Down through the years, error coins were identified as Freaks, Irregulars, Defects and Oddities. Then someone came up with the idea of creating a name from the first letters of these descriptions. So, error coins were also called F.I.D.O.’s. Today, numismatists recognize them as “Mint Errors” and/or “Error Coins”.
The error coins with titles such as Spiked Head, Three-Legged Buffalo, Floating Roof, Mustached Roosevelt etc., are recognized as “Oddities”, a title which tends to separate them from the error coin hobby and place them in a category of their own. I prefer to call them “Error-Oddities”. My reasoning for this is because they are formed by minting errors and I hope by renaming them will give them a new beginning and in time, bring about more acceptance by coin dealers and collectors alike.
The first step in understanding Error-Oddity coins is to know what they are and how they “fit in” to the error coin hobby. So, let me begin the definition of “oddity”, according to Webster’s Dictionary-----Queer, eccentric, strange, out-of-the-way, outside the reckoning----and I will add, different from what was intended. These words and definitions basically describe what mint errors and error-oddity coins are. They are coins that were produced at the U. S. Mints and were formed by an accident, malfunction or human error anytime during the minting process and the designs of the coins were altered to look different than what was intended.
Next we must understand how Error-Oddities originate from minting errors. The best way for me to explain it is to list an example of the creation of an error coin and how that same error can also create an error-oddity coin.
Let’s start with a Cracked Die error. The Lincoln One Cent “striking die” became brittle after striking thousands of Lincoln cents and a crack formed on the die from the rim at the 3:00 position to the front bust of Abraham Lincoln. From then on, a jagged raised line will appear at the same location of numerous Lincoln cent planchets that were struck with that cracked die. Those Lincoln Cents will have a minor error and will be recognized as a “Cracked Die” error coin.
Now, let’s take another Lincoln Cent “striking die” that formed a crack from the rim at the 12:00 position to the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head. A raised line will now appear at the same location on all future Lincoln Cent planchets this cracked die strikes. This crack on the Lincoln Cent resembled a “spike” to someone many years ago and they titled it as a “Spiked Head” Lincoln cent.
Spiked Head Lincoln’s can be found on several different dates of Lincoln cents and are still available on current issued dates. This is only one example of how most Error-Oddities are created by a mint error, then given a special title.
Now, just because that coin bears a minting error and that error formed an unusual and different design, and was given a special title “Spiked Head”, does not mean this coin warrants pricing that is several dollars higher than the mint error that produced it. The only way the price should increase is if the demand for that particular error-oddity increases. There have been and always will be those within our hobby who will try to make a “fast dollar” by putting a title on a coin, post a ridiculously high price on it and then advertise them as a “one-of-a-kind” and/or “low-mintage” oddity coin. This kind of activity should not be acceptable within the error coin hobby. Also, in my opinion, this has held back the popularity of the error-oddity hobby. The best way to decrease this “bilking” is to not purchase any of these over-priced coins. Another way to limit the sales of these coins, is to make all collectors aware of them. The Error World Coin Club does a terrific job in notifying their members of these type of listings on the internet auctions. So, all of you novice collectors-----BEWARE and please do not support those kind of sales. You will only be left with a coin that you may never recover your cost if you decide to try to sell it.
Some Error World Coin Club members who read this article, may not be familiar with Error-Oddity coins. Some members may not have taken the interest or time to collect Error-Oddity coins. And some members may separate them from the mint error coin hobby altogether. Some of you may just set them aside and store them with the rest of your “junk” coins. You held on to them because there was something “unusual” or “peculiar” about the coins and maybe, someday in the future, they would become more collectible. Whatever the reasons, Error-Oddity coins have not been very popular and collected by most collectors in the Numismatic world. Mostly only those oddities that are in higher demand and therefore realize higher prices, are more acceptable and collected. It is my desire to re-introduce the Error-Oddity Variety coins of all price ranges in a way that will help popularize them and be more acceptable in the mint error coin hobby.
I have been asked a few times, “Why would you want to waste your time and efforts trying to popularize a hobby that has been tried before and failed in the past?” I hope this article helps in answering that question. In the January, 1997 issue of Arnold Margolis’s “Error Trends Coin Magazine”, he was kind enough to allow me to write an article about the Lincoln Cent Floating Roof error-oddity and how it was under-rated and unrecognized in the error coin hobby. I wrote that article to draw more attention to that particular error-oddity. After that article was published, I noticed that error-oddity coin being offered for sale more frequently on eBay and Yahoo Auctions. The demand and price for them has actually increased and I strongly believe my article accomplished what I was aiming for. This is the same reason I am writing this article and hope it will be as successful as the Floating Roof article was. It is my desire to try to draw more attention in collecting Error-Oddities and I believe collecting and studying how they were formed would be a good start and “primer” for the beginning collector of mint error coins.
The majority of oddities are formed by “minor” mint errors. What a good way to introduce mint errors to the youth and novice collectors. I solidly stand by that if you want to collect error coins, it would be a good idea to study the minting process and learn how error coins are created at the U. S. mints. By first understanding minor errors and how they were formed, will be easier for youth or novice collectors to understand and identify most mint errors. Another good reason to be knowledgeable of the minting process is, it can help collectors to more easily identify “faked” or “man-made” errors. This type of activity seems to be on the increase as of late. It all falls in line with an old proverb, ”You must learn to crawl before you can walk.”
Another reason I am trying to create more acceptance of Error-Oddity coins is, they are plentiful and very affordable. There are hundreds of different Error-Oddities on all denominations of coins. They can be found from bank rolls to pocket change. Error-Oddity coins can be collected and displayed in coin albums just like any other error coin. The majority of Error-Oddity coins can be purchased at reasonably low prices. The demand for them has been low, so the their purchasing prices are low also. They are just another way of collecting error coins and can make minor errors more appealing to some collectors.
Now that the U. S. Mints have revamped their machinery and procedures, fewer mint errors will be produced. If they discover mint errors on coins, they destroy them and melt them down to coin metal stock. The error coin hobby is already realizing the results of the U. S. Mints actions. Fewer mint errors have been coming out of the mints since the year 2002. Will the mints new machines and procedures decrease the interest and members of the error coin hobby in the years ahead? It may, if we let it. Error coin collectors may have to “revamp” their style of collecting. Major mint errors will become available mostly from some collectors who may decide to sell some or all of their collections. I believe a way to keep our hobby intact and prevent collectors from leaving the hobby altogether, more attention should be given to the Error-Oddity coins. If this does happen, then the demand and prices for them will increase in time. Some members may not agree with me. But, please keep in mind, the U. S. mints first took away the RPM and Doubled Die errors. Now they are desperately trying to take away the major mint errors and it looks like they are going to succeed. However, I believe all will not be lost for our hobby. There are quite a few mint errors that will continue to be produced by the U. S. mints. Here is a “partial” list of errors that will be hard for the mints to cease production of and some of them will continue to form Error-Oddity coins;
Chipped Dies, Clashed Dies, Clogged Dies, Filled Dies, Cuds (all types), Blistered Planchet, Bubbled Planchet, Mechanical Doubling, Worn Dies, Polished Dies, Copper-washed, Rim Burrs, Rim Spurs, Laminated Planchets, Finned Coins, Struck-thru, Misaligned Dies, Missing Clad Layer, Unplated coins, Partial Collars, Rolling Fold, Rotated Reverse. To decrease the numbers of these error coins leaving the mints, they would have to inspect almost every coin leaving the mint. I do not think that will ever happen. Frank G. Spadone tried to popularize oddities with his eight editions of his book Major Variety and Oddity Guide of United States Coins.
After reviewing his books, I found some of his definitions and illustrations were improper. In my mind, one advantage of Mr. Spadone’s book was, he recognized the oddity variety coins and illustrated and listed them, even though some of those were questionable. He drew the attention of only a few coin collectors that found interest in oddity coins. I am one of those few.
Collecting Error-Oddities can be fun to share with family, friends and other collectors. They can be exciting and fun when you find a new type of Error-Oddity and create your own title for it. Plus, they can be found on all denominations of coins of almost all years coins were struck in the 20th century. I wonder how many oddities there are in circulation or in someone’s drawer, tin can or glass jar that have not been found yet?
Whether you are a dealer or collector, you apparently desire coins that are “peculiar” and “odd”, which gives reason you should think about including Error-Oddity coins in your inventories and coin collections. I hope this article has given some of you a better understanding of the Error-Oddity coin hobby and how it can be a fun, exciting and a more acceptable hobby of the future.
Photos of some of my Error-Oddities in my coin album can be viewed on EW3. I will be posting more photos in the days ahead. Good hunting and enjoy!!