My numismatic adventure began on a Sunday evening in late February 2007. I happened across a Craigslist ad for a few odd coins for sale. I investigated further and then decided to call the number in the ad. As it turns out the seller was a bank teller and she had just purchased these strange coins at her branch on Friday morning. Through our conversation I was able to learn all about the just released Washington Presidential dollars with the new edge lettering, and much more importantly, the ones that were missing the edge incused lettering that she had been finding at work.
Even though I was a newbie to the coin collecting world, I had always been fascinated with error coins. I remember being in grade school 30 some odd years ago and picking up a book on coin collecting in the library. In this particular book they pointed out that if an error coin (they called them Fido’s) made its way into circulation the value would usually be dramatically increased just by the fact that it had a mistake on it. From that point forward I had always dreamed of finding a rare error coin.
I was immediately set into action when I found out there could be more of these coins available locally and I was up at the crack of dawn and in the car on my way to my local bank. Fortunately I had just sold a couple of used motorcycles the week before, so I had ample cash on hand to go out and purchase about 12,000 of these new coins and sort through them all for the errors.
I arrived at my bank’s drive-thru a few minutes before they opened and I thought to myself, how am I going to get them to sell me all of these coins. When the teller came to the window I asked if they had the new dollar coins. She said they did and asked “how many would you like?” I said “I’ll buy all that you will sell me.” She gave me a sort of confused look then produced about 30 rolls of the new coins from under her counter. I promptly purchased them all and drove to the nearest parking spot to inspect them. I felt like Charlie opening his first Wonka bar in search of the golden ticket as I opened the first roll, carefully peeling back the paper, only to notice nothing but edge lettering on all of the coins in the roll. I opened 4 or 5 more and they were all the same. I had a feeling immediately that if a few of the rolls in a given branch didn’t contain the errors then none of them would.
On to the next bank to try again, and similar to the first one, I received a bewildered look followed by the handing over numerous bags of rolled coins. Again I checked through them only to find all normal coins.
Then I went to an Amsouth bank next (now called Regions bank) and the lobby was now open so I walked up to the teller and asked to purchase the new coins. Unfortunately this banks policy on selling the new dollars was not as liberal as the previous ones. The teller only agreed to sell me 3 rolls, so I took them and returned to my car once again hoping to find the elusive error coins. As I opened the rolls the smooth edged coins in the roll stood out in stark comparison to the ones bearing the normal lettering, it was an incredible rush! I just paid $75 for 3 rolls of 25 coins that contained at least 15 errors total. At this point in time they were selling for around $300 - $400 and I am thinking that I have thousands of dollars worth of coins in my hands and rightly so!
At this point I enlisted every person I had available to relieve this branch of its golden toned booty. My wife and some of my friends went into the branch and exited with 2 rolls each. At this point I am really getting excited about the prospect of this whole thing, but convincing the others to abandon work and join in on my soon to be 3 day saga was not in the cards. Another one of his wild schemes they no doubt thought. Could I blame them? My track record on investments and such was pretty lackluster up until this point. I however knew the significance of this find and would not be deterred, so off I went, blackberry in hand, mapping out every Amsouth location from St. Augustine to Jacksonville Florida.
Every branch was different, some would just sell all the coins they had without question, and others wouldn’t sell me any due to the fact that I was not a banking customer. That soon changed as I opened a brand new Amsouth account at one particularly helpful branch.
The next stop I made was at the local grocery store. Now I am armed and delicious, and taking aim at troublesome tellers with cheesecakes, pies and cookies of all sorts! If they would only sell 2 rolls of Presidential Dollars to me, a loyal Amsouth customer, how many would they sell to a man with a cheesecake in one hand and a roll of hundreds in the other? The answer was in most cases, almost all or all of them! When the treats were ineffective I was still able to convince some concerned tellers to sell me there coins by trading out some of the rolls I had purchased earlier from locations not containing errors, so they would still have dollars to offer to their adoring public.
I set out for home that night after the last bank had closed and I noticed that my vehicle was actually leaning to the right from the weight of the coins on the passenger floorboard and seat! I arrived home and immediately set up a workstation at the dining room table and began the sorting process. The amount of errors per roll generally averaged 10% - 15% in almost every roll. The odd roll would have only 1 or 2 errors and a few had as many as 7 or 8.
After a long but exciting night of careful sorting I set back out early in search of more locations. I changed to a faster car too. This actually helped me out more than just being quicker around town, because I was able to revisit a few of the same drive thru’s from the first day without being noticed.
The second day actually netted more than the first because I did not waste my time with the non error bearing banks. The third day consisted of me turning in several thousand of the normal coins to my bank to get some much needed capital and resume hunting. They were quite confused about this action and I did not tell them much, just please and thank you. They understood a little better a month later when I started making large deposits and making frequent trips to the safety deposit boxes.
I was able to find a few pockets of coin here and there on the third day but for the most part they had been bought out. Some banks had a lot of loose dollar coins to offer that had been returned for some odd reason, but very few locations had whole unmolested rolls left.
You aren’t just buying any error coin, you are buying one with a great story behind it!