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Odd type of error appears on edge

Gary Kelly of Michigan has come up with 2008-D Martin Van Buren Presidential dollar with a pretty rare error type known as the Dropped Letter or Dropped Design.

Gary Kelly of Michigan has come up with 2008-D Martin Van Buren Presidential dollar with a pretty rare error type known as the Dropped Letter or Dropped Design. In fact, this is the first of this error type that I have been able to report on since the Presidential dollar series began in early 2007. While I have reported on dropped characters many times in the past few years, this one is different from all the rest in that instead of the errant character occurring on the obverse or reverse of the coin, this is the first one to come into Numismatic News that has a letter impressed into the edge of the coin.


The Dropped Letter is a relatively rare 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 or letters and other specific areas of design. Even after the offending material has been dispersed from the field of the die through striking coins, it may remain intact within recesses of numbers or letters.

In this case, a letter “A” from the word STATES (or either of the two As from AMERICA) was clogged. Later the offending material fell out of the errant “A,” like Jello from a mold, and fell into the die leaning up against the collar. The coin was then struck impressing the A-shaped goop into the edge. After the strike the foreign material fell off of the edge of the coin resulting in a perfectly shaped inverted and incuse letter “A” struck into the coin’s edge between the “S” and “T” of TRUST. The fact that it may appear raised in our photo is an optical illusion.

Although the Dropped Letter error type rarely exceeds a value of $100 on smaller denominations, it is rarely encountered and most are eagerly snapped up by collectors that need one for an error collection assembled by error types.

Normally we’d figure a dropped letter of this prominence on a smaller denominations such as Lincoln cents or Jefferson nickels to have a value of perhaps $75 to $100, but on the edge of a Presidential dollar, or any of the new commemorative designs in use for well over the past decade, the price tag could be significantly higher.

For comparison, I have included a photograph to show what a dropped letter from a previously clogged “T” of WEST looks like on a West Virginia quarter that I originally featured in Numismatic News in early 2007.

At this juncture it needs to be pointed out that “Extra Characters” found on the edges of Presidential dollars (and now the Native American dollars) have been extremely common. The common type is unrelated to the Dropped Letter type of error and are typically an extra character (or sometimes two) that is found on the edge of the dollars in random places just like this one but with a different effect. They appear to be the result of an incoming smooth edge coin entering the edge lettering die while another coin is in a jammed position a bit further down in the die.

When the incoming coin butts up against the jammed coin, force is exerted between the edges of two coins and one of the incuse characters from the outgoing coin can raise a letter onto the incoming coin’s edge as the pressure between the two coins builds up to a point that the jammed coin is finally freed up and ejected, or a technician clears the machine.

A diagnostic of this type of error is that it will be a slightly raised character that appears to have been flattened closer to the field like a pancake. This flattening of the raised character is thought to occur when that area of the edge of the coin is passing through the edge-lettering machine to complete the edge inscription and the shoulder of the edge-lettering die smashes original height of the “extra character” down.

I show one of these flattened characters on the edge of a 2008-P Van Buren dollar where you can see a mirror image of a raised “S” flattened down almost level with the field and partially overwritten by the second “U” of PLURIBUS.

Be careful when a Dropped Letter on edge is being offered. It is very rare while the extra letter from a jam up in the edge lettering machine is exceedingly common – so much so that they carry very little premium and are often tossed back into bags by searchers looking for errors. This is a case where superficial look-a-likes can have vastly different values.

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. 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 61 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 on his Web site at