Dr. James Wiles, CONECA’s attributer of 20th and 21st century die varieties, has just listed spectacular doubled dies on a 1986 gold $50 American Eagle and on a clad proof 1999-S Pennsylvania state quarter.
The 1986 gold American Eagle, submitted to Wiles by Sabrina Racha, exhibits a strong but little-known doubled-die reverse. This variety was first attributed by the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS) in the year of issue. The variety is perhaps one of the best kept secrets until now. The majority of doubled die collectors didn’t even know it existed.
The variety exhibits a strong spread on E PLUR, (of E PLURIBUS UNUM), 1 OZ. FINE GOLD and on the UM of UNUM. Close to medium spreads are displayed on the designer initials MB, left nest, portions of E PLURIBUS UNUM and UNIT of UNITED. Wiles has it listed in the CONECA files as DDR-001, 1-R-II-C. The second half of the listing number indicates that it is a Class II – Distorted Hub variety.
Siegfried Zeveckas submitted the 1999-S Pennsylvania clad quarter, which boasts spectacular doubling on LIBERTY. In many ways it rivals that of the 1995 doubled-die obverse #1 cent. It is certainly sharper and crisper than the doubling on the 1995 cent. The 1995 doubled die is perhaps the last date we’ve seen with obverse doubling so strong (in early die state) that it gained widespread attention. While the 1999-S quarter is arguably just as deserving of such attention, it is dependent on supply and demand, and whether there is a supply large enough for dealers to promote it into popularity.
The doubled-die 1995 cent was identified in the year of issue and many collectors spent time searching bags of cents in hopes of finding one.
There is also sharp doubling on UNITED STATES and QUARTER DOLLAR with DOLLAR gradually tapering off into minor doubling. Moderate to minor doubling is present on most of the balance of the design. Wiles has this one listed as DDO-001, PR-1-O-IV+VIII. This number indicates that the doubling is the result of both Offset and Tilted Die doubling.
This quarter was produced during the first year of the states quarter program, (representing the second design for the year), and yet it took this long for a major doubled-die obverse to be reported to CONECA.
In sharp contrast, hundreds of doubled-die reverses have been found on state quarters on many dates and types since the 2005-P Minnesota quarter with “Extra Tree” was reported by Troy Watkins, opening the flood gates with thousands of collectors taking a closer look at the state quarters.
The numismatic value of the doubled die will be overpowered by the bullion price of the one-ounce gold Eagle. However, it could still add a significant premium of hundreds of dollars, making the coin worth looking for. Because these are produced as bullion for investors, the Mint traditionally makes fewer coins per set of dies than circulating coinage. The variety may be scarce to rare.
The value of the proof Pennsylvania quarter could be considerable ranging from the high three figures up into the lower four figures.
Many variety specialists suggest that proof varieties should be worth more than their business strike counterparts because of the small number of coins struck from proof dies, which could be just a couple thousand or so. In sharp contrast, mintages upwards of 250,000 are typical for a circulation die. However the market for proof varieties has not borne this out.
Many business strike varieties are worth far more that proofs of similar significance due to the low survival rate of circulating coins in decent grades and the fact that they represent a needle in a haystack. On the other hand, while very few proofs are struck from a die, most survive in collector hands in what I like to call “time capsules of safe storage.” As such we see that proofs, despite their far lower mintages per set of dies, average out to about the same value of the much higher mintage circulation strikes. Supply and demand will be the ultimate decider of value.
Hub doubling during the pre-1997/1998 era was possible due to a phenomenon known as work hardening. This caused the metal of the face of a die to become too hard and too brittle to allow a complete image to be sunk into the die in one operation without causing it to crack or shatter. As a result, several impressions or hubbings were required to produce a die when using this process.
Between each hubbing, the die was removed from the press and annealed (heat softened) thus allowing for another impression without shattering the die. If for some reason a partially finished die was reinstalled on a press for strengthening and the hub and die was improperly indexed, resulting in a misalignment of images, hub doubling occurred.
The U.S. Mint largely replaced the multiple hubbing process in recent years by the more modern “single squeeze” restrained hubbing process. The “single squeeze” process also produces doubled dies but normally such doubling is more or less restricted to the central areas of the design. The face of a die blank (referred to as a “die block” in Mint jargon) is machined with a slightly conical configuration to aid in the flow of metal during hubbing.
This would indicate that the initial kiss of a hub into a die blank would be restricted to this centralized area before continuing on to fill out the rest of the design. During this process the tip of a tilted die blank would be positioned slightly off location away from the center of the hub into a different area of design than intended. After the initial contact, the pressure of the hub would eventually seat the die blank in proper position, and in turn cause doubling on the affected die.
This 1999-S Pennsylvania quarter appears to be one of a few that breaks the rule of the typical result of single squeeze hubbing, with doubling from an offset that reaches out strongly to the outer areas of design. I for one do not have an explanation for this effect during this era other than to suspect that the die was nearly finished before the hub was backed off and pressed again, suggesting to me this may not be the result of a tilted die at all but something more closely related to the mechanics of the old multiple hubbing process.
Doubled dies are often confused with the more common strike doubling (a.k.a., machine or mechanical doubling). Strike doubling is the result of a looseness of the dies in their die holders or other causes that may create vibration in the press – sort of like what you’d find on a car with broken motor mounts or even a washing machine with clothes out of balance. The cause is die bounce and is generally characterized by a flat, shelf-like area of doubling bordering a design(s). It represents metal from the original raised image smashed down into the field of the coin by the die. With a bit of study, the average variety collector is usually able to eventually differentiate strike doubling from collectible doubled dies (and other forms of die doubling such as repunched mintmarks). Doubled dies are characterized by raised, rounded, overlapping images with separation in between the overlapping images. The separation may be close but you can usually find it, at least in the finest details, such as the serifs on letters or numbers.
The 1969-S cent shown here shows doubling as a result of strike doubling on the date and mintmark. Compare the differences between this doubling and that of doubled dies shown here.
Strike doubling adds no value to a coin.
Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has written many feature articles for “Numismatic News” and for “World Coin News.” Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at www.koinpro.com.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express.
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