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A Quick Primer on Collecting Error Coins

February 24th, 2012 Coins

Error coins are exactly what they sound like - they're pieces that have been incorrectly produced. There are a number of reasons this can happen, such as accidentally using the wrong metal or the die itself being damaged. However, in the age of automatically manufactured coins, these discrepancies are what make error coins so highly valued by many numismatists. According to Numismaster.com, errors in larger coins, proofs and commemorative tend to bring higher prices, as these pieces tend to be produced with more care than circulation coins. Here are a few of the most common errors you'll find.

Westminster Mint says that one major error is one of design. During the minting of a particular coin, sometimes thousands of different dies are used (dies are essentially the "stamp" that goes down on a piece of metal to make a coin). For instance, a die of the 1937 Buffalo Nickel was polished to the point that one of the buffalo print's legs came right off, producing perhaps hundreds of three-legged buffalo coins.

Another common error is clashed dies. A coin that has already accidentally been struck with a die may be struck a second time. What results is a sort of "double coin." The first die struck will be bold and easier to see, while the second will be distant and faded.

More recent error coins tend to be less valuable than older ones - this may have to do with the fact that more seem to be getting past the Mint than in the past, perhaps because more coinage is being produced overall. Nonetheless, if you find an error coin, it may be best to hold onto it until appraised by a professional. Even if it isn't the priceless treasure you hope it will be, most error coins are still worth more than their face value.