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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”.

From my standpoint the subject is moot as all errors are (according to Webster’s definition) “varieties”. Each collector has his/her own feelings on what constitutes a variety or an error and the hobby could debate the subject to infinitum. I refuse to debate the topic feeling we can all agree to disagree (when necessary) without any harm to the hobby.

To be practical, I tend to refer to doubled dies and most other types of “die errors” as being “varieties”, and items such as “double strikes” and off-center strikes” as “errors” because this is the most commonly accepted nomenclature associated with each area currently in use in the hobby.

(This Article Re-posted with Permission of Mr. Potter)

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