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$100,000 find

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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First there was one, then three and now there are four 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse No. 1 cents that have been found by collectors within just the past three years.

Such a find is financially rewarding. One of them sold for $126,500.

The valuable variety shows strong hub doubling on the date, LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST. 

In a telephone interview with the finder of the latest specimen, I learned that he had found it in a roll of 1969-S cents that he had put together from tens of thousands of cents that he had pulled from $25 bank boxes of predominantly circulated cents from 1998 through 2005.

According to Brian, a 60-year-old disabled American Vietnam Veteran, (who prefers to go by his first name only), he began saving all cents minted prior to 1982 when he learned that the value of the copper contained within them exceeded the face value of the coin.

After accumulating hundreds of rolls of “coppers” that he broke down by date and mintmark, he stopped hoarding and at some point decided to start returning them to the bank. He said that he returned anywhere from $300 to $400 of the cents before a fellow coin club member learned of his activities and asked if he had any rolls of the San Francisco 1968 through 1974 cents left, indicating that he’d like to buy them.

In the meantime, Brian’s activities had rekindled his childhood interest in coins and he joined a few coin clubs and began reading more about coins. He said that he had become particularly fascinated by error and variety coins due to the many oddball coins he found while searching through the rolls. By this time he knew valuable varieties might be contained within those rolls, such as the 1969-S and 1970-S doubled dies. 

On March 29, 2010, he found this 1969-S doubled die; the fourth coin down in the first of approximately 20 rolls of the date that he still hadn’t taken back to the bank. He said he immediately knew there was something wrong with the coin because the date and mottoes on the obverse seemed fuzzy.  A closer look with a glass revealed that it was indeed the doubled die.

Later, when error-variety coin specialist Charles Clark was advised by fellow collector, Tony Zupkas, that Brian was claiming to have found a 1969-S doubled die cent, he was skeptical since most reports of this nature turn out to be strike doubling. Strike doubling is a form of doubling that occurs within a split second after the strike and/or at the time the coin is being ejected from the press and adds no value to a coin. A true doubled die coin is one that struck with a die that is itself doubled – made that way during the hubbing process.

But Zupkas convinced Clark that it might be worth his while to make it to a popular bid board where many local collectors meet on Monday evenings at the Beverly Coin Shop of Wichita Falls, Texas, where Zupkas and Brian planned to be. 

Clark decided to make the 45-minute trek for a first-hand look and was surprised to find himself gazing an actual 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse No. 1. It’s a coin for which just 39 examples have been certified in all grades by the two major third-party grading services that publish reports on this variety.

Clark made arrangements to photograph the coin at the next Wichita Falls Coin and Stamp Club meeting where all three collectors met again a few weeks later. Clark said that he and other club members present at the time were of a consensus that it was in Mint State condition. Clark’s photos seem to suggest that it is in fact just that. However, Brian is a bit more conservativ,e saying that it might be About Uncirculated-58. He plans to have the coin graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service and will update readers on how it comes back.

Of the Mint State examples of this variety found in the past three years, Mike Tremonti of Michigan led the pack with one found in a roll he had purchased at a local coin shop in September 2007.  It was eventually graded by PCGS as MS-64 Red and sold by Heritage Auction Galleries on Jan. 8, 2008, for $126,500.

By late December of 2007 another collector (who also preferred to remain anonymous) walked into another coin shop in Michigan just a few blocks away from were the Tremonti specimen was found and purchased two rolls of uncirculated 1969-S cents and found one specimen of the variety in each roll. All three of these finds were reported in Numismatic News at the time of their discoveries.

Of the two grading services that publish population reports on this variety, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded 11 examples ranging from AU-53 to MS-63 with only four of the 11 graded in Mint State.  The PCGS population report shows 28 pieces graded ranging from Very Fine-35 to MS-64 with only nine graded Mint State. ANACS used to publish reports on how many they graded for this variety (which in October of 2007 was seven, ranging from Extremely Fine to AU-58) but none currently shows up in their population reports that clearly distinguish the DDO#1 from the DDO#2, which is very minor.

Prices for the 1969-S doubled die in AU-58 to uncirculated grades as found on the online PCGS Price Guide range from $45,000 to $135,000 for an MS-65 Red (though neither NGC or PCGS have a MS-65 listed in their population reports).

Hub doubling, or what collectors commonly refer to as a doubled die, is possibly due to a phenomenon known as work hardening. This causes the metal of the face of a die to become too hard and too brittle during its production to allow a complete image to be sunk into the die in one impression from the hub without causing it to crack or shatter.  As a result, several impressions from the hub must be made. These multiple hubbings were required to produce a die when the 1969-S die was made.

(The United States Mint largely replaced the multiple hubbing process in recent years by the more modern “single squeeze” restrained hubbing process).

In the old multiple-hubbing days, between each hubbing the die was removed from the press and annealed (heat softened), thus allowing for another impression from the hub without shattering the die.
If for some reason a partially finished die is reinstalled into a press for strengthening and the hub and die is improperly indexed, resulting in a misalignment of images, or if the hub varies in design from the one(s) used for earlier impressions – hub doubling will result.

In this case of the 1969-S doubled die obverse No. 1, we have what is referred to as a Class 1 Rotated Hub doubled die.  This class of doubling occurs when there is a rotational misalignment between images.

As can be seen in the images shown here, the final overlying image is rotated counterclockwise in relation to the earlier underlying image. The direction of spread on hub doubling is defined as the direction you must move from the underlying images to the usually stronger overlying image. Thus, this variety is defined as a Class 1 Rotated Hub with counterclockwise doubling.

I’d like to thank Charles Clark for bringing this coin to my attention and for providing the images used here. He has an educational website at: www.dacoinman.com.


Ken Potter is the official attributer and lister of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collector’s Association of Die Doubling. He privately lists U.S. doubled dies and other collectible variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register. For more information on either of these clubs, or to learn how to get a variety listed in the Variety Coin Register, send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope and 61 cents to Ken Potter, P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076-0232. E-mail Kpotter256@aol.com, or visit his Educational Image Gallery located at: www.koinpro.com.


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