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Cent errors show drama of minting

In recently discussed many ways to collect errors and varieties, one of which being an assemblage of one of each error-variety type that is possible within a series. I'd like to show more of the types that a collector might want to add to his or her collection.

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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In the Aug. 3 issue I discussed the fact that there are many ways to collect errors and varieties with one of those being an assemblage of one of each error-variety type that is possible within a series. The series I arbitrarily decided to pick was the Lincoln cent since it is the most affordable and is one of our most popular coins.


I also mentioned that errors and varieties are generally split up into three main divisions or what some call “classes” known as the “PDS System,” with PDS standing for error-varieties that may occur during the production of the Planchet, Die or Striking of the coin.

I’d like to continue on along these lines as part of this mini-course and show more of the types that a collector might want to add to his or her collection. However, before we get started I’d like to point out that a collector may decide to own one of each type for the entire of Lincoln cent series starting from 1909 through the current year while other folks might decide that they need one of each error-variety type for each major type of Lincoln cent design.

What that would mean is that if a collector decided to pursue the latter course of collecting that prior to last year, he or she would need an example of each error-variety type possible for the copper alloy Wheat reverse cents, the 1943 zinc-plated steel cents, the 1959-1982 95 percent copper alloy Memorial Reverse cents and the 1982-2008 copper plated zinc cents. Today that number has more than doubled with the five new reverse designs introduced to the Lincoln cent since last year.

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Planchet errors and varieties

In my first presentation in the Planchet Errors and Varieties division I showed a double clipped planchet error and explained that it occurred at the time the blank was punched out of the coinage strip, (see the Aug. 3 issue for details), however single clips, triple and even quadruple clips are known from the same cause. I show here a 1939 cent here with a very nice single curved clip.

Another popular type of clip that is more scarce is the straight clip that occurs when the edge of the coinage strip is punched from the side or the end of the strip. The 1957-D Lincoln cent with a straight clip at about 9:35 o’clock is a perfect example of this error type.

Our 1955 cent exhibits a ragged clip. The ragged clip is a form of lamination. Laminations are usually due to contaminants or gasses trapped within the metal causing it to split, peel, crack or even form holes. In this case the lamination was at the edge, resulting in the “ragged edge” effect.

When lamination is severe enough to pass entirely through the coinage strip and is then punched out oriented somewhere entirely within the confines of the coin’s rim, it is affectionately known by collectors as a “blow hole” – a term borrowed from the welding trade. The 1946-D Lincoln cent shows a beautiful example of this rare error type.

Die Eerrors and varieties

In August I looked at doubled dies, repunched mintmarks (RPMs) and die clashes, but did you know that there are eight classeds of hub doubling (doubled dies) and among these there may be tripled dies, quadruped dies (and more) and that among the RPMs there may be triples and quadruples and more? The same is true for clashes. All of these are fair game for the collector seeking one of each type of error-variety if one wants to go that far splitting hairs as some do.

Not mentioned in the previous installment is the overmintmark variety that is represented here by a 1946-S/D cent. This one is not nearly as well-known as the 1944-D/S cents, but is far more scarce than either of the 1944-D/S varieties known. Other dates known with OMMs are 1951-D/S and 1952-D/S.

Another related variation is the dual mintmark (DMM), which occurs when two different non-overlapping mintmarks are found on the same coin. A number are known on foreign coins but the only one known on a U.S. coin is the 1956-D cent with obvious vestiges of an S misplaced below the “19” of the date. It is theorized that it got there as the engraver went to pull a “D” mintmark punch out of his jammed container of punches and the “S” one fell out and hit the face of the die.

A type of die variety that at one time generated a great deal of interest was the “BIE” cent. This is a Lincoln cent that has a die break between the “B” and the “E” of LIBERTY making it appear that it is misspelled LIBIERTY. A cent that showed a large die break in this area (as large as an I) was called a “Full BIE” while lesser ones, still considered BIEs, were called “Half BIEs,” etc. A die break anywhere else in the word LIBERTY was called an “Associated BIE.” I show a “Full BIE” variety on a 1955-S cent.

Another error-variety type found on Lincoln cents is the die crack. Virtually snubbed today, at one time cents with die cracks through Lincoln’s head were called “Cracked Skulls” and ones with a die crack that ran from his head to the rim were called “Spiked Heads.” Collecting “Cracked Skulls” and “Spiked Heads” by date and variety has all but disappeared from the hobby but owning one of each type in a collection of Lincoln cent error-varieties is not a bad idea. Just look for the strongest examples of each type that you can find.

Striking errors

Next we take a look at the striking errors starting with a nice example of a triple strike. Multiple struck coins come in a potpourri of shapes and variations just depending on the sequence of events that occurred to create them. In this case we see an undated Denver Mint Memorial cent that was stuck three times; once almost barely touching the planchet about 99 percent off center, another almost opposite the small strike showing the top of Lincoln’s head and GOD WE TRUST and then again on top of the second strike while resting on another planchet showing the base of Lincoln’s bust and the Denver mintmark.

Another error type is known as the broadstrike. This occurs when the collar that normally retrains the flow of metal (and imparts the reeding to reeded edged coins) fails to surround the planchet during the strike. The result is that the coin will mushroom out beyond its normal size to a greater or lesser degree.

The 1998 cent shown here is perhaps above average in the degree that it has expanded; far nicer than the ones that barely expand, but of course not as nice as those few that expand even further.

Broadstrikes are referred to as centered” and uncentered” with the one shown here being centered.

Next is a 1999 die cap that at first glance may appear to be a “mere’ broadstrike until you notice that its edges are cupped up like a bottle cap, which is where it got its name. This type occurs when a coin sticks to a die and fails to be ejected from the press and then begins striking coins itself. The longer it hangs onto the die, the higher the walls of the cap. I’ve seen caps as deep as thimbles.

Our final ‘pure’ striking error is an undated copper alloy Memorial cent that represents a strike-through error. In this case the coin was struck through cloth.

Multiple errors

Just when you thought it was over I have to throw in one wrinkle – the multiple errors. A multiple error is just what the name suggests – a coin with two different errors. At times these errors may be related or in the same division but at other times they may represent hybrids in that they may encompass errors from more than one division.
Our first multiple error is a 1970-D cent that is broadstruck on a planchet that contains a ragged clip while our second multiple error is a 1991 off-center cent with a curved clip.
Should you add multiple errors to your collection? Well of course, it’s a never ending education of the wonderfully weird things that can happen when the Mint is making our money.

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 An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at

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