Saturday, 7 May 2011

Coins For The Whimsical Collector

Of all the rare coins collected on the market today, error coins are perhaps the most whimsical and fun. The United States Mint facilities produce billions of coins each year, and mistakes happen. Although newly minted coins are first mechanically sifted for undersize, oversize, and misshapen pieces, then visually inspected by Mint employees, these errors sometimes make their way out into general circulation, where today’s coin lovers avidly collect them. This wasn’t always the case.

Prior to the 1960’s, coin collectors considered these error pieces as non-desirable curiosities, and lumped them all under the derogatory acronym FIDO (Freaks, Irregulars, Defectives, and Oddities). The 60’s brought another revolution to the coin collecting industry, and soon clubs and collectors devoted exclusively to error coins began to place high values on the different types. Below is a brief introduction to each of the currently collected error types.

Types of Error Coins

Off-Center Strikes: This occurs when the design strike is off center. Part of the coin design is missing, leaving a crescent shaped blank area on the coin. Rare coin values typically range from $5 to $500, depending on the condition. The most expensive off-center strike listed today is the Morgan Dollar (1878 - 1904), 1921, which lists for between $500 and$4000.

Clipped Planchets: Planchet is the term used for coin blanks, and clipped planchets are coins which are printed on improperly cut blanks. These error coins come in five basic categories; straight, curved, elliptical, ragged and incomplete. Valuation depends on the coin type, clip category, and the size of the missing portion, with prices typically ranging from $1 to $200. The Kennedy Half Dollar 1964 and the Eisenhower Dollar (1971-1978) tie for most expensive coin, topping out at a potential $400 value.

Cracks and Cuds: These rare coins are struck from damaged dies, leaving a raised lump or cud where the design is missing. Values mainly depend on the placement and size of the crack or cud. Cracks are typically valued less, with prices generally ranging from $0.50 to $10. The Morgan Dollar (1878 - 1904), 1921 and the Peace Dollar (1921-1935) tie for most valuable cracked coins, with a potential $50 value. Cuds are more financially rewarding, with values ranging from $5-$100. The Bicentennial Half Dollar 1976 is the big player in this field, topping out at a potential $350.

Blank Planchets: These basically blank coin discs come in two types: flat edged and raised rimmed. Typically these rare coin values range from $1 to $100, with the Dollar - Silver (Morgan/Peace) tipping the scales at $400+ on the coin lists.

Lamination Errors: These rare coins have a fragment of surface metal missing or peeled off, usually caused by materials trapped in the strip as it’s rolled to the desired thickness. Coin values stay in the lower ranges, between $1 and $40, with the Bicentennial Dollar (1976) at a $40+ potential value.

Un-plated Lincoln Zinc Cents: Zinc cents have been minted with copper plating since 1982. Error coins of this type have partially or completely missing copper plating, leaving any un-plated coin surface with a silvery finish. Valuation depends entirely on the percentage of missing copper plating, with prices ranging from $10 to $100.

Broad-strikes: These rare coins were struck without a retaining collar, resulting in larger than normal coin pieces. Values typically range from $5 to $100, with the Eisenhower Dollar breaking out of the box at $200, but extra wide pieces with well-centered designs of all types can command even higher prices.

State Quarter Errors: Relatively new on the error coins scene, the new State quarter design errors of all types have become coveted collector’s items, with values ranging from $15 to $1000 depending on the error type.