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Errors can be fun and profitable

I had an email this morning that reminded me that collectors are collecting as they always have despite the headlines about gold and silver prices and the brouhaha over the 25th anniversary silver American Eagle sets.

Reader Jerry Stuart inquires:

“I was just looking at several 1988-D cents and noticed a variation in the location of the “D” mintmark. Is the Mint given a tolerance range for the mintmark location? If so, how much variation can there be before it is considered an error (or die variety) coin?”

This is a great question.

Until the 1990s, mintmarks were put on each die by hand with a punch and a mallet (high tech, right?)

Naturally, with anything done by hand, there can be variation. What is remarkable is how similar most mintmarks appear to be on each year’s coinage. This is a tribute to the steady eyes and hands of Mint employees down through the years.

However, the mintmarks did move around. They are not considered collectible when out of place unless they are so far out of place that they happen to touch something else.

Also, mintmarks look thicker or thinner depending on how hard the mallet strike on the punch was. The harder the strike, the thicker the letter appears to be.

Punches have been changed from time to time, giving us different mintmark letter styles. There are Type I and Type II “S” mintmarked proofs from 1979 and 1981 as a result.

There is much to learn in the error and variety hobby and that is what makes it so fascinating.

Check out the books about errors such as Strike it Rich with Pocket Change or North American Coins and Prices at The current sale continues until Friday.