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Does the Mint Make Error Coins on Purpose?

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Error coins are not made by the Mint on purpose.

The U.S. Mint does not make these "Godless Dollar" error coins on purpose.

Photo of error coin by Jeff King, courtesy of Capital Coin and Diamond, Inc
Question: Does the Mint Make Error Coins on Purpose?
People often ask if the U.S. Mint is making errors on the coins on purpose, in order to entice people into removing them from circulation and collecting them. On the State Quarter series, especially, error coins seem to be turning up all the time. Now the new Presidential Dollars are coming out with large numbers of "Godless Dollars." Is the U.S. Mint doing this intentionally?
Answer: No, the U.S. Mint does not make the error coins on purpose. Experts in the minting process and the causes of coin errors are pretty much in agreement about this. Although the number of errors seems to have increased since the State Quarters started coming out, the fact is that many more people are looking for little errors than ever before, too. More people looking for error coins means that more minor coin errors are going to be found. In addition, Mint quality control has changed over the years, and far less emphasis has been placed on searching through finished coins for minor problems as the Mint has adopted mechanical methods of checking the planchets and coins, and altering the way it prepares coin dies.

Mint Error Coins - A Miniscule Number!


The U.S. Mint produced more than 15 billion coins last year, and is expected to produce at least as many coins again this year. Considering these vast numbers of coins that they make, the numbers of error coins that escape are incredibly trivial, approximately 0.000003 of their total production (assuming 50,000 error coins a year. The actual number of noteworthy error coins that leave the Mint may be larger or smaller, and will vary from year to year, but you get the general point: it is a very miniscule number!)

Error Coins on Purpose - Not Very Likely

What most people don't realize is that the U.S. Mint, like any other business that makes a product, takes great pride in the work it does! When error coins escape the Mint, it is very embarrassing to them. The people who work at the Mint, who actually make the coins, take pride in their work, just like anybody else that makes a product, and there is a certain amount of humiliation that is felt when large numbers of embarrassing errors get out, like the Presidential Dollar coins with no edge lettering (the so-called "Godless Dollars."

Unfortunately, the collecting community and the U.S. Mint have historically been at odds with each other over these errors, because while the coin collectors gleefully shout about their error coin finds from the figurative rooftops of the internet, the U.S. Mint wishes the problem hadn't happened and that people wouldn't make so much noise about what the Mint perceives of as an embarrassing mistake.

The result is that the Mint (understandably) becomes a little defensive, and closes ranks against the collectors who want more information about how the error coins happened. The Mint feels it's being critcized when collectors and newspaper headlines blare "How Could This Happen?!" However, what the Mint doesn't understand is that the error coin collectors aren't intentionally criticizing the Mint, the collectors just honestly want to know what went wrong so they can understand the coins better.

Error Coin Collectors and the U.S. Mint

Hopefully, as both the error coin collecting community and the U.S. Mint management personnel come to understand and appreciate the other side's feelings and intentions, a better dialogue between the two sides will develop, and the exchange of information will improve. In the mean time, let me reiterate: The U.S. Mint does NOT make error coins on purpose.
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