In addition to rumors, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about what the numbers on the boxes the dollars are shipped in mean, where the coins were rolled, and other details. I did some research, and my findings are below.
Is it true the coins are being recalled by the Mint (or the Fed, or banks, etc.)?
No, the Director of Public Relations for the United States Mint has said that there will be no attempt to recall the coins. The Mint is investigating how the error occurred and hopes to solve the problem before further mintages of Presidential Dollars.
Are plain edge Presidential Dollars still being found in Florida?
Yes. I am still getting reports as of this morning. Looking at the map, these reports are coming from rural and out-of-the-way banks. I also had a report Thursday of plain edge coins found in Indiana, which adds a new state to the list, but the reporting person hasn't yet responded about which Mint his coins are from.
Were all of the coins rolled by the N. F. String & Son Company in Pennsylvania?
No. None of them were! N. F. String only makes the wrappers, which they sell to the company who actually does the coin rolling for the Fed.
Who rolled the coins, then? And how does the process work?
The coins are rolled by a company called Coinwrap, Inc. They roll the coins for the Federal Reserve Banks, or "Fed," which pick them up and store them until banks order them. Typically, banks with multiple branches have a central bank that order the coins from their regional Fed. The branches then order the coinage they need from their own central bank facility. The coins are all transported around, of course, by armored car services.
What do the numbers on the $1,000 (40 rolls) boxes mean? The CWI# is the lot number, right?
Wrong. There is no such thing as a "lot number" on these boxes. They are stamped with three pieces of information. (a) The CWI#, (b) the date they were rolled, and (c) an inspector code indicating who inspected the box to make sure all the rolls were wrapped properly and the count was correct. The CWI# stands for the Coinwrap, Inc. location that wrapped the coins. The CWI location number that rolled the plain edge Washington coins found in and around the Tallahassee area is 103. Therefore, the CWI#103 is NOT a lot number, but simply a location number that appears on every single box of coins, of any type, Presidential or otherwise, that leaves that facility.
Why did nearly all of the Philadelphia plain edge dollars end up at one Coinwrap location?
According to top-notch error coin expert and leading error coin dealer Fred Weinberg, the Sacagawea and Presidential Dollars leave the U.S. Mint in huge containers called "ballistic bags," which hold 140,000 dollars in each bag. According to a Coinwrap employee (who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to reveal confidential company information) two of these ballistic bags of dollars are generally allocated to each coin-wrapping station. Therefore, it would seem that one or more of these ballistic bags was somehow filled, totally or partially, with unfinished coins at the Mint. (The edge lettering process is the final step before the Mint fills the ballistic bags for shipment out for individual wrapping.) Some experts believe that a batch of coins simply missed the edge lettering station altogether, but I am still holding to my theory that the Philadelphia plain edge coins were caused by some kind of mis-alignment of the edge lettering segment (as this machine is properly called, according to Eric von Klinger at Coin World magazine.) In my theory, due to mis-alignment of the edge lettering machinery, some of the coins missed the edge lettering segment die altogether, while others got their edges literally sheared off by something in the process, leaving them without edge lettering. I might or might not be correct, remember, this is just my theory.
If I want to buy unopened rolls on eBay to try to find my own plain edge dollars, and this CWI# isn't a lot number that might contain the error coins, is there any way to increase my chances?
If you see auctions for rolls that are from the correct Coinwrap, Inc. location, you might improve your chances by buying coins that were rolled at this facility on the same date, but there is a lot of fraud in the rolled coins selling business. It isn't very hard to unwrap these N.F. String wrappers, check the coins, replace the plain edges with normal coins, and roll them back up again. One coin dealer actually told me he'd been doing this for years! If you really want one of these coins, (or ten of them) why not just buy them outright on eBay? The price has dropped to around $50 to $80 per coin, so if you're going to pay $50 plus for a roll hoping to find one, why not spend the same amount of money for a guaranteed plain edge?
Are you recommending that I buy these coins on eBay?
Absolutely not! I very rarely recommend that people buy coins from any source other than reputable and honest coin dealers who are PNG members. If there are no PNG dealers in your area (although most have Web sites now and sell through the mail) you can buy from an ANA dealer. The reason you want to use dealers affiliated with these organizations is that you have some recourse if they sell you fake or mis-graded material (they would lose their valuable affiliations!)
Are fake plain edge Washington Dollars being sold on eBay?
Yes. I will have more information about how to authenticate a genuine plain edge dollar as soon as I have a few more study coins in my hands and can make confident statements in this regard. Please don't buy your coins on eBay; find a reputable PNG dealer. It's worth the extra money they charge to know you won't be ripped off.
Who gets credit for the "discovery coin," (in other words, who found the first plain edge coin and made it publicly known?)
It is abundantly clear that a man who goes by the moniker "Chicago Ron" was the first to discover and appreciate this plain edge error. Not only did he list the first auction (which closed for $612) Feb. 15th, (the release date of the Presidential Dollar,) he is the anonymous collector referred to on the front page of the current issue of the Numismatic News, where coin dealer Bob Feiler tells about the person in Arizona who says a friend of his had found a plain edge Presidential dollar. I will post a Collector Profile of this fascinating individual in the next couple of weeks. In the mean time, I find it beautifully ironic that the discovery coin comes from the Denver Mint, while the overwhelming vast majority of the plain edge errors come from Philly.
Is there any way to tell the difference between Denver plain edge GW dollars, and Philadelphia ones?
I don't know yet. Denver examples are extremely rare compared to Philly examples, and until I can study a few specimens from both mints, I can't say for sure. However, I am currently recommending that people who have found plain edge Washington dollars in Denver rolls hold onto them until this issue has been decided, because if we can tell the difference, Denver coins will be worth a lot more money.
I would like to thank Tom DeLorey of Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. for the many hours of his time spent teaching me about the errors on these Presidential coins, and coin errors in general. Fred Weinberg, widely acknowledged as the leading dealer and an important expert in mechanical type coin errors (as opposed to die variety "errors,") was very generous with his time and expertise in helping me understand the processes the Mint uses and how mechanical errors happen. Eric von Klinger, of Coin World magazine, has also been very generous with his time, knowledge, and experience while researching this error.
Photo of the stacks and stacks of plain edge Washington Presidential Dollars courtesy of a Tallahassee resident who wishes to remain anonymous. All photo rights reserved.