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If you’re a coin collector, numismatist, or somebody who has worked a bit with coins, then you may have heard the acronym PMD.
If you haven’t, then you may be wondering, “What is PMD?”
It stands for Post Mint Damage, and refers to any damage a coin has suffered after leaving the Mint.
Common examples of damaged coins (those with PMD) are any U.S. coins with:
- Heavy scratches or gouges
- Dents and dings on the rim
- Odd lettering or stamps on a coin
- Gold plating or strange coloring
- Tall or deep rims
- Holes and bumps
- And almost anything else unusual that goes into the coin’s surface
…that were not there when the coin left the U.S. Mint.
Post Mint Damage (PMD) and Post Strike Damage (PSD) are often mistaken for errors on U.S. coins.
I’m going to help you tell the difference!
Error Coins vs. Damaged Coins
A lot of people think that circles, lines, or grooves on a coin make the coin rare and valuable. However, these are not coin errors.
Coins experience so much wear and tear throughout their lives, and many end up taking quite a beating in the process — resulting in Post Mint Damaged coins.
Sometimes, signs of coin damage look unusual to an unassuming coin collector who mistakes PMD (or PSD) as a Mint error, or a legit mistake that was made at the U.S. Mint.
Being able to tell Post Strike Damage apart from a strike error takes years of experience. But here are a few ways to determine if your coin has U.S. Mint errors or if it has Post Mint Damage:
- If the “error” cuts into the coin (it goes into the surface rather than being raised), then it’s probably Post Mint Damage.
- If the coin has a raised blob of metal next to or near a groove or cut, that’s probably Post Strike Damage.
- If it’s a two-headed coin (with the face of a penny on one side and a dime on the other side), that’s an altered coin made for magicians — which is considered Post Strike Damage.
- If there is doubling on the coin… it’s tricky. In most cases, doubling is not caused by the coin being a doubled die (a Mint error), but rather damage from the strike itself. So, if you see doubling all over the coin (and definitely if it appears on both sides), then it’s not a Mint error known as a doubled die. It is machine doubling instead.
Cleaning Coins Causes Post Mint Damage
Another major cause of Post Mint Damage is cleaning.
Yes, cleaning your coins actually damages them!
While many people think it’s a good thing to clean their “dirty” or old coins, it’s actually one of the worst things you can do.
Cleaning a coin not only alters its natural appearance, but it can also remove a tiny layer of metal from the surface of the coin — forever ruining it. (This is especially true when using abrasives such as toothpaste, baking soda, salt, or even a pencil eraser.)
The bottom line… leave your coins in their natural state. Do NOT clean your coins!
See how cleaning coins affects their value.
What Should You Do With PMD Coins?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do with Post Mint Damage except enjoy the damaged coin for what it is — a broken coin that needs a home and some love.
You can’t “fix” PMD coins.
There are so-called coin doctors who can patch up holes in coins, remove dents, fill scratches, and even restore color to cleaned coins. However, since this expensive work is largely done to make a damaged coin look new and often has deceptive intentions, not many people have much respect for coin doctors. (Especially when their work is done to erase any blatant signs of damage… so the coins can masquerade as problem-free coins and potentially be sold for the same price as problem-free pieces!)
That doesn’t mean damaged coins are worthless though.
Damaged coins make terrific “fillers” for hard-to-find coins in your collection! Since PMD coins can often be bought cheaply, they’re great for filling holes in your coin folders and coin albums — where otherwise rare and/or expensive coins would go.
Post Mint Damaged coins (also referred to as cull coins) cost only a fraction of the price of similar coins in problem-free condition. This makes PMD coins desirable for coin collectors on a budget who want to buy old coins or rare coins without paying full price for them!
One thing to keep in mind (especially if you’re hoping to make an eventual profit on your coins) is that damaged coins don’t usually increase in value as quickly as problem-free coins. Therefore, it might be best to save up your money and buy a nice, problem-free example when you have the money to do so.
What’s The Value Of Damaged Coins?
The general rule on coin values is that coins are ultimately worth whatever someone will pay for them.
In the case of damaged coins, values vary depending on the:
- Severity of the damage
- Location of the damage
- Rarity of the coin
- Overall demand for the coin
Damaged 20th-century silver and gold coins are often only worth the value of the metal in the coin (or their spot value).
However, damaged rare coins are usually worth much more than their metal value:
- Take the 1909-S VDB penny, which has about 2 cents of copper value. Even a corroded 1909-S VDB cent that has been cleaned, bent, and has holes (a pretty ugly-looking 1909-S VDB penny, really…) might be worth $100 to $200 as a filler piece — because demand for the rare Lincoln penny is so high.
- A porous, bent 1793 Chain cent (a very rare penny that was the very first official Federal United States coin) can bring $1,000 or more, so long as it’s identifiable as a Chain cent.
- Holed, cleaned Draped Bust silver dollars from the 1790s or early 1800s often sell for $300 to $500.
So, yes… values for damaged coins range all over the board. Just remember, one collector’s trash is another’s treasure!
The Bottom Line…
The takeaway here is that you need to know the difference between legit error coins and coins that simply have Post Mint Damage — because not all coins with strange-looking oddities are errors. In fact, most are not errors.
I always tell people that a good way to tell if if a coin has post-Mint damage or if it’s a legitimate error coins is this:
- If you see doubling, raised lines or bumps, or parts of the design missing, then we’re possibly talking about some real errors.
- If the “weird” thing about the coin is going in to the surface — like a nick, scratch, or hole — then it’s almost certainly post-Mint damage.
Common sense should tell you that most of the odd-looking coins you find in pocket change, coin rolls, or elsewhere in circulation are not errors — because error coins are generally rare. You’re not supposed to be finding a bunch of error coins all the time in circulation. Nobody’s luck is that good!
Yes, it’s a good idea to check your change looking for rare and valuable errors — but be mindful before submitting photos of every odd coin you find to an error coin expert. Chances are your coin is not an error. There are countless damaged coins floating around out there.
In most cases, the “error” you think you’ve found on a coin is simply Post Mint Damage — this is extremely common!
So, it’s good to learn the differences between damaged coins and error coins from the experts by asking questions. But any good numismatist or budding error expert has to do some work for themselves, too.
The best thing to do is to take the time to research the world of error coins. Find out what error coins are out there and what they look like. Study, study, study! It may take years before you feel like you know what you’re talking about with regard to error coins — but before you know it, you’ll be doing an excellent job at discovering exciting error coins on your own!
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!