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Denver Post article pertaining to Wisconsin Statehood Quarter errors

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Wisconsin Errors; Do you have any?

A curious anomaly in coins struck at the Denver Mint has set off a frenzy among collectors and could be a bonanza for those lucky enough to find them.

The irregular quarters were first discovered by an Arizona retiree who collects coins and inspects scores of them with a magnifying glass.

"It's like finding a needle in the haystack; it's like hitting the lottery," said Bob Ford, 72, who is credited with the find.

Ford routinely goes to a bank in Tucson and buys rolls of coins, which he takes home and inspects. On Dec. 11, Ford was going through a roll of 2004 Wisconsin quarters when his routine took a strange turn.

"All of a sudden, I see this funny thing," Ford recalled. "I thought, 'My God! That is a strange-looking error."'

Ford spotted an extra leaf on a cornstalk. As he excitedly re-examined other quarters, Ford discovered more than 100 unusual coins and a second abnormality. In some coins, the extra leaf is turned up; other coins have the extra leaf turned down.

A three-coin set - the regular Wisconsin quarter and the two "error coins" - can fetch about $1,100, according to collectors, dealers and websites.

They also have coin aficionados trying to solve the mystery of how the mistake happened.

"We may never know what the true cause of the die gouge is," said Fred Weinberg of Encino, Calif., a longtime coin dealer and collector who co- authored the book "The Error Coin Encyclopedia."

One theory is that the die was deliberately changed by a worker who hoped to benefit by selling the coins.

Weinberg discounts the theory as highly improbable.

"Security is very, very strong" at the U.S. Mints in Denver and elsewhere, Weinberg said. "I think an employee would have a hard time walking out with one coin, much less 10."

After the coins are stamped, they are shipped under heavy guard from the Mint to contractors who put them into paper or plastic rolls before sending them to banks. There is little, if any, chance that an employee at the Mint would know where to catch up with the imperfect coins, Weinberg said.

He said it's more likely the culprit is a bored or disgruntled Mint employee.

A Denver Mint spokesman referred questions to the U.S. Mint Office of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., which issued a press release: "The United States Mint is looking into the matter to determine possible causes in the manufacturing process."

In total, 453,200,000 Wisconsin quarters were minted over a 10-week period, said Michael White of the public affairs office. About half were minted in Denver, noted by a "D" on the front of the coin, and the other half in Philadelphia. No bad Philadelphia coins have turned up.

"It is unknown how many of these specific quarters may have been produced," he said.

But before you empty your piggy bank or go digging beneath sofa cushions, know that the number is extremely limited so far and contained to Tucson and San Antonio.

"It has absolutely been going crazy," said Bret Palser, co-owner of Eagle Eye Rare Coins in Tucson. "It was like a mini-gold rush - people were running to banks looking for these."

Palser estimates that about 2,000 leaf-up and 3,000 leaf-down quarters have been discovered in Tucson. Fewer than 50 such coins have turned up in San Antonio.

Klaus Degler, manager of Rocky Mountain Coin Inc. in south Denver, said his business has been getting calls about the quarters, but he said he wasn't aware of any having turned up here.

"Who knows if they will find any," he said. "It depends on how many are out there."

Before Ford knew the value of what he discovered, he sold a pair of irregular quarters for $3.75 to a New Jersey man on eBay, he said.

Now, he's planning to attend a coin collectors convention this month in Long Beach, Calif., to show an encapsulated "discoverer" signed set and to judge the market.

Ford and his partners, including his son, Gary, have more than 100 sets stashed away.

Gary Ford said that "130 million people are collecting state quarters."

"If you don't have one of these sets, you don't have a complete collection."

Credit: The Denver Post
February 19, 2005
Kieran Nicholson, Staff Writer

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