At last, there is an error coin we can all agree on. The reports of finds of examples of the new Washington dollar coin with plain edges hearten this collector.
What makes the error so significant is the fact that anyone with a normal range of eyesight can see it without magnification. This puts it into the mass market in a way the 1955 doubled-die and the 1972 doubled-die cents were. The two cents became mainstream in a way that most errors never do. This one will become mainstream also.
We won?t see numismatic error experts debate whether the error is truly an error. They won?t puzzle over how it is made, because its cause is pretty obvious. The Mint will investigate to determine how it happened, but at the end of the day, it can?t deny what hobby eyes see, that the coins are error Mint products. Most or all of the error coins seem to be coming from Philadelphia, so there will need to be a finding as to why that is. Are processes better in Denver, or are the notional plain-edge Denver coins just slow in coming out?
If the edge is plain, how would we know which mint it comes from? Well, packaging for a start. Geography is another factor. If the reports were coming from California, we would assume the coins originated in Denver. So far, no. Perhaps it is simply too early, so we will see.
The best part about the plain-edge dollar is the error doesn?t require specialized hobby knowledge to explain it. Noncollectors can appreciate it just as well as collectors. They either see the date, mintmark and mottoes on the edge, or they don?t. It makes searching rolls rather easy, reminiscent of how we could looked at the edge of coins in the late 1960s to determine if they were silver or clad in a split second.
The questions to ask now is how many of the plain-edge Washington dollar coins are out there and how many collectors will want to find or buy one. The interaction of these two forces will help determine a market price.
I checked eBay just as I started to write this column. Today the Buy It Now prices range from $80 to $175 for the most recent listings, with the lower price being the newest.
Dropping prices means a larger supply of the coins is emerging. This as a good sign. Errors need to be spread around widely enough to give average collectors a fighting chance to find or buy one, yet scarce enough to persuade collectors that it is not hopelessly common. A coin where a handful come out and then disappear tends not to have staying power. A coin where a single person or a handful get the bulk of the supply also tends to bring less money if the try to squeeze the maximum price out of the sale of each coin. Buyers don?t like to feel taken advantage of. The establishment of a mainstream error depends in part on the comfort level of would-be owners.
What?s the ideal mintage number? What will balance supply and demand at a reasonable retail price? Is it in the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands? Somewhere around 50,000 would be nice.
The Southeast seems to be the hotbed of the finds at the moment, with Florida and Georgia, home to the lucky finders and eBay sellers. Will this distribution pattern hold, or will availability of the error spread out? I don?t know. We will have to follow this for awhile yet, but that is the best part.
Then we get to repeat the process. We will all be anxiously awaiting the release of the John Adams dollar to see if there are any plain-edge versions of this design. People might just start asking for the new dollars in change because of a perceived possibility of getting a valuable error. Even cashiers might get interested.
If you are a collector who likes to spend $1 dollar coins, you could accompany your payment with a comment like, ?You?d better check the edge.?
Discovery of this error benefits not only the finders, but the whole hobby.