When the Presidential $1 coins were first issued in 2007, their design called for lettered-edge inscriptions. For the first time ever, the date, mintmark and required inscriptions were to appear on the edge of the coin. The purpose of this feature, according to the authorizing legislation (the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005), was to give the dollar coins a distinctive edge as an aid to the blind or visually impaired. Additionally, it allowed for more room of the obverse, allowing for an expressive and artful depiction of the Nation’s past presidents.
But edge lettering presented a challenge to the Mint. It was a significant undertaking, considering the number of dollars that would be struck. To accomplish this on a large scale, the Mint decided to strike the coins with plain edges, as the Sacagawea dollar had been, and then to apply the edge lettering in a subsequent step. Once struck, coins were moved in large tote bins from coin presses to edge lettering. Initially the edge lettering looked as follows:
• 2007 P E PLURIBUS UNUM • IN GOD WE TRUST
Since the edge lettering is applied in a second step after the coins are struck, it is possible for a coin to skip this critical step and go straight to bagging. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Washington $1 coins, the first coin in the series, did miss the edge lettering step and were released with blank edges. NGC describes this error as MISSING EDGE LETTERING. It is so common on the Washington dollar that we report this error in the NGC Census Report, and NGC has certified over 40,000 of them!
Since the motto In God We Trust was found on the edge, error coins that were missing edge lettering were the first dollar coins since 1866 to lack this inscription. The media ran stories describing "godless dollars," and brought national attention to the error. To address sensitivities arising from this omission, a modification to the edge lettering became law; included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, it was stipulated that the inscription In God We Trust must be included on the obverse or reverse of small dollar coins. The legislation also addressed the new Native American dollars, the adjunct to the Sacagawea dollar series, which also had edge-lettered inscriptions.
The new edge lettering reads as follows:
2010 P E PLURIBUS UNUM
While Missing Edge Lettering error coins are created less frequently, they still can be found for all small dollars, creating some very exciting opportunities for the collector. In some cases, only a handful is known of a particular issue. Following are images of Missing Edge Lettering dollars that have been certified by NGC. Some were found in Mint Sets and therefore have satin finish, described as SMS for Special Mint Set by NGC. Also, at of the time of publication, no Andrew Jackson or Zachary Taylor Dollars Missing Edge Lettering have been certified by NGC.
Note that spurious alterations do exist and professional certification is recommended. Be very cautions when buying raw examples.