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Get rich or get disappointed?

Have error coins generated many a false hope of great riches?

Probably. With the example of the 1955 and 1972 doubled-die cents before us it is understandable.

I had a question yesterday from a reader. It is typical.

Here it is:

“I purchased a roll of 2015-S ATB Kisatchie Washington quarters from the U.S. Mint. I came across one quarter. On the obverse side there is doubling on Washington’s face. There is doubling on the line close to the eye and additional doubling of the face features from the right corner of the nose down to the mouth and chin. I brought this coin to a local coin shop and they stated it was just machine doubling.

“Then I called PCGS grading company to discuss the coin and how would they label the coin if submitted. They told me they do not recognize such a coin and if submitted to them they would only label it as the coin is graded and not as a U.S. Mint error.

“Could you explain any of this to help me understand the difference between a U.S. Mint error coin and one that has machine doubling and not an error?”

I would like to be able to respond to questions like this in just a few words, but with this and other errors, it seems that no matter what is written, there always seems to be more that should be added.

How did I do with this response?

“Doubling on coins has two main causes. Doubled dies are coins struck with dies on which some element is doubled. Every single coin struck with that die has identical doubling on it. This is how the 1955 doubled die and others are created. The obverse die that was used was doubled. Doubled-die coins are valuable because the error can be rare enough to be valuable yet numerous enough to allow a significant number of collectors to have them.

“Machine doubling is a production issue. Neither the obverse nor reverse die that struck the coin is doubled. The coin gets a doubled image where the secondary image is in lower relief often described as shelf-like. This secondary image is imparted to just the one coin as it is ejected from between the two dies striking it. The planchet is moving before the dies are fully retracted and metal on the coin is moved by the die but to a lesser degree than in an actual strike.

“Machine doubled coins are not all identical. Each is in effect its own population of one. The degree of doubling and its location is random. If the dies were properly adjusted, they would retract completely before the planchet is ejected. The fact that they do not is an indication that they are loose and error collectors often say machine doubling is caused by die bounce.”

Certainly the reader did all the right things.

He took the coin to a shop to be examined.

He contacted a grading service.

He contacted me.

I tried to keep it simple.

Follow this link and see just how complicated the subject can get:

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."