Have you ever come across a coin with what looks to be an extra line or “blob” of metal on its surface? They’re not seen often, but these are known as marginal die breaks, or “cuds”. This is a coinage error that’s created when a die (used to strike a coin) is missing a piece near the rim. Given the immense pressure used to strike coins, the metal from the planchet (or coin blank) flows into the negative area left by the missing piece of the die.
Given the strict quality control measures in place at the U.S. Mint (read more about how modern coins are made here), it’s no surprise that errors like these aren’t found often on modern coins. If they do occur, most times they’re caught and destroyed before ever having a chance to make it into the hands of collectors.
Last summer, it was reported that a 10-year-old collector was lucky enough to find several 2022-P Wilma Mankiller quarters with a retained cud on the obverse.1 What a great discovery!
Die Crack Errors
A close relative of the marginal die break is the die crack error. Instead of a piece of metal breaking away from a die completely, this error results when a die simply splits (or cracks). Instead of a “blob” of metal, these will show as a raised line on the coin.
There are a number of historic VAM Morgan dollars that are identified as die breaks. Some even have fun nicknames, like “Scarface” (on 1888-O Morgans) and “Wounded Eagle” (on the 1881-S coins). VAMs are considered varieties, not errors, and are named for researchers and silver dollar enthusiasts Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis. In 1971, the two published their research, listing each variety by date and mint mark in their book, The Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars.
No matter your interests, there’s no doubt that error coins like die breaks and cuds can add depth and dimension to any collection. Beyond the die breaks and die cracks covered here, there are many other types of error coins that are sought after by collectors. Do you collect error coins? If so, what’s your favorite piece?