The following Q&A is excerpted from Clifford Mishler’s Coins: Questions & Answers:
Q: Can you account for the upsurge of interest in recent years in mint errors?
A: Major mint errors—overdates, off-center strikes, and multiple strikes—have long been of great interest to most collectors. Some of the more significant mint errors—die breaks, double dates, and clipped planchets—have also enjoyed a small but enthusiastic following for many years.
The tremendous expansion which occurred during the past few years, an interest which caused the formation of national error clubs, the appearance of regular error columns in the hobby press, and development of comprehensive cataloging of mint errors, is to at least a significant extent due to the mid-1960s phenomenon of the switch to clad metal coins and the disappearance of traditional silver coins from circulation.
Coin collecting attracts devotees from all levels of the social structure. Many collectors, particularly youngsters and those of modest financial means, were at the time unwilling to expend substantial sums on their pursuits of coin collecting. They derived their “kicks” from attempting to assemble their date-mint sets with coins encountered in circulation. The silver coin-melting phenomenon narrowed their activity to cents and nickels and the readily available new clad coins. Many turned to errors, particularly Lincoln cent errors, as these errors were relatively plentiful due to the billion coin and larger quantities of annual production commencing with the 1959 introduction of the Memorial reverse type, providing an inexpensive means to continue hobby enjoyment.
The increased availability of error coins of all denominations from the 1960s through the 1990s also inadvertently exposed and attracted more collectors to the error field. During this time the tremendous production increases greatly increased the incidence of errors through overuse of dies and the physical impossibility of detecting all errors by the inspection procedures then employed. Quality control enhancements introduced in more recent years have greatly reduced the quantities of error coins that escape detection and recycling. Thus, the combination of greater collector interest and reduced availability are combining to drive the price of both major and minor errors to levels that would have been undreamed of in the 1960s.