U.K. numismatists have been in a buzz for a few days now – an unprecedented error has been released into circulation. Through some accident of quality control, a number of 20p coins with the new reverse were minted with the old obverse. Before 2009, the coin was dated on the reverse, so the new coins have the date moved to the front, next to the Queen’s head. This means that in the error coin the old un-dated front and the new un-dated back are put together on a single coin, making it the only non-dated U.K. coin in centuries. It is actually a very subtle error, because, technically, neither side is incorrect in nature, but their pairing is the problem. From the front, you would not be able to tell the error coin from a regular 2008 coin. Flip them over, the same thing: you have to compare both sides to correctly identify the error. Last week, the expected price these coins will bring is about £50 apiece, although eBay, of course, has prices ranging from £200 to an unheard-of £7000, depending on the day and the coin.
Curiously, the £50 price comes from a website undated20p.com, “brought to you by The London Mint Office” according to the tagline on their webpage. The London Mint Office appears to be a collectible coin dealer, not connected with the actual Mint of the U.K., and they seem to have known about the undated 20p coin for a while. According to their WHOIS registration, the domain name “undated20p.com” was originally registered in May, 2009. They were pretty quick on the ball, since the first error showed up on eBay around that time. At that time, the coin was selling for around £20, which would have been a good profit to re-sell to collectors at £50 each, until everybody and their brother started finding them and putting them on eBay. About a week ago, the crazy multi-thousand sales hit, and for the past day there have been hundreds of them listed for sale.
Now, there’s far more of the 20p errors online than you can reasonably look through. Don’t get excited about low prices, though: there are quite a few scammers out there trying to make a quick buck off the careless. The face of the coin, remember, was the correct obverse for the 20p over the past years – it’s not supposed to have a date on the front, because the reverse is dated. Unscrupulous sellers are taking average, everyday 20p coins and listing them as “UNDATED on one side”. Well, of course – nearly every U.K. coin is undated on one side, because it’s on the other. The key is the undated front and the undated back both appear on the same coin, otherwise you’re buying the same 20p coin that you’ve been able to get for years. As of July 1st, the actual error 20p coin, in mint or near-mint condition, is actually selling in the £200 range, which I suspect will continue until people start to realize just how many are in circulation. My uneducated guess is that there are thousands done in this manner, due to the way coins are minted. This isn’t an accident where a couple half-molded planchets made it into the wrong pile; the coin was cleanly made and done according to the usual quality control standards, but just pressed with the wrong die on one side. This in itself is a rare occurance, creating a rather historic error to add to your collection, but it will probably be in enough numbers that the original £20 price on eBay to the £50 pricetag from The London Mint Office will probably become the correct average price once the speculators are exhausted.