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Interested in collecting error coins? Today we’ll cover the 6 most common types of error coins and tips on how to find them.
Why Collect Error Coins?
Coin collecting is a rewarding hobby in itself, but finding coins with errors in them can be even more rewarding. Apart from the thrill of owning an unusual piece of history, your oddball coin could be worth a significant amount of money!
The best part about error coins is you don’t have to necessarily buy them from a dealer – you can often times find them in your own pocket change or even while coin roll hunting.
Ultimately, the decision to sell a rare coin for a profit or keep it in your collection is up to you. Either way, it would help to know what types of errors to look for in coins and how to identify and detect them.
Common Error Coin Types
Coin errors can vary from trivial to significant. Keep in mind that not all errors will increase the value of the coin in question.
Even so, you won’t know how valuable a particular coin is without having it assessed by an expert, so it pays to know what to look out for. Here are some of the most common errors that could increase the value of a coin:
1. Inscription errors.
Most errors in coins occur in the inscriptions. Some errors to look out for are missing letters and doubling. In most cases, doubling occurs only in part of a word.
2. Date and mint mark errors.
Errors with the date and mint mark are somewhat less common. However, they can increase the value of the coin significantly. Keep an eye out for over-punches, re-punched dates and mint marks, doubling, and similar errors.
3. Errors on the primary element.
Errors on the portrait will almost certainly increase the value of the coin. Check both faces for anything that looks out of the ordinary, such as doubling and missing elements.
4. Materials errors.
Some coins may have all the elements in place but may use materials other than what they are normally made from. Read up on the types of metals typically used for common coin types and learn to identify them by sight.
5. Die rotation errors.
You can detect die rotation errors by the orientation of the elements on the opposite side. Look at the face of the coin and make sure that it is precisely right side up. Turn the coin over and check to see that the opposite side’s elements are right side up as well.
Most die rotation errors will be immediately apparent. Coins with significant displacement can be moderately valuable. But those in which the elements are 180° out of place are the most valuable.
6. Edge errors.
Finally, scrutinize the edge of your coin. It might help to roll it across your palm so that you can inspect the entire edge. Some errors to look out for are lines, seams, missing edges, and other anomalies. Check for doubling or missing letters along the edge as well.
If you are new to error coin collecting, a fantastic resource is the book Strike It Rich With Pocket Change: Error Coins Bring Big Money by Ken Potter. It features close-up images of common errors and gives you exact coin denominations with the year and error to look for.
Whether you collect pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters, the book is truly one of my favorites that I turn to every time I’m coin roll hunting.
Essential equipment for Finding Error Coins
Most major errors are easily detectable even without any special equipment. Handling the coins and thoroughly inspecting every element should quickly reveal any flaws or imperfections.
However, some errors may be more difficult to detect and require specific tools and accessories. Here are some items that could make it easier for you to see less apparent errors:
- A jeweler’s loupe, magnifying glass or digital microscope
- A desk lamp
- A piece of cloth
- A compartmentalized case for sorting coins
These items should be enough to get you started. If you do find a coin worth keeping, make sure you have a suitable way to store it to prevent loss or damage.
How to Identify Coins with Errors
Now that you know what to look for, how do you go about inspecting your coins for errors? Whether you are working with your personal coin collection or a lot of old coins purchased from a collector or auction, the process is pretty much the same. Here are the basic steps for inspecting a batch of coins for common errors:
1. Sort coins by denomination
Start by organizing your coins. The method can vary depending on your preferred style of working, but most experienced collectors opt to group their coins by denomination.
Why should you examine batches of the same denomination? Working solely with dimes or nickels will make it easier for you to spot any anomalies.
As you sort through the same types of coins, you will fall into a sort of pattern and become accustomed to seeing the same elements again and again. If anything out of the ordinary comes up, you will quickly be able to detect it.
2. Examine inscriptions
The next step is to pay close attention to the obverse inscriptions of the coins. In particular, you will want to look closely for any unusual characteristics in the lettering.
Be thorough and deliberate, as many errors won’t look odd or unusual at first glance. Remember that doubling–which is a fairly common error–often occurs only on part of the word.
These errors are usually caused by abrasion, polishing, or even dirt buildup on the die face. Therefore, they can show up on any coin.
3. Check the date
The most valuable coins are those with date and mint mark errors. For this reason, experienced collectors spend most of their time inspecting these particular features.
There are many possible errors involving date and mint markings. Some of the most common of these are re-punching or over-punching and doubling.
When checking the mint mark, you might check to see if the coin is still in circulation. Indian Head pennies and Buffalo nickels are among the obsolete coins that are still frequently mixed in with current coins.
4. Examine the primary features
Errors involving the primary features are almost impossible to miss. Even so, it would help if you took the time to examine both sides of the coin thoroughly to make sure that you don’t miss anything.
Check the portrait and the opposite side carefully. Does anything seem odd or out of the ordinary? Are there obvious signs of doubling? Are there missing elements? These are some of the most important questions to ask when examining the primary features of your coins.
5. Check the die rotation
Checking for die rotation errors is as simple as turning the coin over. With most currencies, both sides’ images and text are positioned at opposing orientations relative to each other. If the image on one side faces right-side-up, turning the coin side-to-side will show the upside-down image opposite.
Turn the coin over and check to see that the other side’s image is exactly right side up. Even a slight deviation could increase the coin’s value. If the image is facing the same way, you could have a valuable and collectible coin on your hands.
6. Check the reverse side
Check the “tails” side of the coin just as thoroughly as you check the “head”. This side is just as prone to errors, so look out for anomalies such as doubling and missing elements. Check the mint mark as well, and hold the coin up to the light at different angles. This will make it easier for you to see if there is anything out of place.
7. Examine the edge of the coin
The final step is to examine the edge for seams, unusual lines, or missing edges. Roll the coin slowly between both palms to feel for anomalies that you might miss with a visual inspection. Afterward, you could inspect the edges more thoroughly with your loupe or magnifying glass.
These steps should provide you with a basic foundation for identifying common errors in coins. Take your time to inspect every coin you come across, and you might just be rewarded for your efforts.
Do you enjoy hunting for error coins? What types of coin errors have you found recently? Have any additional tips to share on how to spot and find error coins? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below!