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Dollar edge errors confuse readers

Reports of missing edge lettering on 2007 George Washington Presidential Dollars appear to be confusing some readers.

A flattened-down, horizontally flipped ?D? can be seen in this edge view of a Washington dollar.

While I have shown images of the dollars missing this inscription, I have not shown them with the edge lettering present alongside the errors for comparison. The confusion seems to be in the fact that some folks are not sure what the difference is between the rim and the edge of a coin. Thus, they are not sure of where this edge lettering belongs.

To eliminate this confusion, I show two stacks of the dollars side by side with and without edge lettering. The stack to the left is with the edge lettering while the stack to the right shows another stack of the coins missing the lettering. The photo is courtesy of Kent H. of the eBay Internet store Numis-Mart.
Washedge3.jpgThis edge view shows unidentified flattened-down characters.

Perhaps some of the confusion is also because many folks are referring to the errors without the lettering as the ?smooth edge? variety while the wire services have sensationalized the errors in local and national newspapers and on television under the term ?Godless Dollars.? In all cases the coins they are referring to are missing the entire inscription: 2007 P  E PLURIBUS UNUM, IN GOD WE TRUST.

Washedge2.jpgHere?s an edge view of a flattened-down, horizontally flipped ?P.?

Nearly right after the first Presidential Dollars were released in mid-February, collectors started finding the errors in rolls released in the Southeast (mostly in Georgia and Florida, with the greatest concentrations found from the Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Fla., areas). According to John Wells, a Numismatic News advertiser who has been handling the Washington dollar rolls, the errors would have come out of the Atlanta Federal Reserve.

As was reported last week, other types of edge lettering errors are also being found. Numismatic News reader Ray Goodenough of New York found a number of pieces that exhibited horizontally flipped (mirror image) extra letters in random places along the rim interspaced amongst the correct letters. The extra letters appear to have been raised at one point and then flattened.

Washedge5.jpgThe top coin on this stack shows a 2007-P Washington dollar with E PLURIBUS UNUM shifted too far to the left, starting right next to the ?P? mintmark.

The cause is not known for sure, but it might be that some coins that had already received some or all their normally incuse edge letters were bumped into by coins behind them during a pile-up caused by the edge lettering machine jamming up ? sort of like a pile-up on an expressway where an entire lane of vehicles may collide into each other due to an abrupt stop at the front of the line.

Under enough pressure, the incuse lettering on a coin that has been partially rolled through the mill could be pressed so hard into another coin behind it as to raise up a corresponding reversed image of a character or two on the second coin?s edge. As the affected coin was then passed the rest of the way through after the pile-up was cleared, the mill would flatten the errant raised characters on this coin and any others so affected during the pile-up.

Three of the better examples that Goodenough sent on three different coins show as a horizontally flipped ?D? to the right of the ?E? of E PLURIBUS UNUM, a horizontally flipped ?P? to the left of IN and two possibly inverted and horizontally flipped characters under the IN. The character under the ?N? appears to be an inverted ?U.? This third coin may have been taken from the mill and sent through a second time, as there should be no inversion of characters if the above theory is correct, except when the coin is allowed to be run through a second time and chance allows it to enter with the obverse oriented in the opposite direction from what it was the first time through.

Garrett Reich of Michigan found a 2007-P Washington dollar with the edge inscription partially shifted. Specifically, his coin shows E PLURIBUS UNUM shifted way over to the west with this motto starting right after the ?P? mintmark. There should be a significant amount of space between these elements, as is illustrated in the image he sent. Here again we cannot yet know the exact cause, but it appears to be due to slippage of the coin while being forced forward while the inscription was being applied.

While there are plenty of errors out there, collectors are cautioned to avoid the offers of so-called errors with the edge lettering ?upside-down? on the Washington Presidential dollars. These are not errors by any definition! There is no ?upside-down? for the lettering on circulation strike Presidential Dollars.

The coins are first struck and then transported to a Schuler edge lettering machine where the coins are vacuum fed into the machine at random, to be force-spun through a long, grooved, edge-lettering die.

For circulating coins, there is no effort by the Mint to place the lettering facing one side or the other (or to start and finish the inscriptions at any particular points along the edge).

Theoretically, if 300 million Washington dollars are struck for circulation, then 150 million should have the edge inscription facing the obverse and 150 million should have the inscription facing the reverse. Calling them errors is factually incorrect. Selling them as errors at inflated prices by those who know better is fraudulent.

More than 1,200 lots containing these coins described as ?upside-down lettering? (or similar) have been offered on auction site eBay just in the past two weeks. Not all sellers stated the pieces were errors, but the implication that they were something of greater value was present in many of the offers. While most of the offers went ignored by prospective buyers, enough of the coins were selling at levels that were many times over their true value to justify this warning.

While not errors, these differences in the orientation of the inscriptions are legitimate edge varieties that one may or may not decide to collect.

Traditionally, collectors have ignored such variations on foreign coins where edge inscriptions are commonly found. The last time U.S. collectors were hit with a dealer campaign to recognize the random placement of edge lettering as varieties was with the heavily promoted Mexican 1968 Olympic 25-peso coins that bore the inscription INDEPENDENCIA Y LIBERTAD on the edge.

These coins had legitimate varieties in the placement of the Olympic rings on the reverse, but these did not seem to be enough for some dealers who wanted to dream up even more varieties, and decided to start promoting edge lettering varieties.

Like the Washington dollars, the edge inscriptions were random in placement. When collectors learned that this was normal, the variations were quickly ignored.

Today, nobody even bothers to mention the orientation of edge lettering on the many foreign coins that contain these elements. That may not be the case with the Presidential Dollars, but so far none of the major grading services are distinguishing between them based on this criteria, and it is doubtful that the album manufacturers will accommodate the varieties at any time in the future.  

No matter what the outcome of their popularity as varieties, either placeme nt should be and in fact appears to be common and of no particular value over a non-attributed coin.

I?d like to hear more reader reports on the interesting plain edge errors!

Ken Potter is the official attributer of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collectors Association of Die Doubling.
He also privately lists other collectable variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register.

More information on either of the clubs or how to get a coin listed in the Variety Coin Register may be obtained by sending a long self addressed envelope with 63 cents postage to P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076 or by contacting him via e-mail at KPotter256@aol.com.

An educational image gallery may be viewed on his Web site at www.koinpro.com. 

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