'Dramatic' bonded cluster of 1999 Lincoln cents brings $2,700 at Baltimore Expo

Portion of Market Analysis column from July 21, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 07/08/14
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The following post is pulled from Coin World editor Steve Roach’s Market Analysis column in the July 21 issue.

Many collectors love striking and planchet error coins because each one is unique and they are dramatic examples of what happens when things go wrong in coin production. These are pieces whose errors are the result of problems occurring during the striking phase.

Error coins are graded on the same scale as “normal” U.S. coins, and their pricing structure is based on quality, rarity, and demand, as is the case with all collectibles. 

Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ auctions associated with the Baltimore Expo, held at the Baltimore Convention Center June 26 to 29, carried many of the rarities normally associated with a major auction. It also had a few spectacular error coins.

Here is one of three that caught my eye:

The coin: 1999 Lincoln cents, bonded cluster, MS-64 red 

The price: $2,702.50

The story: Among errors, few are more dramatic than multicoin bonded clusters where multiple strikings fuse planchets together resulting in a massive single object. 

In this spectacular error, more silver-colored zinc is visible than rich copper, and the center strike is boldly impressed on the obverse. The different colors are the result of a switch in 1982 for Lincoln cents, from a copper-based composition to a composition having a core of 99.2 percent zinc, 0.8 percent copper and a plating of pure copper. 

The reverse design is only lightly impressed, with lettering seen on the peripheries, as the central part of the piece was flattened due to the multiple strikings and the flow of the metal outwards. 

Most bonded planchet errors are generally caught by the Mint and destroyed, so one that is this substantial is unusual in the marketplace. As Stack’s Bowers notes, examples like this one “capture the force of the strike and coining process when things go slightly wrong.”

In terms of valuation, errors of this type that can fit into standard sized slabs are often easier for dealers to market than pieces that won’t fit into slab. PCGS has graded this one MS-64 red, and the weight of 156 grains noted on the slab converts to 10.11 grams. Since a normal 1999 copper-plated zinc cent weighs 2.5 grams, one can deduce that the cluster has four or five coins. It sold for $2,702.50. 

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