US Coins

Clump of bonded cents in Stack's Bowers ANA auction

A massive clump of 17 1982 Lincoln cents from the John Whitney Walter collection is among the largest known and was previously offered in a 1994 Bowers and Merena fixed-price list for $4,950.

Original images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries will host its Rarities Night auction on Wednesday, Aug. 15, as an official auctioneer of the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.

The lead lot is the finest-known 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, graded Proof 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, but the auction has depth beyond the seven-figure rarities. 

The John Whitney Walter Collection features some extraordinary error coins. Walter was known as “Mr. 1796” because of his deep collection of coins produced at the Philadelphia Mint that year, which he shared through educational exhibits at several ANA shows. The offering this year in Philadelphia includes ancient coins, U.S. coins, Mint errors, and paper money, items that “will again display the connoisseurship for which Mr. Walter was renowned,” according to the auctioneer. 

1878-CC Morgan dollarInside Coin World: Coin Values Spotlight debuts in weekly issues: A new regular column in the weekly editions of Coin World, “Coin Values Spotlight,” makes its debut in the Aug. 13 print issue.

Certainly the largest piece is a bronze 1982 Lincoln cent bonded cap error consisting of more than a dozen coins. Stack’s Bowers writes, “This bonded obverse die cap actually consists of two pieces, the larger comprising 13 coins and the smaller four coins. The latter fits snugly into the top of the former, and it is likely that the four upper coins detached from the remaining pieces before the entire group finally found its way out of the press.” 

The massive mistake measures approximately 22 millimeters in height and 53 millimeters wide, and when offered by Superior Galleries at its 1999 auction of the Dr. Juan XII Suros Collection it was believed to be the largest known bonded group. The current description adds, “A particularly interesting feature of this bonded group is the protrusion of a nearly complete cent from the side approximately 75% of the way down the die cap.”

Coin World managing editor William T. Gibbs wrote on this piece in the Collectors’ Clearinghouse column in the Sept. 5, 1994, issue of Coin World. He explained that while these large errors might be considered scrap to the U.S. Mint, they are valued by collectors. “The pieces are also testament to what can go wrong when coins fail to eject from the coining chamber as additional planchets are fed into the press for striking. Normally, a coin is struck, is ejected by the feed mechanism and a new planchet deposited on the anvil die to be struck, turning it into a coin. After a coin is struck, it is ejected and another planchet fed into the press. The process repeats many times a minute.” 

This multi-coin error is the result of 17 coins failing to eject properly: they were fed into the chamber, struck, and remained within the press. Gibbs wrote, “The 17 coins were bonded together into a single mass resembling a flower, with individual coins representing the petals of the metallic flower ‘grown’ from the press.” 

There are several ways that an error like this can leave the Mint. It is unlikely that it left in a Mint-sewn bag, since the mechanized counters would be jammed by such a large object. However, the Mint also would deliver cents in tubs rather than individual bags, with amounts based on weight rather than per-coin counts, and Gibbs wrote, “Thus the clump could have left legitimately in one of these tubs, if it escaped all of the previous inspection processes.” 

Of course, it could have also been smuggled out through less “traditional” channels, although there is no evidence that this example was removed inappropriately, and a Mint official told Coin World in 1994 that collectors can legally buy and hold this error. 

Because its large size prevents it from fitting in even large-sized encapsulations, it is offered uncertified, and Stack’s Bowers grades it Mint State, observing, “The group is as made apart from mottled medium and steel-brown toning, the lack of a zinc core confirming that these are bronze planchets.”

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