Of all the errors and varieties I featured last year, arguably the most important, at least in terms of rarity and value, was a second known specimen of the elusive 1992 Philadelphia-Mint Lincoln cent struck with a “Close AM” (of AMERICA) design style reverse. This year I start out by informing readers that a third specimen has now been located.
Back in the middle of September a Numismatic News reader from Connecticut sent me images of a specimen in an Numismatic Guaranty Corp. holder graded AU-55 RB. The variety, which has become almost mythological due to its rarity, is listed in Brian Allen and my book, Strike It Rich With Pocket Change, 2nd edition, (published by Krause Publications in 2008) with a possible value of $5,000 to $10,000+ for about uncirculated and uncirculated specimens, which I freely admit may be far lower than they are actually worth. The micro photo showing the details of the AM of AMERICA is from the original find made by Parker Ogilvie.
Many other interesting errors and varieties came in during 2009 that we never got a chance to review. A Numismatic News reader sent in images of a 2001 silver American Eagle that appears to boast a nice die gouge that runs diagonally through several of the rays of the sun on the obverse in the lower left quadrant of the coin next to Miss Liberty.
The Professional Coin Grading Service graded it as MS-68. Since the coin is in a slab, even if I’d seen the coin first-hand, it would have been impossible for me to tell if this is a true die gouge or occluded gas, so I wonder if anybody else has found any of these. An occluded gas error is a one-of-a-kind type of error in its effects while die gouges repeat themselves identically on many coins unless the defect is caught early by a Mint worker. Let’s see if others can find examples to confirm the error type.
Suzanne Stewart sent in a very interesting error. It is a 1966 Washington quarter that is struck on a thin planchet. A normal clad quarter planchet has a weight of 5.75 grams while the weight of Stewart’s coin is 4.33 grams. You’ll notice that it is a bit weakly struck most noticeably in the areas bordering the rim due to the lack of metal to fill the dies.
Robert Pelletier sent in two 1947-S cents bearing two different error types. The first has an effect that occurred during the Wheat-back cent era to a small percentage of these coins. It’s sometimes referred to as a “Ghost of Lincoln” since you can see a strong outline of Lincoln’s bust upside down on the reverse. While weaker examples this error are common, strong ones are not nearly so. The error type does not seem to have ever caught on to any degree and while it was well known by many error-variety collectors decades ago, it appears to be almost forgotten today. This might be because what we most commonly encounter today are Memorial cents where the effect does not show up to the same degree.
The CONECA Glossary (derived largely from the works of Alan Herbert) says: “When a die nears the end of its usefulness, often it exhibits the major central design of its opposing mate. This design is transferred from one die to the other through the striking of the coin metal. Alan Herbert gives this illustration: “The best example I can offer of this phenomenon is the toy which you’ve all seen which has five or six metal balls hanging in a row, touching each other. When you pull back the end ball and allow it to strike the row, it causes the ball at the far end to swing away from its neighbor. The same thing occurs with design transfer, the outline of the design being transferred from one die to the other. This variety is fairly common on the early wheat cents. It is often called the “ghost of Lincoln.” The technical term for this is IMPD (Internal Metal Displacement Phenomenon).
He also sent in a 1947-S that was struck through wire or a wire-like scrap on both the obverse and reverse.
Pelletier also sent in a very late die stage brockage on a 1981 Lincoln cent. When a coin becomes stuck to a die it becomes what is referred to as a Die Cap (or cap for short). That cap will itself begin to act as a die and impart its image (usually the reverse) on incoming planchets to follow. Because the offending coin contains raised images, the design it leaves behind on the coins it produces will be an incuse mirror image of itself.
The first strike from the capped die will produce a coin that will contain a relatively distortion-free image referred to as a “Mirror Brockage.” As the cap spreads with each successive strike the image will of course distort progressively and as long as that image is still present, the resulting capped die strikes will simply be referred to as brockages. Some collectors attempt to define brockages in stages. In this case the cap has thinned to a degree that the obverse design in beginning to dominate while the reverse design is barely present. This would be referred to as a late die stage brockage.
I show an undated British Elizabeth II Young Head type penny with a perfect first strike mirror brockage for comparison.
Pelletier also sent in a 2000-D Jefferson nickel with what is known as a capped die strike. The genesis of a capped die strike is in the brockage error described above, but it is at the stage where all traces of the reverse design (or obverse in some cases) are now gone; the cap has thinned to a point were only the obverse is starting to show through.
Finally, Gary Kelly submitted a “No Date” clad Washington quarter asking what it was. The coin is actually an alteration. Unless one was there while it was created, we cannot know exactly what occurred, but in general this is a coin that was simply set over a hole in a plate of metal and punched or pressed with another piece of metal with a hole opposite the other hole. The plate of metal was large enough to accommodate the entire coin’s diameter and allow the hole to be off center and at the same time was small enough to place enough pressure onto the entire coin to create this effect.
Lots of alterations of varying effects result from being placed in presses or vises, between two objects. The key to distinguishing them from legitimate errors is to learn as much as you can about the minting process and then ask yourself, if there is any point in the minting process in which a given effect can occur.
Several good books are available on the subject including Alan Herbert’s, The Official Price Guide To Mint Errors and Arnold Margolis and Fred Weinberg’s, The Error Coin Encyclopedia available from many numismatic booksellers.
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 collectible 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 61 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.