but one specimen in GEM BU condition was auctioned in 2005 for $12,650.
2004-D Extra Leaf Wisconsin State Quarters
The State Quarters were a national phenomenon that promoted numismatics and a passion for coin collecting across the country. They were a series released from 1999 to 2008, featuring unique designs celebrating the culture and history of each American state on the reverse of the Washington Quarter. 2004 saw the release of the Wisconsin State Quarter, highlighting its rich agricultural economy. The design portrays the head of a cow, a round of cheese, and an ear of corn. However, in some samples from the Denver Mint, the ear of corn bears an extra leaf. To make matters even more interesting, the extra leaf in some coins stands high, whereas, in other coins, it is low. Look at the difference below:
Although many examples are still available and maybe even in circulation, a top-graded Wisconsin Quarter Extra Leaf Low is valued at around $5500!
Check out our list of what quarters are worth money.
1956 Bugs Bunny Franklin Half Dollar
Another funny-looking error coin. As a result of a possible die clash, the obverse portrait of President Franklin on some of the 1956 Half Dollars ended up with a "buck-tooth" appearance, hence the moniker "Bugs Bunny" in honor of the beloved cartoon character. The error might go by unnoticed without the use of a magnifying glass, but when a "Bugs Bunny" Half Dollar is compared side by side with a regular design, it is possible to see the difference. This coin in mint state can sell for around $1000.
1972-D No "FG" Kennedy Half Dollar
Kennedy Half Dollars were first struck in 1964, replacing the Franklin Halves. The coin is intended to honor the late president and was authorized by Congress just months after his assassination. The bust on the obverse was designed by Gilroy Roberts, the ninth Chief Engraver of the US Mint, in 1964. However, the modified version of the presidential seal on the reverse is a creation of Frank Gasparro, who would replace Roberts the following year. His initials, FG, are usually under the heraldic eagle's left leg. However, some coins from the Denver Mint 1972 mintage came out without the artist's initials on the reverse. Specimens of this error coin showing traces of wear usually sell for around $1000, but one in perfect mint condition could go for $4,500.
1999-P Kennedy Half Struck on Copper Core
This is an example of an issue in the planchet making. This coin was struck on an 8.5 gm copper core that did not receive its nickel clad. It also does not have outer layers. It was recently sold, in May 2022, for $5,280!
1976 No S Type 2 Proof Ike Silver Dollar
Many will argue that this is not an error coin but rather a trial piece. Nevertheless, all 1976 Proof Bicentennial Eisenhower Silver Dollars were minted in San Francisco bearing an S mark. This unique proof coin, though, has no S engraved on it. PCGS values this Proof Ike Dollar at $850,000!
2000-P Wounded Eagle Sacagawea Dollar
The Wounded Eagle Sacagawea Dollar resulted from a flaw in one die from the Philadelphia Mint in 2000. The particular die had raised lines that imprinted a cut across the bald eagle's belly on the reverse. PCGS values MS68 specimens at $5000.
2000-P Sacagawea Dollar Mule (Washington Quarter)
Another mint error originated from Philadelphia's 2000 batch of Sacagawea Dollar coins. In this case, the coins as minted with two dies from different denominations. The planchet is from the Sacagawea Dollar (77% Copper, 12% Zinc, 1% other over a pure Copper core) and the reverse too, however, the obverse is from the Washington Quarter. This is one of the most popular error types, and coins like these (bearing verses from different denominations) are called "mules." This one, in particular, has an auction record of $192,000!
1999-W Unfinished Proof Dies Gold Eagle
In 1999, the West Point Mint made a grave mint error in producing some fractional sizes of the Gold Eagle bullion coins. They used a die variety of proof versions in the regular gold bullion blanks. The difference between them is that the bullion coin in 1999 was not supposed to have the W mint mark, whereas the Proof version was. The mistake happened in the 1/10 oz Gold Eagle, with a face value of $5, and in the 1/4 oz Gold Eagle, with a face value of $10. The 1/10 oz coin with this mint error has sold at an auction for over $80,000!
If you are a collector who would like to enrich your portfolio with the coins listed above, the best way to do it is certainly to look for them specifically at your local coin shop, at coin shows, or browse through online auctions.
Most people will go their whole lives without finding error coins in their pocket change. However, that shouldn't discourage you if you want to find some rare coins the old-fashioned way. There are many types of error coins that usually go unnoticed in everyday transactions. In addition, because there are still so many roll coins, it is still possible to find one. In fact, you might even find an error coin that has never been found before. Just be aware of possible altered coins (coins that were manually modified to make it look like an error coin). Always double-check the information with a trusted coin dealer to ensure it contains a mint error.
Here are a few tips on becoming an error coin hunter:
Organize your collection by denomination - It will be easier to spot anomalies if you analyze batches of similar coins.
Always check the inscriptions - Many issues will be related to missing inscriptions. It is also easier to identify doublings on inscriptions.
Compare dates and mint marks - Some of the most valuable errors come from wrong dates or mint marks. Be thorough and make sure the mint mark matches the mint year.
Look for missing elements in the design - Make sure you know the designs of the coins in full detail. That way, you can spot even the slightest missing element.
Always examine the edges - sometimes people overlook the edges. Look for unusual lines or even missing edges.
We hope you have enjoyed our list of valuable error coins and that our article has helped you better understand the history of U.S. coins. If you liked this content, please share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too.