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Have you ever heard about error coins?
Simply put, an error coin is a Mint-made mistake.
In the process of creating the coin at the U.S. mint, some sort of mistake was made — affecting the “look” of the coin.
There are many types of coin errors.
The most exciting thing about error coins is that they can often be found in circulation! (That’s right… start looking through your spare change for errors.)
And here’s the kicker… error coins are often worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars! So yeah, you could say that coin errors are fun to collect.
Types Of Error Coins
Error coins as a category are usually divided by the type of error — of which there are several.
The most common coin errors that you are likely to come across are:
- Doubled-dies (doubling, usually in the lettering)
- Blank planchets (blank piece of metal the size of a coin)
- Broadstrikes (have an odd-looking rim, if any)
- Off-metal coins (show the wrong design or wrong metal)
- Off-center coins (only a portion of the design has been struck on the coin)
- Die clash coins (reverse can be seen on the obverse, and vice versa)
- Repunched mintmarks (second mintmark under the date)
- BIE cents (a die crack that looks like an “I” between the “B” and “E” in Liberty)
- Missing clad layers (missing a layer of metal)
- Cud errors (raised blank areas)
- Mule coins (mismatched obverse and reverse designs)
- Clipped planchets (crescent-shaped coins)
Keep in mind, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are literally dozens of recognized errors. The 6 mentioned here are major error types and are discussed here to help introduce you to the larger realm of error coin collecting.
Popular Coin Mistakes
These are relatively common error coins that you can actually find in pocket change:
- Doubled die coins may be one of the most popular types of coin errors. A doubled-die refers to the doubling of all or part of the image on a coin. Typically, the doubling is confined to one side of a coin, and it is normally best seen in the lettering of a coin. However, parts of the design image can also show doubling effects, if the doubling is prominent enough. One of the most famous coin errors of all time is the 1955 doubled-die penny — worth almost $1,000 in well-worn condition, it’s been drawing mainstream attention for over 50 years!
- Blank planchets are not hard to spot, if you’re lucky enough to come across one. A planchet is the round piece of metal that a coin is made from. A blank planchet error coin is simply a blank piece of metal that is the same size, shape, and color as a typical coin. It has no markings on it. Some blank planchets are worth only a few dollars — but many are valued $10 to $20 and up.
- Broadstrikes are fairly valuable. When coins are struck at the U.S. Mint, they usually are momentarily placed inside a collar during the striking process to help create a properly formed rim. When the coin is not inserted inside the collar, the coin will tend to spread out a bit upon being struck. The result is a coin with an odd-looking rim (if there even is any), and the design may be off-center. The coin will also often be wider than it is supposed to be. Depending on the type of coin, relative over-width of the coin, and the centering of the design, coins with broadstrike errors are worth anywhere from $5 to over $200.
- Off-metal coins are coins struck with the wrong metal or wrong design. They are always in demand. One of the most famous examples of coins struck on the wrong metal are the few 1943 pennies that were struck on bronze planchets instead of the steel rounds intended for 1943 cents. Lincoln penny designs on dime planchets, Washington quarter designs on nickel planchets, and so forth are common examples of “wrong design” errors. Some of these errors are worth thousands of dollars!
- Off-center coins are often quite eye-catching. Some off-center errors are off by more than 50% — meaning only half the design has been struck on the coin, the other half of the coin is typically blank. With off-center coins, the values usually escalate as more and more of the design is missing, and prices do vary widely, depending on the type of coin. Many are worth $50 and up, and several are worth well into the hundreds of dollars.
- Die clash coins are struck from two coin dies clashing without a coin in between them — so they sometimes show odd shapes on the obverse (heads side) or reverse (tails side) designs. You’ll want to look for details from the reverse side of the coin on the obverse OR details from the obverse side of the coin on the reverse. These errors are usually worth $1 to $2.
- Repunched mintmarks look like a second mintmark underneath the date on pre-1990 coins. They happen when the letter punch leaves two impressions at different angles or slightly different locations. Usually, the two mint mark impressions are overlapping or touching in some way. Rarely, the mintmarks are in two separate, distinct locations. They’re worth between $3 and $15 — depending on how drastic the doubling (or even tripling) of the mintmark is.
- BIE errors are one of the most popular kinds of die breaks among all U.S. coins. A BIE error is a vertical die crack that looks like an “I” in between the “B” and the “E” in the word Liberty. They’re most commonly referred to as “errors” — although some diehard coin collectors call them “varieties”. BIE pennies are worth between $3 and $5.
- Clipped planchets are crescent-shaped coins. The device which cuts the planchets out of the huge strips of metal that first enter the Mint sometimes cuts a planchet more than once. When this happens, it can cut away a portion of the planchet, resulting in various-sized crescents. Most clipped coins are worth between $5 and $100 — depending on the type of coin, grade, amount of missing metal, etc.
In this video, I’m showing you closeups of 5 of types of error coins that you are most likely to find in your spare change:
Other Types Of Error Coins
Remember, the coin errors listed above are just a few of the many interesting and exciting types of error coins.
There are many more types of coin mistakes that are not as likely to be found in pocket change. You can see examples of these error coins our other articles:
- Coins With Missing Letters Or No Mintmarks
- Die Crack Error Coins
- Cud Error Coins
- Mule Coin Errors
- Coins That Are Missing A Clad Layer
Finally, in addition to the links and examples of the error coins I’ve included above, here are some other resources that show a few additional types of error coins:
- Types Of Error Coins – photo examples
- Error Coin Price Guide – current values
- Error Coin Information – 259 pages in a .pdf!
- How To Find Rare Error Coins In Circulation – error collecting tips
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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!