Coin mistakes take many different forms, and some are more valuable than others. Older coins were more error-prone than modern coins, which are made with sophisticated machinery and inspection techniques. But since many more coins are made today, the number of mistakes, especially minor ones, that slip through is higher.
What Are Strikethrough Errors?
Striking errors occur when the coin is mis-struck rather than being made from bad dies. They are rarer and take a number of forms. The most common and likely to make its way into circulation is a mistrike known as a strikethrough.
A strikethrough occurs when a foreign object or substance makes its way onto a die or blank and leaves its impression on the coin. Sometimes the die is oily or greasy, causing the impression to be weak. Other strikethroughs happen when objects like metal shavings, string, staples, or pieces of fabric fall into the striking are and leave an impression on the coin.
The value of strikethrough coins varies widely, depending mostly on how visible and how rare the mistake is.
How Valuable Are Strikethrough Coins?
Error coins are one of the most affordable collecting subsets, having only recently gained traction among collectors. While some rarer, more obvious strikethroughs, especially those on gold and silver coins, can go for thousands, there are many that sell for only slightly more than face value. That makes them attractive to many collectors who expect their value to increase over time.
As with all collectible coins, rarity and condition are prime determinants of price, but error coins add a third element—the type of error. For instance, a small strikethrough of a stray metal fragment is worth much less than a fabric overstrike that covers all or a large portion of a coin’s design. The identifiability of the overstruck object can also affect the price with clear impressions often more valuable.
Older mistake coins are generally more highly sought by collectors, both for historical value and the fact that fewer survive. Some modern mistakes bring high prices though, so it pays to always be on the lookout in case one shows up in your change.
The only accurate way to determine an error coin’s value is to have it appraised by an expert who can identify the type and rarity of the error.
How Do I Recognize a Strikethrough Error?
Part of the fun of collecting error coins is learning what the various errors are and how to tell them from post-production flaws caused by mishandling or bag marks. The differences can be subtle, so error coin collecting requires an in-depth knowledge of minting history and production methods.
This page from ErrorRef.com lists the many different types of striking errors along with a few illustrations. There’s also a publication devoted to extensive coverage of error coins available online at minterrornews.com.
Collecting Error Coins
There are thousands of error coins still in circulation, so if collecting them appeals to you, learn as much as you can about the subject. Books and articles are available online, and there’s an organization called CONECA devoted to the education of error and variety coin collectors. Visit their website, conecaonline.org, for more information.