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Coins With Missing Motto—A Way to Make Money?

Here's an amusing piece of information: The United States Mint released into circulation what is believed to be at least 50,000 new George Washington dollar coins that are missing their emblematic inscription of "In God We Trust."

The new coin's design is supposed to have "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum," the year and the mint mark stamped around the edge, but due to a so-called manufacturing mistake several people in Philadelphia (one of the locations where the first coins were made) have already reported the missing motto. And, many such owners have since cashed in on the agency's mistake.

According to an article by the Associated Press, the flawed coins are being sold on sites such as eBay for around $40 to $60. The first coin put up for sale fetched $600, but that was before it became a more common item, the AP reported.

Shortly after the U.S. Mint got word of the flawed coins, the agency issued a statement admitting to the mistake and claiming that it was a result of a "new, complex, high-volume manufacturing system." Apparently, there was a batch that did not make it through the machine that stamps the lettering around the edge of the coin. The mistake also made it past inspectors and into circulation in mid-February. In total, 300 million of the new Washington dollar coins have been produced.

What's interesting to me is how quickly something can gain value because of a motto, or in this case, the lack thereof. On the one hand, there are probably those who purchased the coin as some sort of statement against the nation's religiously slanted motto—one that is not representative of any sort of collective belief.

On the other hand, there are those like the person who started this e-mail conspiracy that believe the incomplete coins were a purposeful omission on the part of the U.S. government in an attempt to "phase God out of America." While it's difficult not to turn this into a political debate, I will do so in favor of looking at this from a business standpoint and say that this goes to show that words—when used to represent a company belief or mission—are powerful.

Which brings me to the question: If you received one of the flawed Washington coins, what value would you put on it?