In the world of coins, there are errors that occasionally appear during production. Depending on how widespread the problem is, these errors can barely affect the value of a coin or, in some cases, dramatically increase the value. One of these errors is the Lincoln cent lamination error.
Lincoln cent lamination errors are not exceptionally rare, and they result from pennies having a chip or flake on one of the faces. Some collectors do look for these kinds of errors in particular, but the value of a Lincoln cent lamination error coin is usually not more than face value.
Whether you are a collector of coins with flaws, a dealer, or simply curious, lamination errors can be fascinating. The lamination issue manifests in many different forms. Read on to learn all about lamination errors and how to recognize one if you come across it.
Coin Errors And Important Terms
To understand lamination errors, it is helpful to have a firm grasp on all the different types of coin errors. Understanding other types of coin errors and how they happen makes it clearer what a lamination error is and how it was created. To do that, though, you must be familiar with the terminology most often employed to cover coin errors. Here are a few of the most common terms.
A gang punch is the process of applying several circular die-cuts with collective and progressively increased pressure to a sheet of metal to produce rows of round discs. A sheet that has been gang punched resembles a honeycomb.
Blanks are metal discs that were “gang punched” from a metal strip or sheet. The best way to envision a blank being made is to think about how cookies are made when a cookie cutter is used. Blanks require a lot more pressure than cookie dough, but the basic production concept is the same.
A planchette is a disc-shaped metal blank after it has had a ridge or rim created around its edges on both sides of the disc. The two faces of a coin are struck together and affixed onto the planchette. Planchettes are used for just about every coin the USA produces.
An upsetting mill is a machine that raises the outer rim of a planchette before the planchette is struck. It works using a rotating wheel that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the planchette. By applying rotation and pressure to the planchette, a slight rim is created on each side of the disc.
A lamination is a type of error that affects coins that have an interior planchette rather than being comprised of a single, pure metal. But what other kinds of errors might you come across as a coin collector?
Common Coin Errors
To the uninitiated, the process of creating coins can seem violent. It involves incredible amounts of pressure, cutting, fire, melting and softening metal, striking metal, and rapid, dramatic cooling to harden the metals.
That amount of activity, especially the aspects that involve high temperatures and pressure, is almost destined to create errors. When you add multiple moving parts and key aspects of the process reliant on rapid, repeated striking of a die on metal, errors become almost inevitable.
This happens when a blank or planchette is struck outside of the collar that holds it in place. An off-center strike usually happens when the coin is incorrectly centered. The results are imagery that are not centered as well as blank space on part of the planchette.
One key point regarding value with off center strikes is how many were struck like that before the error was caught. Another important consideration is what ends up missing on the coin faces because of the off-center strike. Is, for instance, part of the date or primary image missing?
Finally, the rarity of the coin without the error factors in. A coin that is rare on its own becomes even more valuable when it has a rare striking issue.
Some notable coins that are valuable because of off-center striking include the 1970 Kennedy half dollar and Morgan dollar coins from 1878-1904 and 1921. Because of the rarity of the coins themselves, they are worth hundreds of dollars up to thousands of dollars when they also have a striking error.
When a blank is improperly punched, it creates a chipped planchette. This usually happens when the punching press does not advance the sheet of metal being punched properly. As a result, strokes of the punching machine overlap or are incomplete. This type of mistake is also referred to as being “clipped.”
The value of a chipped planchette is largely driven by the type of coin affected and how much of the coin is missing because of the botched alignment. There are categories of errors applied to each chipped planchet:
Another factor affecting value with chipped planchettes is how extreme the error is. A severe error is usually more valuable than a slight misalignment. Chipped planchettes generally drive the value of a coin up moderately if a lot of chipped coins of that run are not in circulation.
Cracks And Cuds
Significant die breaks are called “cuds.” These are the die errors that are most popular with dealers, collectors and the public. A cud happens when part of the die breaks away because of a progressive crack.
Striking planchettes creates a lot of stress on the dies. Over time, the dies succumb to wear and tear and some crack. At first the crack is not significant and may not even be noticeable. The more the die is used, however, the deeper the crack becomes, until eventually the integrity of the die itself is jeopardized.
When the die breaks, the result is a portion of the coin that is featureless. This is because the metal from the planchette fills the area where the die broke. Cracks in dies that are not replaced can result in damage to the legend and other parts of the coin. The value of a crack depends on the size of the crack and the placement of any die breaks.
Blank planchettes occur when the die punch machine misfires. A series of planchettes emerge, ranging from one to many, having not been die-cut and lacking raised edges. These generally are not worth much because they are essentially a hunk of plated metal with no signifying or identifying details.
Unplated Lincoln Zinc Cents
When the plating on a zinc cent (minted since 1982) is partially or completely missing, the cent takes on a silvery look on part of or all of the coin. The value of an unplated Lincoln zinc cent depends on the degree of plate that is missing.
A completely unplated Lincoln zinc cent for example is worth over $100. One that is only 10% unplated, conversely, is worth about $10.
Broadstrikes are a very common coin error. Broadstrikes are created when the collar that helps close the planchette with the facing metal becomes jammed. The result is a coin that is struck outside of the collar, resulting in a partial image on the coin.
This can affect a coin in a few different ways:
- If the collar jams in the press, a partial ridge can be formed while the rest of the planchette remains smooth
- If the collar is completely missing, the coin can become “smashed” and look distorted as well as being larger than normal
- Reeding can be missing on coins that have it
The value of a broadstruck coin depends on the centering of the image and the size of the final coin. Wide and centered coins will be worth more than coins that are slightly larger or off center. The type of coin also plays into the value.
A wartime Jefferson nickel with a broadstrike, for example, is worth more than $60, before the above considerations are factored in. A Buffalo nickel that is broadstruck will start at around $50. Lincoln cent pieces that are broadstruck are usually worth between $5 and $25. Several coins are worth in the hundreds of dollars when broadstruck:
- Franklin Half Dollar: $100+
- 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar: $100+
- Eisenhower Dollar: $200+
The rarity of a coin without errors plays heavily into the value of a broadstruck coin.
Why Those Errors Matter
Almost all the errors encountered in the production phase of a coin are issues pertaining to the striking of the coin. Jammed collars, slipped disc sheets, broken dies, etc. all are mechanical flaws that create errors.
Understanding that is key to being able to accurately value a lamination error, which is not a mechanical issue. Without understanding the difference and the frequency of other errors, it is impossible to put a value on an error that is not mechanical, regardless of whether it is rare or not.
Mechanical versus non mechanical also matter because of the timing of the emergence of an error. A coin that is struck wrong is immediately obvious. A coin that has a flaw driven by nonmechanical influences is not immediately noticeable. Those errors emerge over time.
The important factor is how many other coins in that run were affected. The frequency of an error of this nature can factor in heavily in determining the value of a Lincoln cent with a lamination error. One that is exceptionally rare will obviously be worth more than one of many in a production run. Rarity also affects collectability.
Lincoln Cent Lamination Errors: What To Look Out For
A lamination error is usually an error in the makeup of the coin. There are several ways a Lincoln cent lamination error manifests:
- A fragment of plate metal is chipped, strafed or missing
- A gauge runs down all or a portion of the coin
- All or part of a plate may be missing entirely
- A chip of the plate might still be attached, but has a portion of plate that is not
Almost all lamination errors have at least a portion of the error that looks like a flake of metal. It may be attached to the rest of the coin. It may be stressing and distorting the face of the coin. It may break off and leave a jagged gap in the plate of the coin.
A flake can be tiny (the size of a pinhead), or it can be large enough to affect the imagery on the coin. In extreme cases, it can be as large as the plate itself.
The causes of a lamination error in a Lincoln cent, or in any lamination error, are as follows:
- Air is trapped under the plate and the strike weakens the face of the coin
- Impurities in the alloy can create a weak part of the plate
- Gasses that are trapped between the plate and the planchette exploit weaknesses in the metal
- Flaws in the metal that were created when the plating sheet was made
- Dirt or debris was present during the punching of the plate creating a weakness in the plate that eventually wears through
- Over time and wear through circulation, the metal is eroded and degraded enough to allow the creation of a perforation in the plate that grows over time
How It Happens
In most cases, when a planchette strip is being prepared, debris can become trapped just below the surface of the metal. The following can create that scenario:
The extraneous material creates a weak spot in the planchette and in the adhesion potential with the plate metal. Coins struck then develop flakes and breaks at the point where the adhesion has failed.
A technical definition is that the impurities in the alloy cause a weak spot that allows a horizontal degradation of the metal. Eventually, that degradation evolves into a full-blown crack and separation along that horizontal plane.
Lamination errors with any denomination of coin happen because of the raw materials used. But while common from a coin collection perspective, lamination errors in pennies are not that common.
Because of the mixing of the qualities of the metals, the most common lamination error occurs with wartime Jefferson 5-cent coins. The quality of the metals was affected because metals of higher purity were used to manufacture military equipment, so coins weren’t prioritized.
With other coins, a lamination error, like a mechanical error, is more a product of happenstance. Errors happen when millions of coins are being produced. If the environment for an error exists, laws of averages dictate that eventually, that error will occur.
If that environment covers swaths of the production run, the resulting error migrates from a rarity to a common characteristic of that run.
The Role Of Technology
Another factor that affects frequency is technology. While coin minting basics are the same as centuries ago, newer technology allows for better screening of materials, inspection of equipment, maintenance of equipment and production runs. Errors in a coin run, for example, are now caught by computer scanning versus having humans randomly inspect produced coins.
Coins minted today have many more technological checks and balances that identify:
- Natural weaknesses in the alloy
- Artificial weaknesses in the alloy
- Environmental causes, like dust or oil, that cause alloy vulnerabilities
- Errors created during production runs
Ironically, the technological advances have made errors like lamination errors rarer, which has actually made them more valuable. That is partly why a lamination error in a coin from 1990 is worth more than a lamination error in a coin from 1980.
The Value Of Lincoln Cent Lamination Errors
A Lincoln cent with a lamination error is usually not worth much more than face value. They are fairly common in coin production and coin collections, which detracts from their overall rarity and therefore their value.
A Lincoln cent minted after 1982 with a lamination error, in the best case scenario, is worth around $15. The value is the same for a steel Lincoln cent from 1943. Other Lincoln cent coins with lamination errors created before 1983 are worth about $1.
Lamination errors do increase in value depending on the coin affected. Silver and gold coins that have lamination errors are more collectible and are worth more in addition to the value of the coin being higher because of the metal used. The increased value depends on the grade and date of the coin as well as its type.
A Lincoln cent lamination error is not a common error, but it does happen. A penny with a “chip” or “flake” marring one of its faces is the most common iteration of the error. A Lincoln cent with a lamination error is a unique collectible that some collectors covet.