Ken Potter's Educational Series ...

States Quarter Die Chips, Breaks, etc.
Error or Variety?

By Ken Potter - NLG
Originally Presented In The  Collectors Universe Library
March 13, 1999

Here is a 1999-P Pennsylvania State Quarter Boasting A Minor Die Chip Between
The U and E or VIRTUE

If the barrage of inquiries in regard to "minor errors" on the new Delaware quarter-dollar coins is any indication of whatís to come, error/variety specialists can expect the blitz to continue unabated for at least the next ten years as each of the new States commemorative designs is introduced into circulation. Itís not that there are necessarily anymore problems than usual (though there may be for some issues), but that collectors tend to take a closer look at new issues and understandably find more variations than on the ignored designs.

Iíve been receiving dozens of inquiries on common die variations that can be found on all coin designs worldwide. Leading the pack is inquiries on such items as, die cracks, die chips, die scratches, die flow lines, missing or weak designs due to die abrasion, die deterioration doubling, and minor clash marks.

Itís interesting that the majority of inquiries refer to these variations as "errors" but the fact is all of these items are inherent to normal die fatigue or the use of dies, occur on most dies (that see a full life) and are not true errors. Some collectors refer to them as varieties (if theyíre collected as such), while others tend to relegate them to the status of "die markers" (when their primary purpose is as an aid in the identification of another die variety of greater importance on the same coin); still, others loosely refer to some of these variations as errors in spite of an obvious conflict in logic. While some specialists may argue against my position, I point out that all of these variations result in perfectly acceptable coins that fall within the tolerances allowed by the Mints and are not considered "errors" by the issuing authorities. If the Mints donít consider them errors - how can we?

For the purpose of clarification, an error is due to mishap or a breakdown in the process that falls outside of what is considered normal operation (though it may occur frequently). If all tooling is maintained, is gauged properly and the planchets are of proper specifications, it is normal for planchets to feed into the collar in a centered position and be struck "on center." If any part of the process breaks down, then misstrikes or errors may occur.

A useful analogy that helps one understand the difference between a variety and an error is in examining the aging process of a human being. As living beings, we age; our skin wrinkles, our hair grays, our eyes weaken, we develop aches and pains and eventually succumb to disease or a failure of one or more of our organs, etc. These conditions are not the result of accident or mishap but are normal to living life and aging. On the other hand, if we fail to look both ways and walk in front of a car and get hit and lose a leg, we've made a gigantic error!

There are of course some gray areas here and many unanswered questions within my simplistic response to those who have been asking me about the new "Delaware Errors." You will find the "error or variety" debate, endless and at some point it is best to just pick a position and become comfortable with it.



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