Presidential Dollar Errors
Missing & doubled edge lettering and so-called upside down edge lettering
by Jack L. Earl
The new Washington presidential dollar was "officially released" on February 15, 2007 at a ceremony at the Grand Central Station Terminal in New York City where U.S. Mint director Edmund C. Moy and mint officials exchanged the new dollars for cash.
Within hours of their release enterprising sellers were selling them on eBay. And the first thing people were looking for was the elusive error coins. Almost immediately people were rewarded by finding three different error coins that are selling for significant premiums. But are these all really errors, and what are they worth? All of these errors involve the unusual (in contemporary U.S. coin design) edge lettering. One error involves the edge lettering being upside down and the other errors are with the lettering completely missing or doubled.
This edge lettering was instituted because the designers wanted to make the portraits as large as possible because of the small size of the coin. So the obverse has only the portrait and the inscriptions: George Washington at the top and 1st President 1789-1797 at the bottom. The reverse has a likeness of the Statue of Liberty and the inscriptions: United States of America and $1. So the usual mottos: E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust as well as the date and mintmark were moved to the edge of the coin.
The edge lettering proved to be a challenge to produce during the striking process partly because of the coins' three layer, manganese-brass clad composition. So the mint devised a two part system that would simplify the striking process and this explains the three types of errors. The process first involves striking the obverse and reverse on conventional presses and then the coins are moved to a second station where they are fed into an edge lettering machine the mint devised specifically for the Presidential dollars. The mint stated before they produced the coins that they would feed the coins into the edge lettering press as they came, they would not attempt to feed them in all face up.
So, are the so-called upside down edge lettering coins errors and are they scarce? The answer is no. And no. First, they are not errors. They were produced the way they are intentionally by the mint and it would be more correct to say that they are two varieties. And statistically fifty percent of the millions of Presidential coins should have the edge lettering up and fifty percent will have it down so one is not more scarce than the other. When the Washington dollars were first released, the so-called upside down edge lettered coins were offered as scarce error coins and were sold for up to twenty dollars or more each. I guess you could give these early sellers the benefit of the doubt and attribute it to their ignorance and not that they were trying to cheat someone. In one ad however, the seller said upside down lettered coins were so scarce that he had found only 4 of them after searching through hundreds of regular coins. Statistically that seems improbable but you never know. Just remember, even though they are still being sold on eBay, these coins are not errors and don't pay a premium for one.
The second error is missing edge lettering. Genuine coins with no edge lettering are mint errors. The explanation is quite simple, they were struck with the obverse and reverse designs on the coin press and then they were shipped without going through the edge lettering stage. Before the mint began producing the Presidential dollars I heard discussions between numismatists and it was pretty much expected that there would be some errors of this type and there was some speculation as to how much the coin would have to be shaved down to remove the lettering from the edge to produce a faked error coin.
The vast majority of these coins are genuine. There are fakes however and they can be easily made by turning down the edges. These coins have been reported by buyers as well as the grading companies. For more information on these coins and how they can be detected see our guide at:
The Washington plain edge dollars were produced in large quantities. Most of the coins were produced at the Philadelphia mint and the majority ended up in Florida. There are at least 50,000 certified by the 4 main grading services and best estimates put the probable mintage at 100,000 to 200,000 or more. The mintage of Adams plain edge dollars is much lower.
The third error is the dollars with double edge lettering. These dollars were also produced at the edge lettering machine, but were made by actually being put through the machine twice. The availability of these coins is just the opposite of the plain edge coins with the double edge lettered Adams dollars being quite common and the Washington dollars very scarce.
So what are they worth? At this time eBay appears to be THE market for these coins, although they are being sold through coin periodicals and at coin shops. I have been following them since I saw the first one listed on eBay.
When the Washington plain edge dollars first sold on eBay they sold for around $200 to $300. As the market has moved up and down, they have sold for less than $50 raw to as high as $2,000 for an MS67 certified coin. Currently they are selling for $50 to $75 raw or ungraded and for $100 or less graded MS64 to MS65 by PCGS or NGC. Outside of eBay, dealers have been offering them for around $100 retail. The Adams plain edge dollars are much scarcer and are selling for around $400 raw and about $500 graded MS64 to $700 in MS65.
The coins with double edge lettering are just the opposite, with Washington dollars being rare with only a handful known and worth hundreds of dollars and with the Adams dollars selling for $50 to $70 raw and around a $100 graded MS64 to MS65.
If you have the opportunity to examine the coins in person you may be able to cherry pick coins with added value. The prices noted in the paragraph above are for typical Adams dollars that have the edge lettering jumbled up at random and with letters overlapping and on top of other letters. The large majority of these error coins are of this type. One large dealer has been advertising them as Jumbled Letter Coins. But there are also a few coins where the letters fall into a pattern that simulates double struck coins, ie: II NN GG OO DD WW EE TT RR UU SS TT
If you have a chance to pick through a group of these coins look out for this type. If the lettering is neat looking it could sell for a good premium. I have seen these coins sell for up to $500 or more where the same coin with jumbled lettering would have only brought about $50.
These errors and others will continue but in much smaller numbers. The best place to search is under Coins & Paper Money > Coins: US > Dollars > Presidential and search for Errors and Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, etc.
Courtesy of Olympus Gold and Rare Coins