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Did You Know that Transitional Errors Can Occur When Compositions Change?

In lot 5143 of our Winter 2022 Expo Auction we were pleased to present an interesting transitional error from the era of silver clad coin production. This 1977-D quarter struck on a silver-clad planchet, realized $12,000 when it crossed the auction block in our Rarities Night session on November 1.

Transitional errors are coins struck on a prior year’s planchets, if those planchets are of a different metallic composition. Such errors occur when compositions are changing, or when multiple compositions are in use.

The most familiar transitional errors are the 1943 bronze and 1944 steel Lincoln cents. These very well-known Transitional Errors regularly bring six- and seven-figure prices at auction and garner headlines in the “mainstream” (non-numismatic) media. As Coin World once put it, transitional errors “have a coolness level that is hard to match,” while NGC’s Mint Error Chronicles Blog calls these “some of the most exciting” errors.

Transitional errors proliferated with the introduction of copper-nickel clad coinage in 1964. 1965-dated dimes and quarters struck on 90% silver planchets are sought-after and routinely sell for thousands of dollars on the rare occasions they appear at auction. The metallic transitions of the mid-1960s saw the introduction of another clad composition: silver clad, an alloy of 40% silver, balance copper. Kennedy half dollars were struck on silver clad planchets from 1965 to 1970 (though the 1970-D issue was only included in Mint Sets) in vast quantities; they regularly come over the counter at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ brick-and-mortar establishments. The alloy was adopted for noncirculating Eisenhower dollars in 1971. To mark the United States’ bicentennial in the mid-1970s, a three-coin silver clad Proof set that included the dollar, half dollar, and quarter was produced at the San Francisco Mint. This first and only outing of the silver clad alloy for the quarter resulted in transitional errors.

Somehow a silver clad quarter planchet wound up in the Denver Mint, where it was struck with 1977 dies, producing a transitional error. The error was discovered not long after it was produced, in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Regarded as among the most significant American numismatic rarities of the 1970s, three 1977-D silver clad quarters are thought to exist.

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