Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader on 5/15/2012
Some 2008 50 Peso coins were issued with Chile misspelled.
In numismatics, errors and varieties are two of the most studied and collected areas in the field. Minting facilities often catch these mistakes before they are released into circulation. When missed, they can be highly collectible often with the accompanying values. With advanced technology, errors and varieties in many countries have become scarce or minor in comparison with those in the past. As a result, the temptation to capitalize on the demand for them has become so great that some individuals are making them intentionally.
In Chile, some of the 2008 50 Peso coins were issued with a significant flaw; Chile was misspelled as “CHIIE,” with a second “I” in place of the “L.” This “error” was brought to light in 2009, with worldwide news stories trumpeting that a country had misspelled its name on its own currency. Subsequently, Gregorio Iniguez, the director of the Chile Mint, and others were fired from their jobs. So, the question is, was the coin an honest error or an intentional variation created for profit?
To understand how errors and varieties are produced, you must consider how coins are made. Die manufacturing starts with a hub, which is the intended image of the manufactured coin. The master hubs are used to create the dies which are installed on a press. When struck together with a planchet (metal blank) between them, a coin bearing the images of the die design is created.
Coin errors can encompass a variety of unintended mistakes in the manufacturing process resulting in a piece that falls outside of mint tolerance for the standard issue. Varieties are created when dies used to strike coins differ from one another to an extent that they can be distinguished and classified as such. Varieties are most often created at the time of die manufacturing.
The Chilean coin would fall under the variety classification, since the issue involved only a particular die and was repeated on each coin that was struck by that die. Since there are two varieties of the 2008 Chile 50 Peso issue (one with the Chile spelled correctly and one incorrectly), it can only be assumed that there are at least two different hubs used to create the coins. To maintain a consistent standard of coinage (such as the Santiago Mint does today), skilled engravers and manufacturers are needed. Considering modern technology, it is very unlikely that the misspelling was done by accident.
Coincidentally, around the same time a significant number of other “errors” turned up for sale in Chile. For example, some coins were struck on made-to-order “off metal” planchets and some were off-struck. Some pieces struck on mint equipment (such as feeding fingers) were offered for sale over the internet. Considering modern technology and stringent quality control procedures, it is safe to say that these pieces could never accidentally leave the mint either. In the end, it was the misspelling of the name of the country that became a national embarrassment for Chile.
While it is interesting that the variety coins were released for general circulation, and may contribute to the idea that this was indeed an accident, those that were released were quickly identified after the news broke. The coins were hoarded by the public and collectors, and were sold over the internet. In the legacy of this event, numismatists and collectors have an interesting variety to study and a prize for years to come.