It’s natural for the conscientious to pursue perfection. Mistakes are the rough spots in the path that occasionally trip us up. These are soon forgotten and life moves on. However, those errors that remain in full view can be regrettable embarrassments, providing others with an example not to follow.

The U.S. Mint does a remarkable job creating perfect, pristine little examples of the coins of commerce – billions of them. When the rare error coin shows up in the hopper, it is noteworthy. They are immediately taken out and re-melted into a second chance. Those that escape the eye of the inspectors eventually become a fascinating curiosity in the odd collection of like kind, or in a random grouping of intriguing keepsakes, as in this wunderkammer.

The present example, which with a few others, exited through the sunset-lit doors of the Philadelphia mint in 1990 under supposedly suspicious means, is bold and unusual. Three copper-coated aluminum one cent planchets ran through the presses to become virtually flawless blazing pennies, only to be caught in a machine malfunction, compressed together in mechanized violence, and exited a miniature, homely work of government modern art. This virtual lump of shiny metal would never have successfully fled the scrutiny of a careful employed observer on the lookout for such obvious discrepancies. However, hidden in the pocket or cuff of a mint official perhaps exempt from metal detectors or regular searches, its escape was assured. Eventually, into the hands of a well-known dealer it and others arrived, followed by the purchase of this particularly dramatic curiosity by the author.  
3-pc Bonded 1¢ Set
Philadelphia Mint - 1990
There are many types of mint error coins, most of which have been previously described within the pages of this magazine, which can be found here.  

(Note to Secret Service/Treasury Legal Team: One can never be 100% certain this example left the mint surreptitiously.)

3-piece Bonded 1¢ Mint Error
Date: 1990
Location: United States
Provenance: Major Mint Error Coin Dealer - Direct purchase

Major mint error coins are each unique, and prices thus can be arbitrary to its attraction. Bonded sets may command $1,200 to $1,500, with other types of errors ranging from $1 (blank penny planchet) to $150,000 (Sacagawea $1 mule).    

References: The Error Coin Encyclopedia - Third Edition - Margolis-Weinberg - 2000

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