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Errors.  The mistakes on coins and medals – actually very few contain errors – are of design or manufacture. To the credit of all who are involved in their creation, from the artists who create the design to the pressmen who strike the final piece, and to editing in particular, only the tiniest fraction of the smallest percent of all coins and medals contain errors. However, because they are "different" and can be considered a separate variety, error pieces are of interest to collectors and numismatists. They are widely collected, particularly sought after by collectors, perhaps because of their scarcity, and a large argot language has evolved depicting these pieces. But it is still a tribute to a field where so many errors can occur, that so few do.

However, as with all of man's endeavors, there are man's foibles that creep into such production. There are four types of errors which can occur in coin and medal manufacture; they take the following forms:

1)     Errors of design – an error of illustration in the device, as incorrect clothing,

an incongruous object, or inaccurate or inappropriate design element, design error.

2)  Errors of inscription – wrong lettering or figures; an incorrect fact, a misspelled word or name, or incorrect date, blundered legend or blundered inscription.

2)     Errors of die making – an error of cutting the die; a slip of the burin, a warped pattern, a broken tracer, a doubling of design – an error of man or machines, die flaw or blundered dies.

4)  Errors of production – the flaws of manufacture, the mint errors of making a physical object, the many mistakes which can occur in production (see


The first three of these four types are errors in the die (or in the mold for cast pieces). There is no way the error will not show up in the pieces struck (or cast) from these instruments of production. Such errors would be multiplied as many times as the number of pieces struck. The fourth error can occasionally create a fugitive piece in the production process, as a single mis-struck piece. The later are mostly caught by inspection, the former only sometimes.

Errors on coins.  Ninty-five terms are listed in this encyclopedia that could be an error in the manufacture of coins. These range from blundered bullion where the metal formulation is incorrect through every succeeding step of the coin making process. (A list of most of these are found in the Study Guide as class 06.9–Blanking and Striking Errors, others are found in 05.9 Die Anomalies and elsewhere.)

To categorize or summarize these mint errors follows these steps of the coin making process:  bullion errors, planchet flaws, blanking anomalies, setup errors, feeding anomalies, die breaks, rim breaks, striking anomalies, impressed errors, filled dies, collar anomalies, edge blunders and ageing dies.

The illustrations on the following pages illustrate and identify a large number of

these error pieces. Each has their own entry within this encyclopedia. They are explained and their cause is identified in these entries as well.

Errors on medals.  It is a tribute to medal publishers –in addition to the artists,

sculptors, engravers, pressmen, finishers – that so few medals contain errors. But medal editing must be credited with the aptness, accuracy and attractiveness of every medal production.

Frederick H. Betts, in the introduction to his brother's book, American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals, repeats the statement:  "It is safer to quote a medal than a historian." It was probably his brother, the great early American medallic numismatist C. Wyllys Betts, who said it first after studying and cataloging thousands of medals. This statement is considerable testimony to the accuracy and integrity of the design, wording and production of all medals.

If an artist goes to as much trouble as he does to create a medallic design, and a medallic firm to produce it, both knowing their work will be in existence for possibly thousands of years, then their attempts for accuracy is unsurpassed. Generally, the viewer can trust the data and designs found in medallic art – truth abounds in permanent artistic metal form.

Errors of inscription are, perhaps, the most common. An incorrect date is most often encountered, as the incorrect year of birth on the Stephen Collins Foster Hall of Fame for Great Americans Medal of 1963 (63-1-16). It was later corrected, so two varieties are in existence.

Errors of words and letters range from the simple to the complex. The Spanish "la" was the correct form for the "al" which appeared on the reverse of the Porfiro Diaz Medal of 1909, struck by Tiffany & Co. (Grove P-136B, P-137A). A complex word – "humanitarian" on the Wilburt Cornell Davison Medal of 1969 (69-63-1), was first struck with the last two letters transposed.

George Hampden Lovett included the wrong state abbreviation on a Fredericksburg Lodge Medal (Baker 296) – he engraved MD instead of the correct VA before correcting his error.  Other words on American medals have been noted as misspelled: "Elisabeth" (16-5), "Conrad" (32-19), and "textile" (70-128).  Undoubtedly there are others.

Errors of Roman numbers have also occurred. An example is the Charlotte Marriage Medal of 1835 in the date of her marriage January 7, 1814 (should be 1816) with transposed VI. A Maria Anna Prague Coronation Medal (made in the 20th century, circa 1930) gives the year of coronation as mcccxxxvi for 1336 (which should have been 1836 – the Roman D was omitted).

Most of these errors are created by the artist in preparing the model. How can an artist do this? Perhaps it is easy for the artist to misspell a word because he is so conscious of how it looks rather than what it says. His mind is filled with shapes and their interrelated spacing, more so, than apparently the correct sequence of letters.

Need for coin and medal editing.  Thus there is a critical need for every coin and medal design to be edited; to be examined by a knowledgeable person before the model is made into a die and checked again before the die goes into production. The editor should have a feeling for the medium, knowledge of the past, the tenacity of a proofreader and a concern for every detail on models and dies. The editor must examine and certify the accuracy of every element of the design.

[Sidebar  MACO 69-14-3]

                  Error of Broken Tracer                  


       A rare error in die making occurred in 1969 when   

  Medallic Art Company was preparing the die for the      

  Galen Medal in the Presidential Art Medical Series.     

  The tracing point broke on the third and final cutting  

  of the 1 3/4-inch die! All detail in the center was     

  accurate and perfect. About a quarter inch from the     

  border the tracing point broke and fell away.           


       What was tracing the dieshell pattern thereafter   

  was the jagged stub of the tracer. The mishap went         unnoticed until the die was hardened and a handfull of  

  specimens were struck.                                  


       Then it was noticed the obvious two tops of the    

  banner across the reverse containing several figures.   

  The broken trader had to be replaced and a new correct  

  die had to be cut in its place.                         


O2 {1894} Betts, p IV.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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