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BIE pennies are error coins with a vertical die crack between the “B” and “E” of “LIBERTY” on Lincoln cents.
These peculiar error pennies are among the most common type of die break varieties on Lincoln pennies.
They’re widely sought by Lincoln penny collectors, as well as error coin and variety enthusiasts.
- How are BIE error pennies made?
- What are BIE penny errors worth?
- How can you find BIE Lincoln cents?
I’m going to answer all of those important questions and shed light on many other aspects of these really cool error pennies…
BIE Lincoln Cents As Collectibles
BIE pennies are fun to collect.
They can be classified as error coins — because the US Mint did not intend to make Lincoln cents with a raised, struck artifact that looks like the letter “I” between the “B” and “E” of “LIBERTY.”
However, some diehard coin collectors prefer to call them varieties — since they result on the die and are often replicated across many hundreds (or even thousands!) of Lincoln cents. BIE pennies are categorized into different varieties or classes, and they’re often collected by that means.
How Are BIE Pennies Made?
In essence, what happened in the creation of these BIE Lincoln pennies was the effect of aging coin dies.
Coin dies are engraved with the image stamped on a coin, and they strike blank coins with the design. This is how a blank piece of metal (called a planchet) is turned into a coin.
Often, as dies age, cracks will develop across the surface. These cracks may be very tiny — almost invisible to the naked eye — or they can be quite large.
Eventually, US Mint workers will replace the die before it becomes too worn. Or they’ll only find out the die is past its prime when they notice die cracks and other signs of die wear on the struck coins.
What happens to coins with die cracks?
- In some cases, mint workers destroy those coins and replace the old die with a new one.
- Sometimes coins made with an aging die will be shipped off for distribution before being noticed in the quality inspection process.
Die cracks (or die breaks) can occur most anywhere on the die. The die crack will usually show up as a raised line on the finished coin.
In many cases, die breaks will connect to some part of a design element on a coin. For example, you might find a die crack connected to the date, or the face of Liberty, or perhaps the rim.
Large, flat die breaks that are connected to the rim are often called die cuds. Die cuds have their own following in numismatics, and there are many coin collectors who collect only die cud error coins!
Controversy About BIE Error Pennies
A BIE penny is a die crack coin.
Now, you’ll probably hear some folks refer to BIE Lincoln pennies as die cuds. And there is some debate in the numismatic community as to what constitutes a die cud.
However, BIE pennies — according to the strictest definition of die cuds — aren’t a type of die cud. That’s because the rim isn’t connected to this particular type of die break.
Some folks say BIE pennies are classified as die chips. A die chip is a type of isolated die break and — again — there’s some debate as to how big a die chip can be before it’s no longer “just” a chip.
Many die chips look like mounds of blobs sitting on the surface of a coin. Yes, technically, the apparent “I” of a BIE penny error is a bit like a blob. But it’s an oblong blob formed by a die crack.
So… since die chips are a type of die break (as are die cuds), we’ll make this really simple and refer to BIE pennies as a die break or die crack error. Kapisch?
How Many Types Of BIE Pennies Are There?
I hope you’re sitting down!…
You might be astonished to find out there are some 1,500 kinds of BIE pennies out there. And there are surely many more types just waiting to be discovered.
You see, BIE error pennies come in many forms:
- Sometimes the die break will look like a straight and narrow letter “I.”
- Many BIE pennies show a vertical die break that looks kind of soft and squishy.
- On some BIE pennies, the “I” will look crooked.
- On others, the “I” can extend beyond the length of the adjacent “B” and “E.”
But, in all cases, the die break on a BIE penny will be:
- Located between the “B” and “E” of “LIBERTY.”
- Oriented vertically, from the bottom of the coin to its top.
In theory, a BIE penny can be found among any date of the Lincoln cent series (which began in 1909 and continues today). However, BIE die break errors are most commonly found on 1950s wheat pennies.
Here’s a list of Lincoln cent die breaks (aka BIE pennies).
BIE Error Penny Values
Values vary widely for BIE Lincoln cents — some are worth only a couple dollars, while others are worth hundreds of dollars.
But, most commonly, BIE pennies are worth $5 to $10 apiece.
- Some collectors put more emphasis on the condition, or grade, of the coin.
- Others are more concerned with putting together a date run of BIE pennies and will vie for a complete set of Lincoln cents running across an entire decade or longer.
- Still, other BIE penny collectors will simply amass every type of BIE cent they can find, regardless of date or mintmark.
So, at the end of the day, there’s no hard-and-fast “book” value on BIE cents. The value is often dependent on the condition, specific variety, and other merits of the individual BIE penny.
How To Find BIE Lincoln Pennies
Many coin dealers who specialize either in Lincoln cents or error coins are bound to have some BIE pennies for sale.
But let’s say you don’t want to spend the $5+ to buy a BIE Lincoln penny. So, what else can you do?
Start checking your loose change! Most folks don’t know what a BIE penny is, let alone know to look for them in their pocket change. So my best advice is to simply dig through your coin jar and start looking for any Lincoln cents that have a peculiar raised area between the “B” and “E” of “LIBERTY.” (Don’t forget to look for other types of errors, too!)
You could also buy rolls of pennies from your local bank and see if you can find BIE pennies in those coin rolls.
It may take awhile to find BIE pennies in your loose change, bank rolls, or other means of circulation. But the thrill is in the search, right? Good luck!
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!