The Geyer Collection of World War II era Mint Error Coins
Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #190
A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds
From Nov 1st to 3rd, Heritage will conduct a coin auction in New York City, about two weeks before the epic sale of many items from the Eric Newman Collection. This early November auction is much different from the mid-November auction of Newman’s coins. This earlier event features a variety of items from a multitude of consignors. By far, the most interesting and historically important consignment is the Geyer Family Collection of World War II era U.S. Mint Error Coins.
The Geyer Family Collection features error coins relating to the denominations of U.S. coinage that were minted while the U.S. was involved in the second World War, from 1941 to 1945: Lincoln Cents, Jefferson Nickels, Mercury Dimes, Washington Quarters and Walking Liberty Half Dollars. As it is not practical to discuss all the items in this consignment of the Geyer Collection, I am focusing on a selection of Lincoln Cent Errors and Walking Liberty Half Dollar (‘Walker’) errors, as these are the most important items in the Geyer Family Collection.
Saul Teichman agrees, the Geyer Collection “dime and quarter error coins are nice but not as impressive as the half dollars or the cents.” In addition to being a coin collector for around half a century, Saul Teichman is a leading researcher of U.S. Mint Error Coins and especially of U.S. patterns.
Fred Weinberg asserts that the Geyer Collection features “the largest group of major Mint Error Walking Liberty Half Dollars to be offered anywhere at one time.” Weinberg is the foremost expert in U.S. Mint Error Coins.
I have seen only a few of the pieces in the Geyer Family Collection of U.S. Mint Errors. I am not now interpreting the grades assigned by the PCGS or the NGC, nor am I analyzing the physical characteristics of any Geyer Collection errors. I am reporting about this upcoming sale and I am including comments from recognized experts.
Andy Lustig is very enthusiastic about the whole Geyer Family Collection. “The theme of the collection is refreshingly original and inspired. The execution on the theme, [especially] the number of rarities included, is almost beyond belief. To me, it is one of the most exciting groups of coins to come to market this year,” Andy declares.
I. 1943 Copper & 1944 Steel Cents
It is widely known that in 1943 only, U.S. one cent coins, Lincoln pennies, were designed to not contain any copper; they were made of zinc coated steel. I refer to all coins that are at least 90% copper as being ‘copper.’
In a technical sense, most pre-1982 Lincoln Cents may be termed “bronze.” There is not, however, a widely accepted, precise definition of “bronze.” Indeed, over time, many, substantially different alloys have been called “bronze.” It is true, though, that any alloy that is more than 90% copper and contains both zinc and tin would be referred to as ‘bronze’ by many people.
Copper cents of 1943 and steel cents of 1944 are the most popular of all U.S. Mint Error Coins. In an analytical article that I wrote in 2008, I suggested that ten or eleven 1943 Philadelphia Mint copper cents are known. Rich Uhrich, in contrast, maintains that there are “about twenty to twenty-five 1943 Philly copper cents.”
Some U.S. Mint officials later denied that any 1943 cents were struck in copper, which was needed for reasons relating to World War II. Clearly, the U.S. Mint planned for all 1943 Lincoln Cents to be struck on zinc coated steel planchets.
Generally, a planchet is a prepared, round blank piece of metal that is intended to be transformed into a coin, when obverse (front) and reverse (tail) designs are impressed via a mechanical coining press. Centuries ago, the obverse die was literally hammered into each blank piece of metal while the reverse die was underneath it.
A great example of a planchet is in this sale, a never struck planchet for a 1943 zinc coated steel cent. It is NGC certified, though not graded. It would be awkward to grade a never struck planchet.
The Geyer Collection also features a 1943-San Francisco Mint Lincoln Cent struck on a copper planchet. In 2008, I found that several Lincoln Cent experts believe that seven 1943-S copper cents are known, though I did not then find solid evidence that as many as seven survive. “Five or six 1943-S copper cents exist,” Rich Uhrich now suggests.
The Geyer 1943 Philadelphia Mint copper cent is in a PCGS “Genuine” holder because, apparently due to scratches, it does not qualify for a numerical grade. The Geyer 1943-San Francisco Mint copper cent is PCGS graded Very Fine-35.
The Geyer Collection 1944, Philadelphia Mint steel cent is PCGS graded “AU-58.” More than twenty of these exist. Uhrich believes that there could be as many as forty.
The 1944-D, Geyer Collection, Denver Mint steel cent is PCGS graded “AU-53.” In 2001 or earlier, Tom DeLorey estimated that seven 1944-D steel cents are known. Rich Uhrich concurred with DeLorey’s estimate in 2008, when I then asked him, and still does in 2013, as I just asked Rich again.
Uhrich has personally collected 1943 copper cents and 1944 steel cents. “Definitely the most cool off-metal errors because of the World War II metal change, 1943 coppers and 1944 steel cents physically look different and [these benefitted from] the publicity from all of the advertisements on back pages of comic books offering a lot of money for 1943 copper cents, during the 1960s and afterward,” Rich states.
Teichman has a different viewpoint. “What people may not realize is that 1943 coppers and 1944 steel cents are relatively common, compared to some of the other Mint Errors in the Geyer Collection even among the cents.” Saul maintains that some of the not famous errors are excellent values for collectors.
II. Other Lincoln Cent Errors
Lincoln Cents that were struck on U.S. dime planchets are significant errors. The Geyer Collection 1943 Lincoln Cent struck on a dime planchet is NGC graded “AU-50.”
The Geyer Collection has two 1943-S cents that were struck on dime planchets. One is NGC graded AU-53 and was improperly prepared. Essentially, it is both a wrong-metal error and a wrong-planchet error. Another 1943-S cent on a dime planchet in this collection likewise falls into two categories of errors. It was struck 15% off-center. This second 1943-S Lincoln Cent on a dime planchet is NGC graded “AU-55.”
One of the more interesting errors in the Geyer Collection is a 1942 Lincoln Cent Error that is an obverse brockage and was struck 40% off center. It is PCGS certified “MS-62 Brown.” Essentially, it, too, falls into two major categories of errors, brockages and coins that were struck well off-center. (For a definition of a brockage, please read the appendix below, ‘What is a Brockage.’)
For many experienced coin collectors, errors that were struck on foreign planchets are particularly curious and neat. The U.S. Mints struck many coins for foreign countries during World War II and at other times, and also struck coins for U.S. territories overseas. The Geyer Collection contains many U.S. coin errors that were struck on planchets that were intended for the coinage of other nations or for coins of the Philippines.
A 1943-S Lincoln struck on a planchet intended for a Five Centavos coin of Peru is especially noteworthy, as it is primarily copper. It is not as valuable as 1943-S stuck on a U.S. copper cent planchet, though it is much less expensive and would seem to be a fair substitute for a 1943-S copper. The Geyer 1943-S on Five Centavo planchet for Peru was found by experts at the NGC to be non-gradable and has the ‘details’ of an extremely fine grade coin.
A curious and appealing error coin in this sale is a 1941 Lincoln Cent, which was struck on a planchet that was intended to be used to make a 2½ centesimos copper-nickel coin for Panama. It is PCGS graded “MS-65“ and is a cool color, unlike the color of a true Lincoln Cent and unlike the color of a U.S. ‘nickel,’ five-cent coin. It would be an interesting complement to a collection of Lincoln Cents, as would some other cent errors in the Geyer Family Collection.
A 1945 Lincoln Cent error in the Geyer Collection was struck on a Netherlands East Indies Half Cent planchet. It is NGC certified ‘MS-64 Brown.’
Even more interesting, the Geyer Collection contains a (1945-S) Lincoln Cent that was struck over a Netherlands East Indies One Tenth Gulden coin, which is 72% silver. Most U.S. dimes dated before 1965 are 90% silver. It should be noted that this Lincoln Cent Error was not struck on a blank planchet; it was struck over an existing coin. Parts of the design of the Netherlands East Indies One Tenth Gulden are very much apparent. In another words, while design elements of a Lincoln Cent dominate, the designs of the struckover coin are visible.
This is a very unusual piece. Experts at the NGC graded it as “AU-58” and indicate that it was struck at some point from 1941 to 1945. The Heritage cataloguer asserts that it was “almost certainly” struck in 1945 at the San Francisco Mint, although none of the numerals of 1945 nor an ‘S’ mintmark are visible.
The Geyer Collection contains another overstruck Lincoln that is even more fascinating than this Lincoln Cent on Dutch East Indies coin. A 1943 Lincoln Cent was struck over a 1943 Cuban One Centavo coin. It is PCGS graded “MS-62.”
Most of the design elements of this Cuban coin survived the overstrike. The result is a startling blend of a Lincoln Cent and a Cuban One Centavo. This is one of the prizes in the Geyer Collection; it is something that few coin enthusiasts will ever see in actuality.
III. Walker on steel cent!
After the 1943 copper and 1944 steel cents, the most famous U.S. Mint Error in the Geyer Collection is a Walking Liberty Half Dollar that was struck on a zinc coated steel cent planchet. There is no date. This piece is smaller than a half dollar and the numerals of the ‘date,’ here meaning the year, were never imparted onto this cent planchet. Much of the eagle’s head and Miss Liberty’s head are missing as well.
I do not know of any 1942 dated U.S. coin errors struck on zinc coated steel planchets. I presume that it is very likely that this piece was made in 1943 and less likely that it was made in 1944.
According to Fred Weinberg, only two Walking Liberty Half Dollars, for the whole series, are known to have been struck on cent planchets. The other was also struck on a steel cent planchet. Saul Teichman and Andy Lustig agree. So, Walkers struck on copper cent planchets are not known to exist!
“I owned this [Geyer] ‘Walker on a steel cent,’ from the early 1980s, till about seven to eight years ago, when I sold it” privately, reveals Weinberg. Of the two known, it is “the finest by far. The Milt Cohen ‘Walker on a steel cent,’ which is off-center, has lightly corroded surfaces,” Fred notes. The Geyer Collection ‘Walker on a steel cent’ is PCGS graded “MS-64.”
IV. Set of ‘Wrong Planchet’ Walkers
In total, all Walking Liberty Half Dollar Errors are very rare. A small number exist in regard to all Walkers, for the whole series, dating from 1916 to 1947. The Geyer Collection has an extraordinary and astonishing group of them.
In the “Geyer Collection of WWII dated Mint Errors, the half dollars are only missing one on a nickel planchet from containing a complete wrong planchet set,” Teichman emphasizes. It is understandable that one piece is missing, as the one reported “Walker on nickel planchet is believed unique,” Saul states boldly.
Circa 1981, Natalie Halpern offered the Milt Cohen Collection of U.S. Mint Errors, which contained the lone reported Walking Liberty Half struck on a planchet that was intended to become a Jefferson Nickel. A leading specialist, someone who is openly active in the coin collecting community, “has the finest off-metal U.S. Mint Error collection. He owns the Walker on nickel,” Teichman notes.
Only two ‘Walker on dime planchet’ errors exist. One of the two is in the Geyer Collection.
This Geyer Collection ‘Walker on dime’ is NGC graded “MS-64.” The numerals of the year “1945” are on this item, though Miss Liberty is completely headless.
According to Teichman, there “are at least fifteen different Walker on quarter planchet” errors. The Geyer Collection contains four, all with WWII era dates. Two are each NGC graded “MS-64” and one is PCGS graded “MS-65.”
The fourth is NGC graded “AU-58” and is part of a mated pair of Walker errors that is hard to explain. A 1941 Walker was not ejected from the coining press after it was normally struck, though it was pushed aside when a quarter planchet was, in error, fed into the coining press. As the Heritage cataloguer explains, one strike then created two Walker errors: the second strike on a previously regular Walker was way off-center and was the only strike for a ‘Walker on quarter’ error. These two errors that were created by the same strike are being sold as one auction lot.
Fred Weinberg, Saul Teichman, Andy Lustig and the Heritage cataloguer all agree that there are known just two Walkers that were struck on planchets intended for coinage for foreign countries. Both are in the Geyer Collection and each is NGC graded “MS-63.”
A 1943-San Francisco Mint Walker was struck on a planchet that was intended to become a Half Sol coin of Peru. A 1945-S Walker was struck on a planchet that was to become a Twenty-Five Centavo coin of El Salvador.
As Lincoln Cents and Walking Liberty Half Dollars are collected by hundreds of thousands of people, there must be some such collectors who wish to add a few unusual items to their respective collections of regular business strikes. Specialists in U.S. Mint Errors will soon reflect upon the Geyer Collection as a legend. Indeed, this is one of the most important collections of U.S. Mint Errors to be offered in many years.
©2013 Greg Reynolds
Appendix: What is a Brockage?
Many coin enthusiasts, including myself, find brockages to be among the coolest kinds of error coins. A brockage comes about in a process that involves more than one event. First, a coin must be, for one reason or another, not ejected or otherwise removed from a mechanical coining press. Accidentally, it remains on one of the dies.
Second, while a coin remains on one of the dies, the next planchet (prepared blank) is fed into the coining press and the striking process occurs again. This next planchet then becomes sandwiched between an already struck coin and one of the two dies. Third, if the design devices on one side of the already struck coin become imparted onto one side of the next fed planchet (prepared blank) and if the other side of this planchet is struck by a die in a normal manner, then a brockage comes into existence. In a sense, a brockage has an obverse design on both sides (or a reverse design on both sides).
For simplicity, I refer to the typical situation where the hammer die, the one that is slammed downward, is the obverse (front) die and the stationary or minimally moved die (underneath each fed planchet) is the reverse (back) die. Yes, it is sometimes true that the hammer die is the reverse (back or tail) die, though this is beside the point, as the mechanics of the striking process are the same.
The type of brockage that is most often seen is an obverse (front) brockage that comes about after a struck coin fails to leave the press and lies on top of the bottom die that is the reverse (tail) die. When the next planchet (prepared blank) is fed into this press, it falls on top of the coin that was not ejected or otherwise removed, and then the ‘hammer’ die comes smashing down on top of this planchet (prepared blank), which is thus sandwiched between an already struck coin and an obverse die.
The obverse die imparts, in a normal manner, an obverse design to the obverse of this planchet that was fed into the press even though a struck coin had not left the press. The leftover coin, however, is ‘in between’ the reverse die and this planchet that was fed. Therefore, a reverse design is not imparted, as the reverse die is covered by the leftover coin. Instead, the obverse of the leftover coin is impressed into the underside (reverse) of the planchet. Therefore, an incuse (sunken) and ‘backwards’ transformation of the obverse design is imparted into the underside (‘reverse’). The newly created error has a normal obverse and an incuse and backwards version of the obverse design as its ‘reverse’!
Yes, there are variations of brockages and of the processes that lead to their creation. I am using the most typical scenario of the making of a brockage to illustrate the concept. It not necessary to consider all the variations in order to understand how most brockages came into existence.
©2010, 2013 Greg Reynolds
Parts of this appendix were earlier published on CoinLink.com, the predecessor of CoinWeek, on Sept. 15, 2010, in the context of a discussion of half cent errors. The “Davy Collection” of half cent errors that was auctioned in Sept. 2010 was part of the same ‘complete’ Tettenhorst Collection of half cent varieties that the Goldbergs will auction on Jan. 26, 2014.