Coins With Bubbles: How To Tell If Yours Is An Error Coin Or A Damaged Coin & How Much Coins With Bubbles In Them Are Worth



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Have any coins with bubbles in them?

Error coins with bubbles in them

I’ve found many pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollar coins with all kinds of bubbles and blisters on them.

It’s very unusual — but what do these raised bumps mean? Are they errors? What are they worth?

Determining whether bubbled coins are valuable error coins or just damaged coins can be tricky.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at coins with bumps and bubbles and:

  • Learn how and why these raised bumps ended up on the coins
  • Differentiate between errors versus damage
  • See how much bubbled coins are worth

 

Is Yours A Damaged Coin Or A Real Error Coin?

So, you’ve found a coin with a raised bump on it, and you want to know what it’s worth.

Well, before we can start talking about its value, we need to figure out whether you have a real error coin or simply a damaged coin.

Unfortunately, most bubbled coins that are found in pocket change are just exhibiting a form of damage.

But not all coins with bubbles in them are damaged coins — some are actually legit errors!

 

Damaged Coins With Bubbles

How would bubbles end up on a coin after it left the mint?

The most likely way that a bubble forms on a coin after it’s been struck is through exposure to intense heat.

In fact, virtually all bubbles you see on clad coins simply resulted from heat damage.

Let me repeat that…

Find a dime or quarter with raised bumps… and the coin was minted after 1964? When it comes to bubbles found on clad coins, they’re almost certainly heat-damaged — exposed to fire, most likely.

The coin below has ripples that were caused by exposure to intense heat.

Many coins with bubbles are the result of heat damage

I wanted to emphasize that point — because so many people have shown me photos of their dimes and quarters with bubbles and, with great hope, believe they have a rare or valuable error coin.

Sadly, these coins are almost always caused by the coin being left in a fire, thrown into a fire pit, intentionally singed with a blowtorch, or another similar situation.

Of course, millions of coins are exposed to fires each year, in many cases through accidental purposes. So it’s easy to understand why there are so many coins with raised bumps floating around out there in circulation.

What was that?… You think it’s gas bubbles on your coin?

Perhaps… It’s possible that the bubble on your clad coin was caused by some chemical reaction between clad layers, but these generally originate back to post-mint heat damage.

 

Error Coins With Bubbles

Here are some of the most likely types of coin errors involving bubbles and other oddities that resemble bubbling:

  • If your coin was made from a solid alloy, such as a pre-1982 Lincoln cent or Jefferson nickel, then it’s much more likely that the bubbling originates from something in the minting process and is, therefore, a real error coin.
  • Then there are the numerous (and I mean numerous!) plating blisters on copper-plated zinc cents made since 1982.
  • There are also other types of errors that may resemble bubbles but aren’t.

Now, let’s next delve into the world of error coins with bubbly anomalies that are bona fide errors…

 

Types Of Error Coins With Bubbles In Them

There are several types of error coins that exhibit bubbling metal, including:

  1. Gas bubbles — Sometimes, a small amount of gas will occur inside a solid-alloy planchet. When the coin is struck, the incredible heat generated from the striking will cause the gas to explode inside the coin. This will cause a small raised dome on the coin. There are 2 kinds of gas bubble errors:
    • Occluded gas bubble — This will appear as a raised dome of metal and is what many collectors generally associate with a gas bubble error.
    • Ruptured gas bubble — Occurring when the roof of the gas pocket explodes through the metal, these errors may exhibit a crater-like pit on the coin.
  2. Plating errorsMost commonly seen on copper-plated zinc Lincoln pennies which have been struck since 1982, such plating errors often appear as blisters or bumps:
    • These plating errors occur when the outer layer of copper fails to properly bond to the coin’s zinc core. Air inside these pockets (or voids) can expand, appearing as bubbles.
    • Plating errors may range from 1 or 2 tiny little pinprick bubbles to multiple drastic domed blisters, such as the penny pictured above. This is one of the most commonly encountered types of errors involving bubble-like bumps on coins.
  3. Die breaks — When the die that strikes coins begins cracking, those cracks will result in raised bumps or lines on coins. A great many die cracks look like jagged, raised lines. However, there are 2  types of die cracks that generally resemble bubbles:
    • Die chips are small, isolated bumps of metal that often take the form of a sharp or jagged mound.
    • Cuds are large, flat pieces of metal originating from or connected to the rim (as seen in this nickel photo).

Die Cud On Coin

 

How Much Are Bubbled Coins Worth?

When it comes to figuring out the values for these weird error coins with bubbling, it often comes down to the merits and unique particulars of the individual coin. After all, each error is different from the next.

But here are some average prices for typical examples of the error coins I’ve mentioned in this post:

  • Gas bubbles — $25+
  • Plating errors (zinc Lincoln pennies) — $2+
  • Cuds — $100 to $250+

*These are average prices that I personally collected from my surveys of error coins as seen offered for sale in the online marketplaces and at various coin shows.

Joshua

I'm the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. 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 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 authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!

21 thoughts on “Coins With Bubbles: How To Tell If Yours Is An Error Coin Or A Damaged Coin & How Much Coins With Bubbles In Them Are Worth

    1. Florida has many coin clubs, but one of the best is Florida United Numismatists. They hold two shows a year, sponsor many of the local clubs, and have a quarterly magazine (disclosure I’m a longtime satisfied member and the editor of the magazine, FUN Topics). Here’s a membership form: http://www.funtopics.com/content/PDF/Other/FUN_Membership_Application.pdf

      Best wishes,
      Josh

  1. Hi Josh! I’d like to first say thank you very much for all the coin guides you’ve posted. I started coin roll hunting pennies this year during quarantine, and your articles have easily been my favorite resource for info on coin variants, errors, and everything else. So this 1988 penny is a fairly unique one I’ve come across. Do you think the raised area is just a large Zincoln plating blister?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0dcfb483b4b172a5138164a9ec4b2d454e535251a0f6452a5261c150f4272d5d.jpg

    1. Hi, Stephen —

      I really appreciate your kind feedback and am delighted to know you’ve found these posts do helpful. Searching through penny rolls is one of my favorite things to do in the hobby but I’ve never made a find quite like yours here!

      Without seeing the coin in-hand but knowing it is a 1980s zinc cent I confidently agree you have a plating blister on your hands here. Most plating blister pieces exhibit smaller blisters but this is one of the largest single blisters I’ve seen. There are no firm “book” prices for errors like this but I’d be willing to bet yours would draw some strong offers from those who collect such coins.

      Congratulations!
      Josh

      1. Thank you for the feedback! I wasn’t very sure it was a plating blister given that its oblong shape is atypical for a bubble. I’m excited to know that it’s exceptionally large for that type of error!

        This coin also has some unusual features on the back that I’ve seen on a few others, but I’m not totally sure what they are. There are a couple of ridges running behind the columns of the Lincoln Memorial – one starts in the space to the right of the statue and continues through to the next two gaps between columns. The second one you can see on the other side of the statue. They’re definitely not scratches since the columns aren’t damaged, and they don’t seem to be typical die cracks since they only “light up” from one side.

        My best guess is they’re some sort of bi-level die crack, but I’m not confident in that and would like to know what you think!

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6a23f070e28cb5b2fba5d60ff9e3fe7b23ec8dcf51033ca4fe1882049c1bde28.jpg

        1. Hi, Stephen —

          From what I can discern in the photos they appear to be further plating anomalies. I see these raised lines and ridges quite frequently on the zinc cents of the 1980s. Quality control on the plating would take several years for the Mint to perfect.

          Best wishes,
          Josh

          1. Interesting! I think some of the similar ones I’ve seen are certainly early zinc cent issues. However, after finding another penny with nearly identical ridges, I’ve realized it seems to be the remnants of a die clash! The right hand side is Lincoln’s inverted chin and lower face and the other side is his back. There are a bunch of polishing scratches below the Memorial where the head struck.

            In this pic of the new one the outline is a bit clearer. Pretty cool find if you ask me, especially since I’ve only ever IDed a couple other die clash errors! While I’m sure the die clash doesn’t add a lot to my bubbled coin, does a minor standalone clash like this have much value?

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3611c2fdd62e6fc03be2cb3e3ec0936228cbd0270ae2f951696f01e04c7e11f2.jpg

          2. Hi, Stephen!

            Yes, I see it! Cool clash! Values range for pieces like this… As you may know there really isn’t a set value for errors, because it all depends on the magnitude of the individual error/variety and also how much one is willing to pay for it. But I’d think a piece like this could easily score $10-20 with the right buyer, and maybe much more.

            Nice find,
            Josh

  2. I have a 1969 Roosevelt dime with a small bubble that looks like a mask. My local coin expert said it surely was a Chinese counterfeit without even seeing the coin. Are there that many counterfeit? Could this be a legitimate error? No matter, it’s a pretty cool coin! Thanks!
    Bryan Bird

    1. Hi, Bryan —

      Another possibility is that the coin was exposed to heat, such as being in a fire. When copper-nickel clad coins, like late 1960s Roosevelt dimes, are subjected to extreme heat the metal layers tend to bubble. Yes, there are many counterfeits out there, but without seeing the coin I’m thinking it’s post-mint damage related to heat. I’ll be happy to take a look at a photo of the coin though.

      Best wishes,
      Josh

  3. I have a 1999 D Lincoln penny with what I believe to have all 3 of your listed legitimate errors…I don’t believe it was caused by fire because of the green patina and no evidence of charcoal black on the coin…can I send a pic to you? You can reach me at [email protected] if you can help, thx

    1. Hi, Pat —

      Please feel free to post photos of your coin here in the comments section and I’ll be glad to further assist.

      Thank you!
      Josh

      1. Hi Joshua…the more I look at it, the more it looks like it might be a fire penny…but maybe not. Do you also look at other coins? I assume you do…

        Pat https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8c846ee7d9660a57c1e98ed20d59b67f2b706fad34c872bcb3489eb50d78912c.jpg

        1. Hi, Pat —

          Yes, this coin is almost assuredly either from a fire or possibly was buried and exposed to the elements for a long time. My specialty is U.S. coins and I’ll be happy to look at two or three other pieces if you need some opinions on other pieces. You can post photos of them here in the comments forum.

          Thank you,
          Josh

          1. Thanks Josh, I have a wheat penny that might have a bubble under the date, it doesn’t look like wear and tear, I think it’s a strike error. Could this also be considered slightly broad struck…again thx for your help
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0784da46e28152b8a04c89e58b76e0de5a566661dea7b91c02b51e3a9ffac46d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a10990b3d101a80dfc76da33f0f2aed34c5ebb850898e1c657773608be7f67cc.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/941082a49c417e165bc3bf3999b49b435bf2a9f228c909694d2119a1655ac9be.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b84af23c99ada3ef09ce04f0f960172ee076426be08f2c82e0fdb37d880d1912.jpg

            Pat

          2. Hi, Pat —

            Unfortunately there are no errors present on this coin? But rather discoloration from environmental damage and dings and bruises from life in circulation; the bubble on the edge is a result of metal displacement from a nearby gouge on the rim.

            Best wishes,
            Josh

      2. Hi Joshua,
        Pat again…here is another strange penny with weird bubbles/strikes, are these worth anything that you know of? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8e7835cf5e794e8d4f83641c9dde4d5d85a53ce0c3f5e359bc9ed99f229a0d90.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/815f7269b0fb72a76b0ea158c1f5899dc9f143b038f14ae2b7468a042199ab76.jpg

        1. Hi, Pat —

          The little bubbles appear to be plating errors — something that is common on the post-1981 copper-plated zinc pennies. The copper coating on these coins is notorious for not bonding well to the zinc inner core, and when that happens, bubbles, lumps, and ripples ensue. There’s only really any value in this when the plating errors are drastic. This piece, I’m afraid, wouldn’t take any more than face value.

          Best wishes,
          Josh

  4. Hello I have a 2001P Rhode Island State Quarter with a bubble is it of any value https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8e1764ab905cb297438abbcc00f5eceebd1c8ef3e19a7d54cf307c51da3e7dee.jpg

    1. Hi, Nathan —

      Clad coinage like this will often form bubbles when exposed to intense heat. It’s possible this coin was in a fire, causing the copper core and outer nickel-based layers to split or partly separate.

      Thank you for reaching out,
      Josh

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