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Minor error can earn nickname

Error-variety specialist Robert Wilharm of Texas wrote to say: “If you have not been flooded with die errors for the [2008-P] Alaska quarter you might want to see these.”

Old-time error-variety specialist Robert Wilharm of Texas (who was an editor with John Wexler of Error-Variety News back in the late 1970s through the early 1980s) wrote to say: “If you have not been flooded with die errors for the [2008-P] Alaska quarter you might want to see these.” He included images of some minor die error-varieties on three different pieces.


The first was one of the so-called “Extra Bear Claw” variations that have been touted on eBay with the suggestion that they are actually a Mint mistake where an extra claw was erroneously incorporated into the design. Nothing could be further from the truth, as this variation is nothing more than a very minor die break in the area of the bear’s claws.

This is a type of minor flaw that pops up someplace on just about every design the Mint makes. For several weeks to maybe even a year or more after each issue is released these minors get hyped up with colorful, catchy nicknames suggesting they are desirable varieties you’ve just got to add to your collection.

A few folks get burned buying into them at inflated prices that in the beginning might go as high as $40 per coin before they eventually fall to $1 per coin and then 50 cents each and shortly after are forgotten as a flood of new colorfully nicknamed “varieties” take their place.

At the time of this writing I saw sellers still offering them for as high as $19.95 each. Some didn’t bother to mention that they were not actually a design variety while another erroneously referred to the small die break as a “cud,” which is a significantly more valuable error type than was actually being offered.

A search of completed eBay auctions, indicated that only three bidders bought into one of these on eBay in the past two weeks at prices ranging from 1 cent plus postage to $5.95 postpaid, so it seems that they are now close to dying out.

Wilharm also found a few with a spike-like die crack running down from Washington’s chin and another with small die breaks or die chips between the letters of “E” and “A” of GREAT and the “A” and “N” of LAND from the state motto, THE GREAT LAND.

Pennsylvania collector R. Rangerman sent in two 2008-P Hawaiian quarters that displayed two very similar die clashes on the reverse of the coins below King Kamehameha’s outstretched arm. On the strongest one shown here the clash appears to be radiating from the north, south and east of the Big Island of Hawaii. The coin also displays multiple die chips throughout the motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, on the obverse.

Those who have been reading my articles on reader’s finds over the years, may find these clash marks reminiscently familiar. In fact, with each issue of state quarters released, where clashes occur, some of the same features from the obverse will repeat themselves over and over again on the reverse when there is enough field area within the designs to allow.

For example, some of you may remember that the fish-like marks below the island were referred to by some enterprising souls on eBay as “leaping fish” when they appeared in the water below the fisherman’s rod on the Minnesota quarter. Additionally, the areas above the island were referred to as “smoke” (from a forest fire) when they seemingly appeared coming out from behind the tree line on these same Minnesota clashed die quarters.

In fact these marks are nothing more than outlines from the Washington portrait impressed into the reverse die during a die clash (where the dies smashed or clashed into each other due to the absence of a planchet between them during a press cycle).

So if you didn’t already know better, you know now not to believe the hype when they start showing up online as “soon to be valuable” varieties depicting volcanic eruptions on the Big Island!

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. 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 58 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 at .