Presidential Dollar Edge Lettering BasicsFirst of all, let's understand what the correct, normal edge lettering appearance is for a business strike (circulation issue) Presidential Dollar. The edge lettering should be incused (sunken in,) and run all the way around the edge of the coin. It doesn't matter whether the heads or tails side is facing up on business strike dollars because the edge lettering is applied randomly, so a coin with upside down edge lettering is NOT an edge lettering error! It is simply a normal variety, being called by some as a "Type 2" Presidential Dollar.
The most common non-error (beside upside down edge lettering) being reported pertains to so-called "dropped letters," extra letters or numbers, and other types of "extra" writings on the Presidential Dollar edges. Although there are several legitimate and verified Washington Dollar edge lettering errors, most edge lettering related oddities being reported are not errors, but artifacts of post-mint processing. Such non-errors are usually faint marks that look like letters, or spots where the edge lettering has one or more defaced or obscured letters. Most of this damage is from coins bumping together during the edge lettering process itself, or movement of large, heavy batches of finished coins at the Mint and beyond. Some of these marks are the result of the coins being put through coin counting and wrapping machines.
Get to Know Your Presidential Dollar Edge LetteringLook at a few dozen or more Presidential Dollars under good magnification (8x to 10x or so.) Pay particular attention to the edge lettering on these coins, and you'll quickly see marks that look like file marks and other marks, such as marks you'd consider to be a bag mark, contact mark, or "ding" if you saw it on the obverse or reverse of the coin. You'll also see little squiggly-type marks, caused by coins rubbing together. All in all, you'll see many types of marks that appear regularly on the obverse and reverse of coins, but because we're seeing these marks in a completely new context now on these Presidential Dollars' lettered edges, many people hoping to find errors are seeing "normal" things as edge lettering errors instead.
How to Rule Out Presidential Dollar "Extra Edge Letter" Non-ErrorsThe best way to identify Presidential Dollar edge lettering errors is to become very familiar with what is normal for these edges. Just as we know that bag marks are normal for most coin types, we need to learn what sorts of marks, dings, and squiggles are normal for the new dollars. In general, if the suspected dropped, extra, or doubled letter is not very clear and of the appropriate size, it is probably not a valuable error (assuming it's even an error at all!)
The so-called obverse and reverse "dropped letters" on the edge are actually just embossed letters and numbers coming from the surfaces of other Presidential Dollars! These embossings are caused by coins which are bumping very hard against each other, and are really a "non-error" (some experts simply call it "damage.") If you look carefully, you will see that the obverse or reverse letter which shows up on the edge is in reverse or mirror image form. This is because the obverse and reverse so-called "dropped edge letters" are simply coming from bumping against other coins.
Another type of easily confused edge lettering non-error is the raised impression of an extra letter on the edge or the surfaces which match the edge lettering font. The edge letters, being incused, or sunken in, are acting almost like coin dies, and imparting raised impressions of themselves on the edges and surfaces of other coins, due to hard bumping. Again, unless the letter is an O or other symmetrical letter, it will appear in mirror image form. These are not "dropped letters," but merely embossed letters coming from other coins. Although these types of embossings are interesting, they should also be considered damage which was caused as a result of coins bumping together. Sometimes you can even see the straight-line impression of the edge of the coin right next to the embossed letter!
The Bottom Line - 99% of So-Called "Dropped Letter" Errors on Presidential Dollars are Actually "Embossed Letters"As of right now, due to the not uncommon embossings taking place on these Presidential Dollars, it will probably require an expert to authenticate a genuine "dropped letter" error. Having a letter from the obverse or reverse, appearing in incused (sunken in) form on the obverse or reverse, is a promising sign of a genuine "dropped letter" type error, but be sure to rule out any occurrences of edge-letters-to-surfaces, and surface-letters-to-edge marks as "embossed letter damage."
See the list of confirmed Presidential Dollar Errors on the next page.
I want to thank Tom DeLorey and Ken Potter, NLG, both of whom gave me significant help in correcting errors in an earlier version of this article, and who helped me to understand the things we are seeing on this new and fascinating coin type. Special thanks to Tom DeLorey for coining the term "embossed letters" to describe these interesting "extra letter" non-errors.