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Error finds include dropped letter

Numismatic News reader Richard Ross of Mississippi submitted a 2007-D Idaho State quarter that boasts what is known as a Dropped Letter or Dropped Design error.

Numismatic News reader Richard Ross of Mississippi submitted a 2007-D Idaho State quarter that boasts what is known as a Dropped Letter or Dropped Design error. A close look at the word LIBERTY on the obverse reveals an incuse “extra” letter “R” positioned low and between the normal R and T.

The Dropped Letter is a relatively scarce error type with its origins in the common Filled Die error. When debris, (often referred to by error collectors as “mint goop” or “grease”), clog a die, it may after a few strikes, become compressed within cavities of the die such as numerals, letters or even areas of design. Even after the offending material has been dispersed from the field of the die through the striking of coins, it may remain intact within these recesses.

In this case, the R of LIBERTY was clogged. Later the offending material fell out of the R intact, like Jello from a mold, and was struck by the obverse die into the next coin. After being struck most of the foreign material fell off of the coin. The result: a perfectly shaped incuse R struck into the coin with a bit of the offending material still retained in the upper loop of the incuse R.

Up until a few years ago the Dropped Letter error type was rarely encountered but with the Mint’s schedule for striking coins tighter than ever, it appears that routine die cleaning rarely occurs anymore. Examples of minor filled die errors are now so common that they’ve become almost a nuisance to collectors seeking perfect coins whereas they used to be low-cost, sought after errors. Today, due to the tens of thousands of them escaping the Mints, minor filled die errors are almost ignored, though the more massive ones are still, as always, desired.

As a result of the increase in filled die errors occurring, the scarcer, more desirable, Dropped Letter errors have become more commonplace in the last decade though they certainly could not be referred to as “common.” In spite of the increased supply, it has always been a popular error type that continues to be eagerly snapped up by collectors.

Ross also sent in a 2003 Lincoln cent that he described as having “flat and thick letters.” This is an interesting alteration that is very often confused as being an error coin. The cause is said by old-time error specialist Lonesome John Devine to be the result of the coin getting caught up in the water pump of a washing machine where it is spun around so many times that the edge is upset and begins to collapse on itself into the field of the coin. The process also beats up and flattens the obverse and reverse designs while rounding the edge, which is normally flat.

A similar effect to the edge, where it begins to wrap around to the obverse and reverse, occurs from “spooning,” which is the act of rotating a coin on edge while tapping the edge with a spoon. A large enough coin like a half dollar could eventually have enough metal moved inward and be wide enough to drill out the center to make a ring, which is where “coin rings” are born. However, the diminutive size of a Lincoln cent and the beat up obverse and reverse rules this cause out and moves it into the altered by water pump category.

Our next coin is a 1974-D Roosevelt dime from Ron Ciampichini of Michigan. It sports a very rarely encountered error type known as a Multiple Clashed Die/Multiple Counter-Clash on the obverse and a Multiple Clashed Die on the reverse. In fact, this is the first coin I have ever seen with a Multiple Counter-Clash.

A clashed die occurs when a planchet fails to enter into the coining chamber during a press cycle resulting in the obverse and reverse dies smashing or clashing into each other. Outline areas of designs such as portraits, letters, etc., from the dies can be impressed into each other, (or just one side to the other), with the severity depending on the magnitude of the clash, number of times the dies clash, geometry of designs, etc.

In this case the dies clashed into each other so hard and so many times that the dies were actually jolted a bit in their holders allowing the clash marks to vary slightly in location or what errorists refer to as “multiple clash marks.” Even more interesting was the fact that the clash marks from the Denver Mintmark were impressed into the reverse encroaching into the lower left leg of first A of AMERICA so hard with a movement of the die(s) between clashes that the “Clashed Ds” themselves began to clash back to the obverse. The result is that we can see a series of “Extra D” mintmarks above and to the west of the normal D. A count shows that there are at least five “Extra D” images!

Strong outlines of Roosevelt’s head are clearly seen as multiple clash marks onto the reverse while portions of the reverse design are seen to a lesser degree clashed into the obverse.

Although interesting, the vast majority of die clashes traditionally hold very little interest amongst collectors unless they are very unusual or strong. This one falls into both categories!

Mike Tremonti of Michigan, who is best known for finding a BU 1969-S doubled die Lincoln cent last year, is still at it, searching BU rolls for goodies. He recently found a Capped Die Strike in an original bank wrapped roll of 1970-S cents. This error is the result of a coin that adhered to (or “capped”) the upper die remaining there so long, (as it struck a sequence of errors), that it thinned to a point that the Lincoln design, legends and date began to appear through the “Cap” as ghostly images. Earlier error strikes from this capped die before it thinned would have exhibited incuse mirror images of the reverse Memorial building design called Brockage Strikes. The Capped Die Strike is a stage that goes beyond the Brockage after all signs of the reverse image are gone.

The balance of coins shown here are the result of a challenge presented to me recently suggesting that one could not find any neat error coins for under $50 anymore. With that said, I countered by stating that at least a few could be found on just about any coin show floor for under $35. My first find was a 1953-D/D RPM#1 Lincoln cent that I was able to find in a dealer’s stock for $3. Yes, I cherried it so maybe it shouldn’t count but nonetheless it was there! This is a Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America, and a John Wexler/Brian Allen, Top 100 Lincoln cent RPM with a value greatly exceeding $3.
My next several finds at another dealer’s table included United States and Canadian errors of which I will show a few of the U.S. here. The first was an Off Center 1983 Washington quarter that came out to around $25 after I was given a group discount. Off Center quarters are just not that easy to find anymore and even ones of this date, the most common date of all time for Off Center Washington quarters, is worth at least double what I paid. Off Center Strikes obviously occur when a planchet fails to be delivered into the striking area fully centered over the die.

Our Centered Broadstruck 1999-P Jefferson nickel shown here was obtained for $18 and comes complete with a neat “Indent Strike” at about 1 o’clock. A Centered Broadstrike occurs when a planchet lands in the striking area centered over the die but the collar fails to surround the planchet during the strike. This failure allows the planchet metal to flow outside the normal confines of the collar (which normally keeps the coin round and of standard diameter and imparts reeding on coins that bear that devise). The Indent Strike was caused by a second planchet partially entering into the striking area along with the centered planchet. This second planchet not only held the collar down and out of place but was indented into the first causing this interesting effect.

My favorite buy of the day was the 1999-P Roosevelt dime multiple error. This one was struck Off Center on a sheered planchet. At first glance it appeared that the sheering took place after the coin was struck, (which would have just made it an damaged error coin), but a closer look confirmed that the planchet was sheered in half before it was struck. Diagnostics that prove this are the heavy distortion of metal-flow on last S of STATES on the reverse, (which is positioned next to a gouged out area created by the sheer), and the concave edge where metal from the obverse and reverse can be seen to have flowed out beyond the original sheer point. I paid $35 for this one.

Our final coin is not a coin at all but what I’ve always considered a rather cheesy looking medal. While looking through a binder that contained a mix of errors, tokens and medals, I happened to notice that the selected gold plating on John F. Kennedy’s portrait was off register. The gold-select (as it is called) was intended to be restricted to the portrait but was actually rotated counter-clockwise out of the proper position with a portion of Kennedy’s head missing the plating and it encroaching into the field. Though I question how many might have been made and figured it just couldn’t be worth that much, (if anything), I wondered whether this error type had even been cataloged before. So for $1 I added it to my finds! In checking with Numismatic News Coin Clinic columnist, Alan Herbert, (who has penned seven editions of the Official Price Guide to Mint Errors), I learned that it was indeed a previously unlisted error type. He now has it listed under the Official Mint Modification division as V-A-7 Accidentally Misplaced Plating. Not a valuable find but a fun find for well under $35.

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. He is a regular columnist in Numismatic News’ sister publication, World Coin News, were he pens the Visiting Varieties column. 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 60c postage to P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076 or by contacting him via email at An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at