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All Posts Tagged With: "ken Potter"

1999-W 1/10th Eagle $5.00 Gold Matte Finish Error or Variety?

By Ken Potter – NLG – CoinLink Content Partner

Some time ago a fellow sent in an error-variety coin with some very interesting questions. He said: “I have a 1999-W $5.00 Gold 1/10th Eagle that was struck by the Mint with an Uncirculated Matte Finish instead of the intended Proof finish for the West Point issue. Is this an error or variety — the grading service states it’s an error? Also, why is it referred to by the grading service as struck with “Unfinished Proof Die” when the die has clearly been “finished” albeit the wrong finish?

Phot by Ken PotterHe made to very good points and I had to explain that it was both an error and a variety and that the grading service was technically wrong. My answer to him was as follows and aught to be of interest to others.

According to Alan Herbert in his book, The Official Price Guide To Mint Errors:
“Only a small fraction of the mint product is an “error.” The E word was born back in the dark ages when almost nobody knew anything about the minting process. Today we know enough about the complexities of minting coins to be able to pinpoint the exact cause, or causes, in 99 percent of the cases. We desperately need the proper language to fit with that increased knowledge. Teaching novice collectors nicknames and slang is akin to teaching a chimp how to use a baseball bat. It curls my hair to hear professional people, engineers, doctors, lawyers and other college graduates misusing the language like they do.

We know that many actions by mint personnel are expedients-things done to speed up production, salvage worn or damaged dies, use up substandard planchets, or just simply to save money. Obviously, an expedient is not an “error.” It was done deliberately. Other mint products are different because of wear and tear to the dies, coin press, or other equipment. Again this stretches the definition of “error” to have to include a normal result of heavy usage.

The more we know about the minting process, the harder it is to stretch the E word to fit the end result. The simple solution is to have a “real” term which will include any and all variations, and-just as important-will include “errors,” but in their proper perspective. That term is minting varieties.

A minting variety is, by definition, “A coin which is normal or which exhibits a variation of any kind from the normal, whether intentional, accidental, or due to wear and tear on the equipment, as a result of any portion of the minting process, whether at the blank or planchet stage, as a result of a change or modification of the die, or during the striking process.”
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Is it an Error Coin or a Variety?

By Ken Potter

By way of introduction, I am an error and variety coin specialist from Michigan. As a charter life member of the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA) and a founding member of the National Collector’s Association of Die Doubling (NCADD), I serve both groups independently as their official attributor of world (non-U.S.) hub doubled dies and I privately list all types of die varieties on both U.S. and other world coins in the Variety Coin Register(r). I am also a columnist for Coin World, World Coin News, Canadian Coin News, Cherrypickers’ News and several club publications.

While I plan to examine issues other than errors and varieties, most of what I plan for this column will relate to my area of expertise. Before getting started I should mention that varieties listed within the Variety Coin Register(r) (VCR) are assigned a primary VCR number and a secondary number that defines the variety type or class. This reference number will accompany the description for most varieties shown in this column. I believe the system is rather self- explanatory but if anybody desires a detailed explanation they may contact me via e-mail and request “Form#VCR”.

Another item in need of explanation is how I differentiate between errors and varieties. The lines of demarcation are not always clear and tend to vary between specialists. One area of agreement is that any mechanically misstruck coin or a coin struck on an improperly prepared planchet is an error coin. It is also a consensus that any coin displaying a deliberate change in design is considered a “die variety”. Thus a coin struck “off-center” or “struck on a damaged planchet” is considered and “error” while a coin exhibiting a change in the style of lettering, etc., is considered a deliberate “variety”.

Some specialists argue that certain “varieties” such as repunched Mint marks (RPMs) and hub doubled dies are actually “errors” because there is no intent by the Mint to prepare a “flawed” die. Others argue many RPMs and doubled dies are more appropriately defined as a “variety”; they believe they’re deliberately released and contend that many issuing authorities consider such flaws trivial and an expected byproduct of tolerances and processes in place (a stance with which I pretty much agree).

It is also known that some “overdates” were deliberately created by the Mint to extend the life of an otherwise obsolete die, while it is presumed that others were created in error. While most specialists agree, determining which dies were deliberately overdated and which were not is often an exercise in futility. Thus we cannot know for certain if we can accurately apply the term “error” to many “overdates”. (more…)