Building an Error Coin Collection
by Jon Sullivan
How are you assembling your mint error collection? There are many ways that the collector can do so, as mint errors are easy to customize to one’s individual preferences and taste. However, if a collector wants to have more of a systematically built collection, there is also the ability to create “sets” that are more akin to the conventional “date and mint” collections of coins, or acquiring the “finest known” set of graded coins. So here are some ideas on building your own error collection.
Mint Error Coin Collecting Ideas
(Above) ANACS Certified 1977 Quarter Struck on a Nickel Planchet MS64
Grade Based Sets
Since all the major grading services assign numerical grades to coins, the ability to create a “finest known” set is entirely possible at least to an extent. Because there are no population reports, and no registry sets for errors, the ability to know for sure if there is a finer example out there is impossible. However, acquiring the errors based on their high grade would be an ongoing and fun challenge. For example, a collector could build their collection based on acquiring all the state quarter off-centers from just the first year of the series, 1999, between 35-65% off-center, and with a minimum grade of MS65 or higher. This would be a 10 coins set of P&D coins. Such a collection that was based on just getting the off-centers would be fairly attainable with some searching, but the high grade would make it indeed much more difficult to acquire.
Other ideas for a grade set that would not require the coins be certified would be simply having some grade attributes that are required to fit into your collection, such as a 1959-2003 set of Memorial cents with all the coins being 40-60% off-center and being uncirculated with full red surfaces. Such a collection would be very challenging due to the “red” designation, although relatively inexpensive for most dates. These would not have to be certified since the precise numeric grade isn’t needed, but just the “uncirculated” and “red” designation.
(above: Shared with us by error collector Troy M. of Maryland, a collection of errors for the date 1970. The collection is comprised of errors for the year "1970", with many different error types within the set.
Date and Mint Sets
Many collectors aim for a complete date and mint set of a particular error type on a particular series, such as acquiring all dates and mints of cents on dime planchets, or nickels on cent planchets, or off-center Roosevelt dimes. There’s a myriad of ways if can be done. Just pick a series, an error type, and a grade range for the coins and keep track of it on an electronic or hand written document so you can reference it whenever you come across possible examples for your collection.
(Above) 1980 Nickel Off-Metal on a Cent Planchet
Some collectors enjoy a particular error type, such as missing clad layers, and will try to form a collection based on that error type. For example, a collector could build a 10c, 25c, 50c, and $1 set of missing clad layers. If they wanted a further challenge, they then could get the obverse and reverse of each, or try to acquire one or more of the super rare missing clad layers types such as a proof coin missing clad layer or a dual missing clad layer.
Another way would be to acquire a collection of Washington quarters from 1965-1998 with obverse and reverse missing clad layers. Such a collection would be very challenging, although likely attainable with enough persistence.
(Above) NGC Certified 1958 Wheat Cent Struck on a Cuba 1 Centavo Blank
What You Like
Many collectors just buy coins that they like. They seek errors with dramatic appearance or great rarity. If that is how you enjoy collecting errors, you are one of many, since it seems to be the most popular way of collecting mint errors as a whole. This gives the collectors great flexibility to buy everything from a cent on a washer to an off-center Ike dollar to a double-struck nickel. The possibilities are limitless!
(above: Collector Saul T. of New York, shared the above three coins in his collection, which are a complete set of U.S. off-metals on Washington quarters for the year "1970." For the 1970 Washington quarter series, these are the three U.S. off-metals you can get, being the 5c, 10c, and 1c.
Error Type Set
A traditionally popular way to build a collection is to buy one of each error type for a particular error coin design. For example, acquiring a collection of all major mint error types for the Ike dollar series, or for the Lincoln cent series. This is a fun way to build a collection, because it combines a lot of variety in terms of all the error types, and also is a logical, completable set with the end goal of buying all the error type variations that one can find for the series.
Also, consider having a goal of doing something with the collection when completed, such as writing an article on it for your hobby club publication, or exhibiting it at a large coin convention. There are many possibilities to enjoy the collection upon completion.
However you collect, find a way that you most enjoy, then build your collection within your financial budget, as well as in a way that gives you the most satisfaction. When it’s completed, find a way to share it with other collectors so we can all see what you built.