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Beginners Guide To Collecting United States Error Coins

By Edited Jun 17, 2016 1 0

Why Collect Mistakes?

Because We Can

Doubled Liberty On Modern United States Lincoln Cent

This beginners guide to collecting United States error coins will take a look at some well known US mint mistakes and some more obscure collector items that can be worth a fortune to the right person.

Knowing what your looking for even in ordinary pocket change can make you a pretty penny, no pun intended.

When the mint began producing coins for the general population in the year 1793, the United States was a young country, tools were of a crude nature and electricity was a long time coming.

Doubled Die
Master artisans carved dies by hand each obverse and each reverse completely individual. These dies placed in combinations have produced a virtual ea of varieties within the early years of the United States coinage.

Colonial coins and early copper large cents and half cents have eluded collectors for years until the introduction of the Internet and auction sites across the globe, all communicating with each other in real time. This has increased the collector base by millions and also added a new buyer, the investor.

Why not? United States error coins have traditionally gone up in value faster then most stocks or other similar investments. The savvy investor was quick to jump on board once the info got out. Now anyone can access information including up to date auction prices realized, what's for sale and who's bidding.

So error coin collecting we have established can be looked at as a hobby, an investment, or for some like me an obsession. I just look at every coin I get, through a 10 power loop.

However you start out, the quest for the next mistake will follow. there are literally thousands of error coins of all types. Every denomination and most series within the United States range of production have a list of well known error coins just waiting to be found.

The Early Years

Lost Opportunity

Most of us have unfortunately missed the boat on mistake coins from the first hundred years or so of United States coinage. To collect from these dates will usually take a very large expendable income and most of us just don't have the funds.

Copper large cents have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars just because the die break is in an early state and the reverse and obverse die combination may make the coin very rare. Speciality collectors spend a boot full of money every day for these coins.

Lincoln Copper Error Cent
Stepping forward in time is were most of us will enter the market. Lincoln cents are a favorite of many beginning collectors. An extensive variety of mistakes are available to all collectors, some even from brand new bank rolls. This can offer an entry level collection that will cost zero and every error that's found is pure profit.

eBay offers a great variety of error coins in all price ranges. Some people would rather go to the local coin store and some prefer to hunt down the coins at flea markets or garage sales. Others will stick to bank rolls and go through the coins looking for modern United States error coins.

Writing an article on error coins is limited to how much I can say I have to recommend this publication for anyone who would like to become a cherry picker for United States coins.

I have used this publication for many years and I carry it in my car whenever I'm out hunting for new finds. Although I know many error coins I'm always astounded at what's out there.

Doubled Letters On A Lincoln Cent

Motto Doubled

Doubled Die
Credit: Dreamaker

Tools of the Trade

You Need a Loupe

The first thing you should acquire is a good ten power magnifier. Most coin stores will carry these and they are also available at Amazon.com for a small price. Well worth the investment to save your sight. Peering at the dates on coins will make you go blind. Also the proper lighting is highly recommended. Some errors are very minute and take higher powered magnification to detect.

You'll need your reference book and I always recommend you catalog your finds. Rare examples should be certified by a third party grading service. This can be done at a minimal cost. They will encapsulate the coin and grade it for you. This process makes the coin sell-able on the Internet for a set price that your type of error coin will command. Collectors know the grading companies and they trust their opinions.

Caution should always be taken when buying any rare error coins many counterfeits exist. A good example of unscrupulous behavior would be a fake 1914-d United States Lincoln cent. Real examples sell for a lot of money because it's the short run for the series and few were minted. Some have been found that were made from a 1944-d where the first four is filed into  a one. A good collector would know that the space was to far between the two digits.

Focus on what you're buying if your buying United States error coins. Make sure you know what you're doing to avoid losses. All in all you should be having fun. Collecting United States error coins is a great way for beginners to get into the coin game.

1983 United States Lincoln Cent with a doubled reverse
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