Identifying Errors in Coin Design


Identifying errors in a coin’s design is easy with a few key words. These terms describe the size of numerals on the coin’s date. In numismatics, these terms are typically capitalized. Likewise, a coin’s size can be described in terms of the overall width of the coin. In addition to dates, other features can be identified. These factors may include overdates, die-cutting mistakes, double dies, planchet clips, and off-metal strikings.

Ancient coins were minted from electrum, silver, copper, brass, and bronze. Electrum was an alloy derived from natural sources but later was artificially created. In medieval times, gold dinars, ducats, and sceptres were produced from ancient Roman coinage, and they were used as currency in the Middle Ages. During this period, gold dinars and bronze coins were important as currency. The gold dinar, for example, played the same role as the silver dollar during the reign of Maria Theresa of Austria. In addition, a study of coinage distribution helps define territorial and physical dominion, and illustrates major commercial connections.

There are many important devices on a coin. One of the most important of these is a portrait, called a “legend”. A country’s name and its currency are also on the coin. Many coins feature inspirational sayings, such as “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust.” Another important device on a coin is called the “mintmark,” which is a small letter that indicates where the coin was produced by the U.S. Mint. For example, the Philadelphia mint produces West Point coins. Coins also have inscriptions that indicate the date they were minted, and their denomination.

Damaged coins have been altered, often through drilling and polishing. They will not receive a stand-alone grade, but will be described as “ungraded” and “fair” in an adjectival way. For example, a hole on a 1822 cent is rated VF-30. However, it would only be VF-29 if the hole in the top were present. This means that the coin is VF-30.

Another term for an error coin is a capped bust. It depicts Miss Liberty with a floppy-capped head. It was designed by John Reich. A capped die occurs when a coin jams in the coining press. In rare cases, a capped coin can be taller than a standard coin. In some instances, a capped die can be more spectacular. If the reverse die is damaged, it is usually branded as such.

Another term for an error in a coin’s design is a “body bag,” a plastic sleeve that contains the item for grading. A body bag is a container that contains the coin and comments from the grading service. A body bag also contains the location of a coin show or convention. The braided hair design on a large cent was first used on 1840s. The branch mint is the United States’ largest mint.

The United States Mint produces coins at two production facilities in Denver and Philadelphia. Reserve Banks submit monthly and twelve-month rolling coin-order forecasts to the Mint and store them in vaults or armored carrier facilities. Reserve Banks then distribute them to depository institutions. As of January 31, 2019, there were over $170 trillion dollars in U.S. coins and Federal Reserve notes in circulation. Those figures are not likely to change anytime soon.