By Jon P. Sullivan
One of the most popular error types is the missing clad-layer. The obvious nature of the error type and the ability to collect the coins on a date-by-date basis make them a favorite amongst collectors: especially state quarter collectors. In fact, one of the hottest and most active areas of the error coin market are state quarters with missing clad-layers; certain of the missing clad-layer state quarters worth over $1,000!
Clad coins are made from a sandwich-like combination of 3 layers of metal, which are bonded together at a molecular level. If you look around the edge of a clad coin, the copper core can be seen in the form of a reddish-brown ring around the edge. The error occurs when one of those outer clad nickel layers splits off and falls away from the planchet, exposing the copper layer either before strike or after strike. This error type is not to be confused with a split planchet error; it’s very similar and occurs in nearly the same manner, but it is categorized separately and never occurs on clad coins.
There are several series of clad coins which have been produced by the U.S. mints, and which can be found with missing clad-layers. These include 40% silver Kennedy halves, Ike dollars, and quarters, which are made from outer layers of silver and with an inner layer of copper. Also, there are copper/nickel clad dimes, quarters, halves, and dollars, which are made from outer layers of nickel and with a center layer of copper. This copper/nickel metal combination has been used for most circulating coinage minted from 1965-present. The only other type of clad coinage is the manganese/copper clad metal, which has been used for producing the Sacagawea dollar coins, the Presidential dollars, and the Native American dollar coins.
There are two ways in which the clad-layer can be missing or split off from the copper layer. The most common is if impurities were in-between the clad-layers when the clad planchet strip was being bonded together. If this occurred, the clad-layers would not bond together properly, which could result in one of the nickel layers splitting off before or after the coin was struck. The resulting coin would be missing either part of, or all of, its clad-layer. The 2000-P Maryland 25c shown in Image #1 is an example of a 100% missing clad-layer coin. Although not visible in the black & white photo, the coin’s reverse (state side) is 100% copper, because the nickel layer split off before the coin was struck.
Another way this error type can occur is if one of the nickel (outer) layers of planchet strip did not overlap the copper core correctly during the strip bonding operation. If this occurred, one of the clad-layers of strip would be somewhat shorter than the other nickel and copper layers. The result would be a coin of the correct thickness, but with one side partially or wholly missing its clad layer missing. This is probably what
happened to the 1997-P Washington 25c in Image #2. On the coin’s obverse, there is a small piece of clad-layer still on the coin, but the rest of the obverse is entirely copper.
Missing clad-layer coins can be found with varying degrees of missing nickel clad-layer. If there is any nickel clad-layer remaining on the coin, the missing clad-layer is described based upon the percentage of exposed copper. For example, the 1997-P 25c in Image #2 would be described as having an “80% missing obverse clad-layer.” This is because 80% of the nickel layer is missing. If the nickel layer is completely missing, as is the case with the coin in Image #1, the coin would be described as “100% missing reverse clad-layer,” or simply, as “missing reverse clad-layer.” Partial missing clad-layers are always worth less than fully missing clad-layers, although, in point of fact, partial-missing clad-layers are scarcer than fully-missing clad layers.
All missing clad-layer coins are collectible, but state quarters are the most sought after series for missing clad-layers. Collectors enjoy trying to find “one of each” of the states with the clad-layer missing, and some collectors even try to find an example of the error type for every state, and additionally for both sides of the coin! Missing clad layers can also be collected by date. An example of this would be a collector of dimes attempting to find an example of a missing clad-layer for all the dates/mints struck from 1965-present. The obverse is always the most desirable side to have with a missing clad-layer. Coins with reverse missing clad layers selling for less than half of what obverses sell for. The only exception to this rule is for state quarters, since collectors find the reverse, or “state side”, the most interesting and desirable.