The Washington Presidential Dollar, the first in the series of Presidential Dollars that is issued by the U.S. Mint at the rate of four per year until at least the year 2016, emerged from the United States Mint with a stupendous number of errors. Although most collectors expected that there would be an "adjustment period" while the Mint adapted to its new edge lettering process, the resulting explosion of so-called "Godless Dollars" was unprecedented in both type of error (omitting four major inscriptions) and scope (estimated in the hundreds of thousands by some experts).
When you have a large percentage of the population checking their new Presidential Dollars for errors, it should come as no surprise that a whole cornucopia of minting errors, major and minor, emerged in a very short time. This photo gallery is a tour through the best and most interesting error coin types discovered during the Washington dollar error eruption of 2007.
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First Washington Plain-Edge Dollar to Be Listed on eBay
This photo isn't the best in the world, but it's a historically important one to those interested in Washington Presidential Dollar error coins: It is the first plain-edge dollar to be listed on eBay! Ironically (since most of the frenzy would take place in Florida), this first known publicly sold specimen was found in the Chicago area from Denver Mint coins by "Chicago Ron" Guinazzo. Ron posted it on eBay around 10 pm on Feb. 15, 2007 (the first day the Washington dollars were sold to the public). It sold for $612.
However, nearly two weeks before Chicago Ron's auction began, there were already harbingers of things to come. An email from a central (bank) vault manager named Heather on Feb. 2, 2007, said, "We received the new Washington dollars from the Fed in Jacksonville, and about a third of them have lettering on the rim that is right side up, 1/3 have it upside down, and 1/3 have none at all. Is this normal for these coins? Love your site and thanks for all the help."
Who could ever have guessed how big this would become?Continue to 2 of 67 below.
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An Early Philadelphia Plain-Edge Dollar Specimen
This plain-edge Washington dollar was found in Florida from among the coins issued by the Philadelphia Mint.Continue to 3 of 67 below.
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Photo of a Godless Plain-Edge Presidential Dollar
This photo has an interesting way to show off the plain edge on this so-called "Godless Dollar." Of course, you can only look at so many coin photos where the focus is the missing edge lettering, so check the next slide.Continue to 4 of 67 below.
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Plain Edge Dollars From Both Mints
There is a big color difference between the plain edge coins from the Philadelphia Mint (upper coin) and the Denver Mint (lower coin). You can see the copper core between the clad layers in the Philly specimen, but the Denver specimen shows an edge that is about the same color as the obverse and reverse.
The logical question, then, is, "if we can tell them apart, how come the grading services are slabbing them all as generics?" The answer is that the Denver coins display a minor secondary error of their own, in that the copper clad layer is supposed to show. The theory is that the plating bath, which imparts the bright, shiny gold color to the coins, had too much dissolved copper in it, which was causing the solution to adhere to the copper core as well as the surfaces. Because this was considered to be an anomalous event that couldn't be relied on consistently, and because this plating bath could presumably be reproduced (faked) outside the Mint, the grading services elected to err on the side of conservatism and not indicate the mint of origin on the slab inserts based on the color of the edges alone.
The only sure way to prove which mint a plain edge Presidential Dollar came from is to find the properly mint-marked coins from the same dyes, and present them for grading and encapsulation in pairs.Continue to 5 of 67 below.
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Ripping Wrappers and Finding Plain-Edge Dollars
People who sent photos such as this one show that opening the coin wrappers only partially like this isn't for speed of searching. It was to protect the plain-edge dollars from unnecessary extra handling. Although many folks from Florida who kept their finds intact within the rolls didn't do it with this purpose in mind, by keeping their rolls intact, they greatly increased their chances of finding a die match to a mint marked coin.
If you submit the coins in pairs, with one coin being a plain-edge dollar, and the second coin being a properly edge lettered dollar from the same die pair, some grading services will grant you the originating mint designation on the insert. Check with them first, though, because not all services are offering this, and you must do the die matching yourself, which takes a certain amount of expertise and nitpicky patience to accomplish.Continue to 6 of 67 below.
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Thousands of "GW MELS" Ready to go to Market
This striking photo brings the subject home regarding just how many plain-edge dollars are floating around out there. Plain-edge Washington Dollars are being called "GW MELS" by some error experts. GW means "George Washington" and the MEL part stands for "Missing Edge Lettering." It's sort of funny how the hobby seems to have gone full circle with the terminology being used to describe these dollars.
When the Presidential plain-edge dollar story first broke in the numismatic media, everyone was using the term "missing edge lettering" because that's what it was, plain and simple. But "missing edge lettering" has a lot of syllables in it, and it's a mouthful when you're chatting about coins with friends, so soon it evolved into "plain edge" and "smooth edge." These terms were a great deal shorter, and they were easier to say.
Then, the mainstream media dubbed the error the "Godless Dollar" and this was the byword of choice for a couple of weeks, but slowly "plain edge" gained currency over the others, particularly over "smooth edge." "Smooth edge" had come to be perceived of as describing faked plain edge dollars, because anybody who had looked at a genuine plain edge dollar under a 10-times loupe could see that it was anything but smooth. The fakes, however, really were smooth, thanks to dremels and polishing wheels.
So, how did this turn into "Missing Edge Lettering"? The grading services gave this designation to describe this variety on the slab inserts. But as noted, "Missing Edge Lettering" is a real mouthful, so dealers are using the term MEL instead. When they speak of GW MELS, they might be optimistic that future issues of the Presidential Dollars will also produce plain-edge varieties. So far, there are hundreds of JA MELS now (John Adams Presidential Dollars with Missing Edge Lettering,) so perhaps soon we'll have a TJ MEL, and even a JM MEL.Continue to 7 of 67 below.
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Scores of Stacks of Plain-Edge Dollars
Yes, this photo shows the better part of 2,000 plain edge dollar coins. Eric Dennis, spent the better part of two weeks going from bank to bank all day long, buying up every Presidential Dollar he could get his hands on. He opened numerous bank accounts when tellers would refuse to sell to anybody but bank customers. He even bought cheesecakes for helpful bank personnel to enjoy on their lunch breaks!
Already a successful businessman anyway, he saw an opportunity to make a huge profit and jumped in with both feet. He worked this opportunity for all he could, and in the end, you can see his results, stacked in scores of piles of 25 coins. Each one is a plain-edge Washington Dollar worth at least 75 to 100 times its face value.Continue to 8 of 67 below.
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Rolls of Presidential Dollars Ready for Grading
This photo is of all the coins Eric Dennis collected, all rolled up and ready to send in for grading. He turned down several dealers' offers to buy his hoard wholesale because he believed in himself and his ability to market his coins for a better price. Many of his coins were graded, and he tells me that MS-67 is a very difficult grade to get in these coins. Out of more than 2,000 plain edge coins, only a few came back MS-66 and 67. Most of them came back MS-64 and 65. It took 17 years for a circulation strike U.S. Cent to make PCGS MS-70.Continue to 9 of 67 below.
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This Whole Box of 1,000 Washington Dollars Had 1 Error, But It Was Big!
M.S.B. of Southport, Florida had an experience quite a bit different than many in Florida. In his box of 1,000 Washington Dollars, he only found one error coin, but it was a doozie! It had nothing on it at all! The blank coin, called an "unstruck planchet" by the experts, completely missed the coin presses entirely! It missed the edge lettering machine, too, coming out of the mint with nothing but the upraised rim to prove it was from the Mint. Blank planchets such as M.S.B.'s sold for as much as $1,000 each on eBay!Continue to 10 of 67 below.
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999 Normal Presidential Dollars and 1 Error Coin
Here's another photo of M.S.B.'s blank coin. The 999 normal dollars depicted with it are a reminder of just how hard it is to find error coins in bank-wrapped rolls. You might search through thousands of Washington Dollars and found only a few very minor errors: a cracked clad layer (with a very teeny crack running across the face from rim to rim), and half a dozen embossed letter types (which some people persist in calling "dropped letter" types when they are not). It's important to know the difference between dropped letters and embossed letters.Continue to 11 of 67 below.
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This Blank Presidential Dollar is a 1 in 1,000 Find
Technically, this blank planchet is worthless, even though it came from the U.S. Mint in a sealed box of 1,000 Fed-wrapped Presidential Dollars. When a coin doesn't get struck with the devices and inscriptions that identify it as being legal tender, it has no value at all other than the metal it is made of. Fortunately, however, there's a bustling market for mint error coins and blank coins like the one pictured here sold for as much as $1,000 each on eBay in mid-March of 2007. M.S.B., the finder of this coin, states that a Florida coin dealer offered him $10 for it and told him it was common. This is a perfect example of why you should find a reputable coin dealer.Continue to 12 of 67 below.
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This Blank Planchet Shows a Cracked Clad Layer
This blank Presidential Dollar planchet presents an interesting question. What would have happened had this planchet been struck? If you look closely, you can see that there is a good-sized crack in the clad layer on this planchet. Due to the force of striking, the clad layer might have been destroyed, or it might have "bonded" to the core. Experts said that the layer would crack more, and probably come off completely, but a couple of experts thought that maybe the clad layer would bond.
The science behind evaluating minting errors through the years had to be done based on speculation because the U.S. Mint itself wasn't very forthcoming about its problems. Hopefully, the collector community and the Mint can build a better rapport in the future so that the lines of communication are more open, and people can deal with facts rather than speculation when it comes to understanding minting errors.Continue to 13 of 67 below.
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Blank Planchets Often Show a Lot of Damage
This photo, and the one following it, are the obverse and reverse of another blank Presidential Dollar planchet. As you can see, the planchet is banged up a fair bit. This is normal, actually, because it is expected that when the planchet gets struck by the dies and made into an actual coin, these scratches, dings, and other marks will get obliterated. In practice, however, not all coins lose their pre-strike damage upon striking. The mark of a real coin grading connoisseur is the person who can tell whether the damage on a given coin occurred before or after it was struck!Continue to 14 of 67 below.
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The Blank Planchet Shows Contact Marks on Both Sides
This is the reverse side of the previous planchet. Like its other side, this face also shows the same kind of pre-strike damage from contact with other planchets and other possible mishaps before its being struck. Most unstruck planchets that escape the Mint show similar damage, although perhaps not quite this bad.Continue to 15 of 67 below.
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This "Faceless Dollar" Got the Edge Lettering, but No Images!
This remarkable coin is the antithesis of the plain-edge dollar. Where the plain-edge dollars got the die strike but no edge lettering, this planchet got the edge lettering but no die strike! There were a lot of jokes about this type having been found shortly after the so-called "Godless Dollars" were noticed by the mainstream media.
Some of the best had to do with the finders of this coin, Mary and Ray Smith of Colorado, not being able to "make heads or tails of the coin they found." Supposedly, the only way they knew it was supposed to be a Presidential Dollar was because it was in a roll with other Presidential Dollars! Others believe that they had heard about the Presidential Dollar plain-edge coins being found en masse, and like many other enterprising Americans, they went to the bank and bought some rolls, probably hoping to get lucky and make a few extra bucks selling their finds on eBay.
Instead, they hit the PCGS jackpot and collected a $2,500 reward from PCGS president Ron Guth for being the first person to submit a blank Presidential planchet with edge lettering on it for grading.
Since this time, numerous fake plain edge dollars and fake "faceless dollars" have emerged, so if you're in the market to buy one, be sure you buy from an honest coin dealer or buy only coins in major grading service slabs.Continue to 16 of 67 below.
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Double-Edge Lettering Discovery Specimen
This is perhaps one of the most fascinating error types among the major Presidential Dollar errors. This coin, discovered by Shawn and Shelly Bell, was the first of maybe half a dozen of its type to emerge in the eight or 10 weeks following the release of the Washington Dollar. The coin made a presumably normal trip through the Philadelphia Mint until it got to the edge lettering station. For some reason, the coin went past the edge lettering die twice, resulting in two separate sets of inscriptions around the edge of the coin. The Bells found this coin fairly early in the Washington Dollar error-finding frenzy, and they went on to discover several other interesting errors.Continue to 17 of 67 below.
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Another View of the First Reported Double-Edge Lettered DollarContinue to 18 of 67 below.
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One More Look at the Discovery Specimen of the Double-Edge Letter ErrorContinue to 19 of 67 below.
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Doubled-Edge Lettering Is Seen on This Presidential Dollar
This set of plates depict the Newell "Doubting Thomas" Specimen of the doubled-edge lettering variety of Washington Presidential Dollars. Here is the story, as related to by the finder's son, Bill Newell:
"Doubting Thomas" Newell, Bill's father, wanted nothing to do with the Presidential Dollar error frenzy which was swamping his home state of Florida. Although some folks in Florida would eventually find thousands of plain edge dollars, "Doubting Thomas" didn't figure that any of that good luck would ever come his way. His son encouraged him to buy a couple of rolls of coins, "just to see," but Thomas was adamant. None of this tomfoolery for him!
Finally, Bill decided to just go ahead and buy some rolls anyhow. He took them over to his father's house and talked him into to taking a couple of them just for the heck of it. If no errors turned up, well, he could just spend them. His mother, Rose, who was a little more amenable to the project, selected a couple of rolls from the dozen or so that Bill had brought, and "Doubting Tom" grudgingly picked out a couple of rolls for himself. And then set them aside and forgot about them.
Rose opened her rolls but didn't find anything. Realizing that Tom wasn't likely to bother opening his without a lot of prodding, she encouraged him to do so, which he did, and he quickly scanned them to prove that there were no plain-edge dollars to be found there and what a waste of time the whole thing had been. But then he noticed that one of the coins looked a little funny on the edge, so he asked Rose to take some photos and send them to Bill.
Bill's wife, Cher, sent the photos along with a question asking if this coin was rare or worth anything. They sent the coin to error coin scholar Tom DeLorey so that he could see the coin and then send it off for grading.
NGC has graded this specimen MS-64 and the Newell family decided to dub it the "Doubting Thomas" Double-Edge Lettering specimen.Continue to 20 of 67 below.
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Photos of the "Doubting Thomas" Double-Edge Lettering Specimen
This is another set of views of the edge of the "Doubting Thomas" double-edge lettered Presidential Dollar.Continue to 21 of 67 below.
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Additional Photos Show Two Sets of Edge Lettering on this Dollar
This is the third set of photos of the "Doubting Thomas" Newell specimen of Presidential Dollar with two sets of edge lettering.Continue to 22 of 67 below.
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This Double Edge Lettering Specimen Is From the Denver Mint
The first two specimens of double edge lettering Washington Presidential Dollars came from the Philadelphia Mint. Not to be left out, however, the Denver Mint has also produced specimens of this amazing error type. This coin was found in the greater Chicago area, from coins minted at Denver.
A member of the Hillside Coin Club was going to bring a doubled-edge letter dollar to the meeting that night. The discoverer emailed the photo you see here.Continue to 23 of 67 below.
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Denver Mint Specimen of the Doubled-Edge Letter Dollar
This is another photo of the Denver Mint specimen of Presidential Dollar displaying two sets of edge lettering.Continue to 24 of 67 below.
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Presidential Dollar With Missing Reverse Clad Layer
This major error coin was found in Michigan by Mary C. The path to discovering just exactly what she had found is amusing. She had a Washington Dollar that has no gold on one side of the coin. She purchased it from a mint roll at the bank. The regular one weighed 8 grams and the other one weighed 5.7 grams.Continue to 25 of 67 below.
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NGC MS-64 Missing Reverse Clad Layer Presidential Dollar
Tom DeLorey photo-authenticated the error as a Missing Reverse Clad Layer, which was lost before striking, based on her image, the coin's weight, and physical appearance. Mary sent the coin off to NGC for grading, and it came back authenticated and graded MS-64.
She put it up for auction on eBay in a Category Featured auction, and it was only by a stroke of bad luck that she only got about $1,300 for it. Someone else listed another Missing Clad Layer Washington Dollar error coin, also graded by NGC, a couple of days after hers. The other coin, however, only sold for about $870, primarily because it wasn't featured.
The obvious lesson here is that if you have a major error coin to sell on eBay, spring for the $30 bucks or so to make it visible to your potential buyers.Continue to 26 of 67 below.
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Washington Dollar With 93 Percent Rotated ReverseContinue to 27 of 67 below.
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Rotated Die Axis on a Washington Presidential DollarContinue to 28 of 67 below.
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Struck Through Grease Washington Presidential DollarContinue to 29 of 67 below.
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Washington Dollar Struck Through Grease-Filled Die ErrorContinue to 30 of 67 below.
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Washington Dollar Is Missing a Chunk of the PlanchetContinue to 31 of 67 below.
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This Presidential Dollar Lost a Portion of the PlanchetContinue to 32 of 67 below.
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Washington Dollar Planchet Error: A Chunk of the Coin Is GoneContinue to 33 of 67 below.
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Another View of the Washington Dollar That Lost a ChunkContinue to 34 of 67 below.
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Washington Dollar Lost a Chunk of the Planchet SomehowContinue to 35 of 67 below.
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This Presidential Dollar Is Missing a Piece of the PlanchetContinue to 36 of 67 below.
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Cracked Clad Layer: Clamshell Error Coin
Out of all of the Presidential Dollar error coin photos, this one is one of the most interesting from an artistic standpoint. The coin in the photo has a nice "clamshell," or cracked clad layer, error that is evident 360 degrees around the entire circumference of the edge of the coin. The coin's owner and finder, Wayne Hunt, sent a set of coin photos that seemed to depict the cracked clad layer, but the expert wanted to know how deep the split went.
Since Wayne isn't an error coins guru, he wasn't sure how to describe what he was seeing in any better terms than he already had, so he had his camera do the work for him. The photo was meant to say that "yes, the split clad layer is split enough and deep enough to hold up my razor knife." He ultimately sent the coin to Tom DeLorey at Harlan J. Berk. The split was definitely visible to the naked eye, but the clad layer was very secure; there wasn't any chance of it separating from the core.
The coin wasn't damaged at all by the insertion of the blade. Wayne says he inserted it very carefully and didn't probe or cut with it.Continue to 37 of 67 below.
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Cracked Clad Layer (Clamshell Error) With Razor Knife EmbeddedContinue to 38 of 67 below.
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Cracked Clad Layer (Clamshell) Error Before the Razor PhotoContinue to 39 of 67 below.
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The Razor Dollar Clamshell Error With Normal CoinsContinue to 40 of 67 below.
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The Clamshell Error Coin Floating in Space With Other CoinsContinue to 41 of 67 below.
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Clash Marks Show on the Obverse of This Presidential DollarContinue to 42 of 67 below.
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Strong Clash Marks Show on the Reverse of This Presidential DollarContinue to 43 of 67 below.
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Another Specimen Shows Strong Clash Marks on the ObverseContinue to 44 of 67 below.
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Reverse Side of Previous Coin Shows "Extra Spike" Clash MarksContinue to 45 of 67 below.
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Good Sized Die Crack Runs From Rim to Center of ReverseContinue to 46 of 67 below.
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Die Crack Runs From Rim to Rim Beneath the BustContinue to 47 of 67 below.
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The "Wild Whisker" Die Crack Is a Common Type of Recurring CrackContinue to 48 of 67 below.
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Another Specimen of the "Wild Whisker" Die Crack TypeContinue to 49 of 67 below.
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A Third Specimen of the Common "Wild Whisker" Die CrackContinue to 50 of 67 below.
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The "Wounded Liberty" Die Gouge on the Presidential DollarContinue to 51 of 67 below.
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Another View of the "Wounded Liberty" Specimen on the Previous PageContinue to 52 of 67 below.
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A Different Die Specimen Showing the "Wounded Liberty" Die Gouge TypeContinue to 53 of 67 below.
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Close-Up View of "Wounded Liberty" Die Gouge in Previous PhotoContinue to 54 of 67 below.
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Interesting Die Gouge Looks Like Part of the Circular DesignContinue to 55 of 67 below.
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Die Polishing Caused the So-Called "Severed Head" Liberty ErrorsContinue to 56 of 67 below.
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The Die Polishing Removed Parts of Liberty's RobeContinue to 57 of 67 below.
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The Die Polishing Efforts Removed Part of Liberty's TabletContinue to 58 of 67 below.
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Another Version of the "Severed Head" VarietyContinue to 59 of 67 below.
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This Embossed Letter is Often Confused With a Dropped Letter ErrorContinue to 60 of 67 below.
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This is the First of Two Coins Showing a Backwards SContinue to 61 of 67 below.
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This Coin Also Has a Reversed S Embossed Into the EdgeContinue to 62 of 67 below.
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The Letter T Is Embossed Into the Edge of this DollarContinue to 63 of 67 below.
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The Exra Curl Error on the Presidential Dollars
A small die break in Liberty's hair gives the appearance of an "extra curl" to some folks. This die break is often erroneously attributed to a cud.Continue to 64 of 67 below.
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Partial Missing Edge Lettering Presidential DollarContinue to 65 of 67 below.
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Strike Doubling Caused Liberty's Gown to Shown on the Rim
This Presidential Dollar reverse shows "strike doubling," also called "mechanical doubling." The Statue of Liberty's gown appears on the rim of the coin because the dies bounced a little following the strike. Error coin purists consider such coins to be "damaged," but the average collector finds them to be pretty neat! They're not worth much, perhaps $10 or so on eBay. They are known for all Presidential Dollars released so far, although the example shown is a Washington Dollar.Continue to 66 of 67 below.
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Liberty's Gown Is Doubled Onto the Rim Due to Strike Doubling
When this coin was struck, the dies bounced a little after striking, causing a slightly off-center impression of Liberty's gown to appear on the rim of the coin. There is another example of this error on the previous page.Continue to 67 of 67 below.
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Part of the Edge Lettering Is Missing From This Dollar