Eye on Errors: Always So Much to Be Gained

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By Antoinette Rahn

My sweet little Irish grandmother used to say, “Even in making errors, there is something to be gained.”

She wasn’t a collector of coins, but had she known about error coins, I am confident she’d find them to be fascinating and worthy of her research and exploration. I could easily see her sitting on the couch, a loupe in hand, examining coins on a Sunday, right after watching Robert Schuller’s televised church service and before tuning in to watch professional wrestling, because that’s the kind of lady she was.

With dear sweet grandma Anne’s thought in my head, I spent some time perusing upcoming auctions through Stack’s Bowers to see what interesting error coins caught my eye, and there were more than a few. Here are just a handful of intriguing errors up for bid:

1865 Indian Cent. Fancy 5. MS65 BN (NGC)

Even though it’s struck 25 percent off-center, there’s no mistaking this Indian Cent. The rich tobacco-brown patina and crisp design elements are spectacular. As stated in the auction catalog, “…it’s difficult for us to imagine a more desirable off-center error within the bronze Indian cent series.”

1922 Grant Memorial Commemorative Gold Dollar. MS66 (PCGS)

After spending more than a few minutes looking at this coin, I finally had to refer to the auction catalog for a hint as to the error I should see, and there it was: the strikethrough appears at Grant’s ear. I think that perhaps all the detail and impressive satin surface and golden-yellow patina grabbed my attention, as did the design on the reverse. So much so, in fact, that I missed the obvious mark by his ear.

1970-D Washington Quarter. MS65 RD (PCGS)

At first glance, I thought this may have been an elongated cent or pressed cent gone wrong. It certainly reminds me of some of the coins that came out of the elongated cent machines at the regional zoo. As a child, visiting the elongated cents and the hot plastic animal mold machines were the perfect way to cap off a day at the zoo. But, I digress.

This, in fact, isn’t an elongated cent; it’s a Washington quarter struck on a cent planchet. Although the images at center of both obverse and reverse are clear, the letter and numbers on the edge are lost in translation due to the size difference between a quarter and a cent. Regardless, it’s a fascinating piece and one that would be a great inclusion in any collection.

1943 Lincoln Cent. AU55 (PCGS)

Do you recall the game “one of these things is not like the other?” That’s what came to mind when I saw this cent struck on a silver dime planchet. Another that, at first glance, may be something you’d miss in a handful of cents because it blends so much. Yet the warm golden-gray patina color is rich and eye-catching; plus, there are unique iridescent undertones. According to the auction catalog, “In the haste of wartime production, a stray 90% silver planchet intended for dime coinage managed to find itself in the striking chamber intended for Zinc-Coated Steel Lincoln cents, producing this sensational mistake.”

According to the auction catalog, the popularity of this type of attractive error was brought to fame by the famous 1943 bronze cents — the wrong-planchet, 1943-dated pieces are an especially popular microcosm of error collecting.

So, at the end of the day, my dear sweet little Irish grandmother couldn’t have been more right: there’s certainly something to be gained from errors.

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