The Summer slowdown which often occurs in July really never hit us—we’ve been buying and selling a lot this month. This is largely because collectors are still actively building their error coin collections, but also because we have had a lot more mint errors to offer of late. During 2020 and 2021, most coin dealer’s inventories quickly became rather small. Shutdowns related to the Covid pandemic, such as no coin shows, dealer’s with coin shops seeing fewer coins walk in, and just less activity amongst people putting coins up for sale led us and other dealer’s to have greatly reduced inventory sizes.
Having fewer coins to offer customers will inevitably lead to fewer sales, but this has changed this year, and we now have the largest inventory (and it’s quickly growing) that we’ve had since early 2020, which is good news for us and good news for our customers. We have many major errors, as well as a quickly growing stock of less expensive errors. The coin market has largely returned to a normal, healthy level of both buying and selling.
We were set up at the FUN coin show in Orlando, Florida this month, and it was an excellent show, with a good amount of buying and selling. We sold more than we expected to in fact. Other dealers at the show dealing in “non error” coins largely reported having good to very good (and no, that’s not a comparison to the grading scale) shows.
Our next show will be the ANA World’s Fair of Money, which is being held the middle of August in Rosemont (Chicago), Illinois. It’s one of the largest coin shows of the year, and promises to be a great show once again. If you are there, look up our table “Sullivan Numismatics”, table #1529.
If you’ve not seen our articles, we now publish occasionally write articles on mint error coins for PCGS’s “Rare Coin Market Report” or for PCGS’s website. They can be viewed at: https://www.pcgs.com/news/search
In the last part of this series on building an error coin collection, we discussed building a set by date and mintmark. While an interesting way to collect, some collectors like to have lots and lots of different errors in their collections, and an error type set is perfect for them.
How to build a collection from Coin Errors list
To build an error type set you need to get an example of every error type known. This means you would get a single example of a die cap, off-metal, double-denomination, off-center, etc. The list would probably come out to be around a few hundred coins, but it could be more or less depending on how far you wanted to go with it. Most collectors would just opt for the more “basic” and well known error types, and not buy the minor errors that are not very visually interesting.
There are two basic ways to build the type set. You can either pick a single series of coin, such as Lincoln cents, and then try to get an example of each error type within that series of coin, or you can get errors from any coin series, which would result in errors from probably all series of coins. Whichever you prefer is what you should do. Collectors who like to have a little more order to their collection, or who love a particular series of coin will probably want to do the “pick a single series” method, while collectors who love all coins and don’t really care if their collection looks as “orderly” will opt for the other method.
Above: Buffalo nickel struck off-center
A collection of this type does not have to be expensive either, since a collector could find affordable examples of every single error type out there. Even the most expensive error type, the “mule”, is inexpensive since you can buy one from another country for a few hundred dollars. Some of the most expensive errors would be the mule, off-metal, double-denomination, but as long as you didn’t try to get every single error type out there, most of the others are relatively inexpensive. Some of the toughest error coin types out there are not necessarily as expensive as they are rare. The dual missing clad layer, which is an error type where both of the nickel clad layers are missing and only the copper core remains, is one of the rarest error types, with probably 10-15 examples known for all denominations and series of U.S. Coins combined! Examples of that error type only cost as much as a nice off-metal, selling for around $1,200-$3,500 depending on the denomination and condition.
What are some of the easiest coin series to build a type set from? I would recommend these if you want to have a lot of errors to choose from, and have the ability to complete your collection without busting the bank.
Easiest Coin Series for Type Sets
Type sets based on these coin series are the most attainable.
For more of a challenge I would suggest these series, which although much more challenging, a fairly complete set is possible.
-Susan B. Anthony Dollars
Most of the other coin series are either rarely found with errors, or would be extremely difficult to get more than a small number of error types for their respective series.
Above: Jefferson nickel struck on bow-tie planchet scrap.
In the next blog post, we will be moving on to part 3 of our series on how to build an error coin collection, so check back next tuesday. If you haven't read part#1 of this series, click here: blog post #1. Feel free to write me with questions or comments at: [email protected]
In buying and selling coins, we get to see a lot of mint errors--a ton of them in fact, from off-metals to off-centers, and everything in-between! This gives us a lot of insight into what error coins exist, their condition, and also lot of practice in determining authenticity and figuring out how any particular error coin was made. This is all made possible because we get to hold the coins in hand and closely examine them, and as said earlier, because we buy and sell a lot of errors (plus we see a lot of errors we don't buy at all.) So why do we bring this up? To make the point that the more coins you can see, the better off you will be in terms of building a high quality collection. Not being a dealer, this can be hard for many collectors to do, but there are ways to help get some good hands-on experience. Here are some ways you can get some "experience" without having to actually buy any coins.
Ways to Examine Mint Made Errors
When you get a chance to attend a major auction, take the time to review all the mint errors in the sale, even the ones you aren't interested in buying. Look at them under a loupe, and think about how the error was made. Look at the coin's surfaces, and notice the subtle differences in the error. Review the grading services' description in the coin; did they note all the errors on the coin, or did they run out of room on , and left other errors unmentioned (that happens a lot in fact.) Look at the grade that was assigned--why was the coin given the grade it was assigned? Errors are graded generally much less strictly than non-error coins, and so it's good to understand that so that you don't overpay (or underpay) for and error based on grade.
Also, major auctions allow collectors a chance to see major errors that they wouldn't normally get a chance to spend 10 minutes reviewing--so take advantage of this great opportunity to see some major errors.
Collections Do you have a friend with an error collection? Take the time to get together with them, and take a good look at their coins. Look at the attribution, grade, authenticity, and surfaces of the coin. If you're one of the fortunate few who have access to one of the really major error collections our there, definetely spend all the time you can with reviewing those coins since some of those coins are doubtless unique or close to it.
Auction Archives Although this is not as good as in person viewing, online major auction sites often have excellent photos, and allow collectors the ability to see millions of dollars worth of error coins from their computer screens. Some sites include Heritage Auctions, Stacks/Bowers, Great Collections, eBay, and we have the Sullivan Numismatics archives as well.
Coin Shows Although dealers are often busy at coin shows, and may not have the time due to the busy nature of coin shows to allow you to physically look through their entire inventory (we can vouch for that!), you can simply through their display cases at the coins for sale, and get some good experience that way. Many dealers will have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of inventory at coin shows, giving a unique opportunity to see some rare mint errors.
Buy Coins This may seem obvious, but buying coins for your collection affords an opportunity to build your knowledge. Some collectors quickly look a coin over, then throw it into a slab box in a bank vault, and never really spend much time looking their coin over. Don't be that collector, but instead, take the time after buying a coin to carefuly review it, consider all it's attributes, and then put it away into your safe deposit box (or wherever you store your collection.)
The more you know about error coins, the more your will appreciate your collection, and the better collection you will be able to build. Knowledge is key to building a good mint error collection, so learn all you can about errors, whenever you have the opportunity, by carefully considering all their attributes.
Over the last few years, the coin market as a whole has been very active, buoyed by increased demand from collectors, high precious metals prices, and perhaps even Covid-19's effect of giving people in general more "home time" and therefore more time to focus on singular pursuits such as coin collecting.
Whatever the reasons, the coin market has been hot across the board, from regular U.S. coins, to mint errors, to extreme numismatic rarities. All have seen increased prices in many segments, with rare error coins hitting millions of dollars at auction of late, and less valuable coins still selling for much more than they did 3 years ago. It's been amazing to watch the coin market over the last few years. Buyers are acquiring coins and generally holding on to them (making it difficult for sellers to buy anything.) Sellers are generally short on coins, and eagerly searching for quality material, and buyers are eagerly searching for coins and bidding against each other in auctions, driving prices even higher.
So is this a "bubble" in the market? Coin prices are driven by demand, and not by rarity, grade or anything else. Sure, those effect value when there is demand, but at the end of the day, coin's are only worth more than their face value because collectors compete with each other to acquire them, which pushes prices up. The coin market today has a lot of collectors chasing coins, and although some coins will doubtless drop in value in the near future, many will probably not because collectors are actually buying coins to put into their collections--they are buying coins because they want them, and that's unlikely to change in the long term. In other words, it is not (from what I can see) investors or speculators driving prices up, but simply collectors wanting coins for their collections. Prices are always going up and down, and right when prices seem to be "high", several years later we look back and say "boy, that coin was cheap back then!" or "I wish I wouldn't have waited for prices to drop, because it never happened."
If collectors buy quality coins, pay fair prices based on whatever market they are buying in, and then "hold" their coins, they have a good chance at being happy with their purchases down the road both in terms of their enjoyment of their collection but also when they dispose of their collection one day. However, if a collectors is speculating, and is trying to sell a coin next year that they purchased this year, that would likely be a losing proposition. But if they are buying to hold, and are not selling their purchases for 10 or 20 years from now, in my estimation they have a good chance at making money or at the very least being happy with what their coins sell for.
Areas of Error Coin Market
The hottest areas of the error coin market seem to be coins such as off-center strikes, double-denominations, truly rare mint errors (mules and the like), certain of the proof errors that have come on the market lately (although this is mixed--some are less due to the number of known examples changing with the recent accumulation(s) that have been dispersed onto the market, and it really is a coin by coin situation), off-metals, major double-strikes, mirror brockages, and really anything visually dramatic.
Weaker areas of the error coin market include series such as seated dimes, Liberty nickels, three cent nickels, and series such as these which, in fairness, have long lacked "strong demand" compared to more popular series such as Morgan dollars, Memorial cents, Washington quarters, and the like, but which generally have not kept up with increases in pricing that are seen in the more popular coin series.
Some of these less popular series, as well as errors on coins such as pre-1965 silver coin errors, Susan B. Anthony dollars, 3 cent nickels or silvers, seated errors, bust errors, buffalo nickel errors, Roosevelt dimes are areas of opportunity where the series have seen little if any price appreciation as a whole, and so prices are perhaps "behind the times" in terms of increases in prices. Consider starting a mint error collection of these and you will have little competition, and more opportunities to acquire some great mint errors at relatively low prices.
If you have any questions or need help tracking down mint errors for your collection, feel free to email: [email protected]
A few weeks ago the Central States coin show was held in Schaumburg, IL. It was the first time the show had been held since the 2019 show was held, due to the events over the last few years. It was great to be back at the show, and especially since it was so well attended both with dealers and collectors. Admittedly, it has historically been a slower show for mint errors (although a great show for dealers in U.S. coins generally.) However, this year we had possibly the best Central States show we’ve ever had, with a decent amount of both buying and selling.
Attending shows in different parts of the United States brings a somewhat different group of dealers and collectors. Many dealers travel to all the major shows regardless of the location, but there are always some dealers who never make it to shows other than relatively local ones. Such is the case with Central States, and it was nice to see some of our local customers as well as dealers we do not see as often at other shows. Traveling to shows across the U.S. allows us a more broad opportunity to acquire mint errors, as well as to sell to customers, and so we try to attend shows from the West Coast to the East Coast.
Recent major auctions have been overall quite strong. Prices for lower value pieces (under $500) has moderated somewhat (they were to the moon high prices over the last year or two) and are now much more in line with what historical pricing has been. Middle priced items in the $500-$5000 range are generally strong, with only certain error types or series not participating in the strong price trend. Scarce off-metals and the like have been going for solid prices most of the time. High end coins, in the $5,000+ category are also strong. Some of the prices we’ve seen of late have been moon money, while others are just selling for “full price.”
Overall, the market is strong for most mint errors, and although there are certain errors or types which are selling at more traditional, lower prices, probably 70% of coins are selling for strong prices in our opinion.
We do our best to keep prices at fair, moderate retail levels, and generally “ignore” prices that are aberrations from the average price trend for a particular error type of category. We price based upon a number of factors including:
2.Auction prices realized
3.The cost to buy coins from any of our many sources
4.The particular coin’s attributes are all taken into consideration—is it the finest known, unique, or otherwise special—or on the flip side is it none of those things and might even have a problem or two, and so deserve a lower price than one would typically expect.
Accurate and fair pricing is something we continually strive for, and our goal is to always give our customers a good value.
Our next coin show will be the Baltimore this June. If you are planning to attend the show, we looking forward to seeing you there! In the meantime, keep an eye out for new items being listed on our website over the coming weeks, and also if you have not yet signed up for our email list for mint errors, consider signing up so that you will get an email when we list fresh coins.