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Missing-Clad Layer Mint Error Coins

By Jon Sullivan - February 10, 2023

Beginning in 1965, clad coinage took the place of much of the circulating precious-metal coinage that had been in production since the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia first struck coins in 1792. The change first occurred with dimes and quarters, and then in 1971, half dollars and dollars also adopted the new clad planchet. With the move toward copper-nickel clad coinage, a new mint error type was invented: the missing clad layer.

This 2011-P Kennedy Half Dollar is missing its obverse clad layer that was missing before being struck. The coin reveals copper on its obverse but has the normal nickel outer layer on the reverse. Missing clad layer half dollars are scarce. Courtesy of Jon Sullivan. Click image to enlarge.

A missing clad layer is a coin that has one of its outer nickel layers missing from the copper core. As a result, the typical missing clad layer coin will be copper on one side and nickel on the other. It also will weigh roughly 15% less than a normal coin. There are full, partial, or dual missing clad layers, with each type representing how much of the clad layer(s) is missing.

To understand missing-clad-layer errors, first it is necessary to know how clad coins are made. It starts with the planchet strip, which is made by bonding together an outer layer of nickel to both sides of an inner layer of copper to form the planchet strip. This bonded metal is analogous to a bologna sandwich, with the two slices of bread serving as the layers of nickel, and the bologna being the inner copper layer. The layers of nickel are bonded to the copper layer and will form a secure bond if done correctly.

However, sometimes the layer does not bond properly, and the outer nickel layer does not attach to the copper layer. If this occurs, later when the blanks are punched out of the planchet strip, the areas of the strip with improperly bonded nickel to copper will separate, and a blank without a clad layer on one side will be the result. Later, when that blank is struck, the coin will be a missing-clad-layer error, with one side copper and the other side nickel.

Another way that the error can occur is if one of the strips of nickel is shorter than the other layers of copper and nickel. When the layers are bonded together to form a planchet strip, the end of the strip will have exposed copper to the extent that the nickel layer was short. When the strip is fed into the blanking press and blanks are punched out, the short area will result in blanks missing a clad layer as well as likely some partial missing clad layers (where the nickel and copper meet, the partial missing clad layers will occur).

A full missing-clad-layer coin will have no clad layer on one side. It will therefore be copper on that side of the coin and is described as a “reverse missing clad layer” or as an “obverse missing clad layer,” depending on which side of the coin the layer is missing. This is the most common type of missing clad layer.

If there is some of the nickel layer remaining, the coin is called a “partial missing clad layer.” If, for example, 25% of the later is missing, the coin is described as a “25% partial missing clad layer.” This is the second-most common type of missing clad layer, and they are readily available as an error type.

One other type of missing clad layer is called a “dual missing clad layer,” which is a coin missing both the obverse and reverse clad layers, with only the copper core remaining. Such a coin will be copper on both sides and will weigh approximately 30% less than a normal coin of its type. The dual missing clad layers are incredibly rare, with less than 10 known for Roosevelt Dimes, five to 10 for Washington Quarters, and only one for Kennedy Half Dollars, and none are known for the dollar coin series.

These dual missing clad layer errors rarely come up for sale due to their rarity, but when they do, they will typically sell for $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the rarity and condition of the particular coin.

Missing clad layers are common on all denominations of coins from dimes to small dollar coins. Eisenhower Dollars are scarce with missing clad layers, and only a small number are known. Proof missing clad layers are known as well, but they are extremely rare and usually sell for thousands of dollars.

This is a pair of missing-clad-layer 1995-D Washington Quarters. The coins are both dated 1995-D, with one coin missing the obverse clad layer and the other missing the reverse clad layer. Which side of a coin the clad layer is missing on occurs at random, and they are generally of the same rarity. Courtesy of Jon Sullivan. Click image to enlarge.

It is completely random if a missing clad layer occurs on a coin’s obverse or reverse because it is the planchet that is missing the layer, and it is happenstance if the planchet is fed into the coining press with the copper side facing up or down in the striking chamber. If the copper side is facing the reverse, the coin will be a reverse missing clad layer, but if the obverse, it will be an obverse missing clad layer. It is totally random which way it occurs.

The most desirable side to have missing is the obverse side; the lone exceptions are the 50 State Quarters and America The Beautiful Quarters, which are far more desirable with the state- or park-themed reverse missing the clad layer. An obverse missing clad layer is usually worth around twice as much as a reverse. For the 50 State Quarters and America The Beautiful Quarters, the difference is even more extreme, with the reverse being worth often five to 10 times more than the obverse. The reason that the 50 State Quarter and America The Beautiful Quarter reverses are worth so much more is because they are the side most collectors want to see and, with missing clad layers, they often try to collect one of each design, and so they want to see the copper side on the design side.

Collecting missing clad layer coins is usually either done by trying to obtain one of each denomination, such as a dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar, or by collecting by date, with the collector attempting to acquire one of each date and mintmark for a coin series. An example of this would be collecting all obverse-missing-clad-layer Roosevelt dimes from 1965 to the present.

This 2005-D Roosevelt Dime has a partial missing clad layer, with approximately 70% of the clad layer missing. Roosevelt dimes are relatively common with partial missing clad layers. The error occurs when only part of the nickel clad layer is present on the planchet when the coin is struck. Courtesy of Jon Sullivan. Click image to enlarge.

Some collectors will try to acquire a reverse missing clad layer for each state of the state quarter series (and it is possible to achieve!). This makes for a particularly fun, albeit challenging way to collect, since most of the state quarters are fairly available with missing clad layers. However, they get progressively rare later in the 50 State Quarter series, with some states such as Oklahoma, Arizona, and others being extremely rare with just perhaps five or six known for the rarest states.

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