Archive for June, 2012

The Wheat Penny Errors: 1959 “D” Wheat Penny

This is the Lincoln Wheat Cent that was not meant to be. In 1959 the United States Mint decided to forgo the iconic ‘ears of wheat’ on the reverse side of the Lincoln cent with the image of the Lincoln Memorial.  This was done in homage to Abraham Lincoln’s 150th year anniversary of his birth, so Congress used Frank Gasparro to design how the coin was to be changed.  There is some question however, as to whether or not this change went off without a hitch.  While looking through loose change it might be worthwhile to take another look at those coins from 1959, the reward might be a history maker.

In 1986 the numismatic community was shocked to learn that twenty seven years after the first production of Lincoln Memorial Cents, the U.S. Mint produced a unique and obvious error.  The new error penny, with the standard obverse of Lincoln’s bust, was minted on the reverse with the old “Wheat Penny” style.  Only one example was brought forward causing suspicion to be cast on the only sample to be found in over a quarter of a century, although tests conducted by the U.S. Secret Service cannot disprove its legitimacy.

How does a collector value such a rare and unique piece?  The auction world certainly has had its share of problems, as the one example has been pulled from the action block twice, from two different action houses, before actually being sold for slightly over $31,000 in 2010.  And the U.S. Secret Service has studied the coin twice, returning the specimen both times without issuing certification of its credibility.  The problem lies with the lack of accreditation given to the coin.  Without a reputable, nationally recognized grading as genuine, any strong suggestion to its lack of legitimacy becomes a major obstacle to sale.  Even the price when it did sell was hampered by this, as evidenced by the fact that no legitimate issue, with only one or two specimens known in existence like this piece have prices this low. The investment paid into this coin represents not only the value of rare coins and pieces of history, but that the coin remains seen as a genuine article, not counterfeit.

The finding of another specimen would be a wind fall find for a change hunter, and a simple sweep of hoarded wheat pennies may reveal collaborating evidence of this mysterious error coin.  If any additional coins are found, the credibility of each could be tested more exhaustively, perhaps resulting in firm verification of this coin from the U.S. Secret Service, or national grading firms.  Although the possibility of counterfeit coins cannot be discounted, so always avoid the quick sale of un-appraised coins.   Reputable sellers will most always submit to professional assessment, and some collectors feel comfortable buying only  those coins rated by national grading companies like PCGS, ANACS or NCG.


Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 Blog No Comments

The Wheat Penny Errors: 1955 Double Die

The 1955 Double Die Cent is the most well known and popular of the Lincoln Wheat penny error coins.  The 1955 error coin was released in numbers well above most other error coins.  The estimated total of coins that slipped past U.S. Mint is around 24,000.  The misalignment of a coin press created a doubled image, an effect easily seen with the naked eye or a magnifying glass.  The 1955 Double Die Cent is one of the most worthwhile error coins to search for, because it is the statistically most likely error coin to find in lose change.  Its a matter of odds, and the sheer number of coins yet to be found means that if you only look for one coin amongst the riffraff of your pocket, look for this one.

The double, or ghost, image is made during the striking of the coin.  In a normal strike the first blow to the blank shapes the features of the surface of the coin.  On the second blow the detail made clearer and more consistent.  This process requires that no movement occur in relation between coin and striking element.  When the double die coins were produced, the second blow was shifted slightly off-center, resulting in a clear second image.  There is a similar effect created by the deterioration of the master die which is not nearly as prized or valuable, but also more common. The double die version can easily be  identified, however, by its image duplication being heaviest along the outside details of the coin, around the lettering and date, but little around the bust or figure of Lincoln.  The detail surface should be clearly doubled, or use a magnifying glass to make sure.

Coins like this survive in circulation because the difference between the valuable error coin and the regular mint issue is slight when most people just use pennies to count out change.  There are some tips to improve your odds of finding error coins though, and the 1955 Double Die Cent is no exception.   If you take care not to damage the coins, a gentle bath in warm water can loosen dirt and foreign matter obscuring old coin dates and mint marks.  As all the 1955 error coins were released into circulation, and it is very unlikely that a ‘Mint State’ penny will be found in loose change.  Don’t worry, even in rough condition, as long as the date and mint mark is legible, the coin will be worth a premium for collectors.

Collecting coins can be an rewarding venture, and also an investment for the future.  Remember to store coins safely, and only handle the coins you mean to spend.  Get coins graded for a small fee, and the resale increases greatly.  An un-circulated, graded, 1955 Double Die Cent may be worth over $25,000.  Even a heavily worn example would be a nice find, at around 300 dollars a pop!


Friday, June 22nd, 2012 Blog No Comments

The Wheat Penny Errors: 1944 Steel Wheat Penny

In 1944, the United States was embroiled in the bloody conflict of WWII.  Citizens had to put up with blackouts, raid sirens, rationing and shortages, but they needed good and usable coinage, and something they would not stand for was the substandard quality of the then new steel pennies of 1943.   Complaints to Government prompted their action, and they issued a new cent made of copper.

The Lincoln wheat penny steel cent is an oddity of U.S. coinage.  The steel proved inferior to the standard copper blanks used in manufacture, but as copper became more vital to the U.S. war effort, the Mint made the decision to remove the metal in its coins in 1943.  In just the next year the U.S. Government made another change to the Lincoln Wheat Head Cent.  Recycled spent shell casings were used to boost copper supplies enough to resume the pressing of copper coinage.  The copper coins were a welcome replacement for wartime steel issues, and the change over also brought numismatists, those who collect coins that is, a new collectible error coin.  When steel planchets (the sheets of raw material that are used to produce blanks for striking) were used mistakenly instead of the replacement copper the second most valuable Lincoln Wheat Cent error was born.

The U.S. Mint prides itself in its quality control in its production facilities, and as such very few error coins of any year are produced.  The 1944 steel pennies were punched on blanks suspected to have been loaded into the hoppers of coin preses readied for the previous year’s coins.  The rarity of these error coins makes them valuable in almost any condition.  Of course, coins must be at least ‘poor’ by PCGS grading standards (meaning that at least the year and mint mark are legible) to interest collectors.  What collectors desire is something rare and distinctive, and this penny has both.

When searching loose coins for additions to your collection, take precautions to prevent further damage to the surface of the coin.  Having a systematic approach, such as processing one type of coin at a time, will aid in detecting of rare coins as the repetition of objects will help your eye ‘map’ the fine details on the coin.  If possible wear non-tarnishing jeweler’s gloves.  The oil and residue that handling coins with bare hands will inevitably deposit may sometimes erode the finish on coin surfaces.  Don’t store coins in old acrylic coin holders, as they may tarnish coins after time.  Some types of paper may also release gases that accelerate coin degradation, so avoid storing coins with books or coin reference materials.  Proper care will help maintain the luster of your pocket change gem.


Thursday, June 21st, 2012 Blog No Comments

The Wheat Penny Errors: 1943 Copper Wheat Penny

The war was raging in Europe and Japan when this error coin was accidentally struck from blanks of a now precious metal reserved only to be melted down to aid the Allied war effort.  The copper  of the Lincoln Wheat Cent was needed to further the war machine, and the transition to a new substitute created one of the most valuable Lincoln Wheat Cent error coins.  At least 40 of these rare examples are known to be in existence, and loose change hunters dream of finding this very expensive coin.  Graded copies in good condition have been sold for amounts of over 40,000 as of 1996, and over 100,000 in 2008!  The coin is actually fairly easy to spot once you know what to look for, and this guide will help you decide whether that $0.01 coin is actually worth $100,000’s!

The normal Mint issue 1943 penny was not the copper coin most people expect it is.  This year the United States were critically short of copper due to war-time production.  So, in order to supply the copper hungry war production effort, the metal was stripped from the penny.  Instead the U.S. Government substituted with a cheaper, although troublesome replacement, and issued steel planchets, or coin blanks, and coated them with zinc.   The resulting penny was the less than ideal replacement.  Citizens complained of confusing the silver colored coin with dimes.  It would also activate vending machine magnet detectors, and the steel itself was subject to rust at the edge from sweat and moisture.  Only one year later the Mint ceased production and issued reconstituted copper shell casing cents instead.  In the following years the Mint also collected vast numbers of the steel coins, and destroyed them.

The 1943 steel penny weighed significantly less than its copper counterpart, at only 2.7 grams compared to 3.11 grams.  The 12 confirmed examples of only 40 estimated to have been produced have been found.  There is also one confirmed example found of a 1943 penny pressed on a bronze planchet, valued at over 1 million dollars.

Be aware of fakes and misrepresentations among 1943 copper cents.  The high value of the penny attracts counterfeiters, and dates, especially the 1945, 1946 and 1948 year cents.  The normal steel cent is the only U.S. cent to react to magnetism, and this fact can be used to defraud counterfeiter’s trick of coating the regular, far less valuable 1943 steel coins with copper.  If the weight is accurate, and the penny does not react to a magnet then the coin may be genuine. Take good care of your new addition to your collection, you may have just found one of the most valuable Lincoln Cent error coins in existence!  To get the best packaging and protecting for your coin, have it graded and mounted professionally by nationally recognized agents like ANACS, NGC or PCGS.  The nominal upfront fee is recouped by the much safer and higher asking price that graded coins buy.  In fact, it is normal for serious collectors to only buy graded and mounted specimens, to ensure the highest possible security.

Sources:

Yeoman, R.S. The Offical Red Book of U.S.Coins. Sixty-Sixth Edition, Atlanta, GA. Whitman Publishing, 2012

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 Blog No Comments

The Wheat Penny Errors: 1922 Plain “D”

The Lincoln head cent was in circulation for almost a two decades before the U.S. Mint system minted any error coins of significant quantity. In 1922, the Denver mint struck Lincoln head cents without the usual mint mark denoting their manufacture location. The resulting pennies, named ‘Plain D” or just ‘1922-Plain’ for short, sell at auction prices of 20,000 for fine examples, and even fair copies worth hundreds. Be sure to distinguish between the normal mint issue ‘1922-D’ (showing the ‘D’ mint mark) and the error coin minted with the mint mark, as the difference in price is substantial. Follow this guide to learn about this early issue error coin, and help increase your odds of finding this very valuable penny.

The 1922 error pennies are easily distinguished from newer Lincoln cents due to their wheat head reverse. It is also slightly heavier than the modern penny, with wheat head cents being comprised of 95% copper and 5% tin, it weighs 3.11 grams. Today’s Lincoln cents are copper-plated zinc, 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper, in order to reduce metal costs, making nickels the last non-plated U.S. coin. It weighs only 2.5 grams. The Denver Mint were given dies to stamp the traditional ‘D’ struck into each coin. However, one defective die that embossed no Mint mark was used to strike an unknown number of coins. The result is a coin, if found today in good condition, is worth up to 20,000 thousand dollars properly graded and stored.

To maximize your chances of finding this error coin follow these simple tips. First, have a consistent system to sort through your loose change. Second, start by assorting the coins by type, then when you search through the collected pennies it will be easier to distinguish the wheat head reverse. Finally, check the dates on each coin. The date should be clear enough to read, or in grading at least a rating of poor to be of interest to collectors. Beware of removed mint marks, and if buying a ‘genuine’ article you have suspicions about, take a magnifying glass and look for scratches or polish marks where the mint mark would have been. If there are no marks, then it is safe to assume the piece is genuine.

What to do with your find? So let’s say that you have found the needle in the haystack, and procured the elusive 1922 Plain D Lincoln wheat penny. What should you do? First don’t handle it anymore! Your fingers contain oil and dirt which can leave residue and induce corrosion on the coin’s surface. Also don’t keep the coin where it comes into rough contact with other coins, as coins in a bag are bound to be scratched and scuffed when the bag is moved around. With error coins like this one so rare, it is likely that even poor examples will be worth the expense of professional mounting and grading. These services are best done by nationally recognized firms like PCGS or ANACS. This will give you a lasting setting to display your treasure, and make selling and authenticating your coin much easier.

Sources:

Hudgeons, Marc. The Official Blackbook, Price Guide of United States Coins. Twenty-Third Edition, Orlando, FL. The House of Collectibles, 1985.

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 Blog No Comments

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