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Washington Presidential Dollars: Rare Authentic Errors

Updated on July 7, 2010

With collectables, the more rare, the better chance there is that the item will be valuable in the future. Over time (sometimes centuries) rare coins are known to get even rarer when specimens are melted down, lost or destroyed.

Error coins are also worth much more than standard issue coins because of scarcity and a mysterious allure that creates desirability. Numismatists are fascinated by curious mistakes that are made during the minting process.

While collecting the entire series of presidential dollars is great for hobbyists, more serious coin buffs should be interested in acquiring errors and rare dates while prices are most reasonable.

The U.S. Mint created a chronological schedule for presidential coins so that the early presidents were the first to be released. George Washington was honored on February 15, 2007 when his likeness was featured on the first golden dollar of the series.

Presidential dollars have no shortage of authentic errors being reported, many found on the first issued coin of George Washington. Some of the most sought after examples include errors on the rim, planchet, clad and misaligned axis coins.

Here we will be focusing on major mistakes and not minor crack and breaks.

“Godless” Washington

Although it’s debatable that the first year is more likely to have serious oversights, this was the case when a substantial number of Washington coins were minted without the inscription along the rim. “In God We Trust” and “E pluribus unum”, the motto first seen on the 1776 seal of the United States, are missing on these coins. It is now referred to as the “godless” coin among numismatists. This is the most common error reported to date. Roughly 80,000 to 100,000 Philadelphia Mint coins were released to the public.

Doubled Lettering Impression on Rim

Stamping machines can sometimes strike twice producing two clean set of letters superimposed on top of each other. This variety was reported to exist by Shawn and Michelle Bell. No coins with doubled lettering have hit the market for sale yet and only a handful are said to exist.

Blank Planchet with No Lettering Along Rim

This error isn’t much of a surprise. Blank Sacagawea dollars minted on a similar planchet are plentiful and it looks like blank presidential dollars may prove to be even more common as they are already selling on eBay. There are at least 75 of this variety confirmed and it’s possible there are 250 or more in the hands of collectors.

Blank Planchet with Rim Lettering Intact

A blank coin with lettering along the rim is outrageously unusual. Who could blame Ray and Mary Smith for holding on to it and resisting to sell? The couple has registered the coin with PCGS. This makes it the only known confirmed specimen.

Missing Clad Layer

Presidential dollars are clad coins, which means there is a copper core with layers of various metals on the inside while a thin layer of an alloy with a golden appearance is used on the outside. A Michigan resident has sent a coin missing the reverse clad layer to NGC. This is the only reported example to date.

Broken Planchet

If a planchet already has notch out of it, it’s possible for it to get stuck in the edge-lettering machine. Lettering is haphazardly minted before the break and then fades. Since the error is so random, each coin comes out unique. There are three types known.

Rotated Die Axis

An axis error occurs when the design is slightly tilted on one side when compared with the other. In this case the liberty image was rotated about 94 degrees. No coin is on an absolute perfect axis and there are expectable tolerances the mint follows. Only one coin is rotated enough to be considered an error.

Getting a Washington Error Coin

Most of the major errors out there are so rare that it is next to impossible to find one for sale. The exceptions are the more common errors: the “godless” Washington and blank Washington with no inscription.

Always seek out a reputable dealer, as fakes can be tough for beginners to spot. eBay has good sellers that are trustworthy and also unscrupulous sellers with fake error coins for sale. If you decide to buy online, be sure that the seller has been doing business on eBay for a few years at least and has a feedback score of 98% and above.


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