Troy Watkins of Garrett, Ky., has reported what specialists believe may turn out to be the first known doubled-die state quarter.
His find, on the reverse of a 2005-P Minnesota quarter, shows what is best described as a possible section of an evergreen tree floating free in the field within a stand of trees to the right of the state outline. This area of "design" represents the virtual dead center of the coin?s design. This is an important key to its possible attribution because specialists who feel the coin has possibilities of being a doubled die believe it could be the result of a tilted hub that was seated into proper position during hubbing.
Tilted Hub Doubling restricted to such a small area of design within the center region of the die is possible due to the result of either of two related scenarios:
1) The hub is backed off after the initial kiss of the hub into a tilted die blank and is then reset properly and hubbed again.
2) The hub and die blank are tilted in relation to each other and are then forced to seat into proper position by hubbing pressure within a split second after the initial kiss of the hub into the tip of the die blank.
It must be understood that 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 ? and thus the misplaced area of doubling on the affected die.
Very similar effects are known on several Canadian 1974 Winnipeg centennial nickel dollars where all the doubling is restricted to the center of the die. Former Royal Canadian Mint master engraver Walter Ott (retired) attributed the first one (the only one he saw first-hand) as being created in the manner described above, indicating that the doubling could have been created via either of the two scenarios noted here.
With this Minnesota quarter the Mint was well into the single-squeeze hubbing era (which was not the case with the Canadian varieties in 1974), so researchers feel that if this coin is indeed a doubled die, it would have most likely occurred when a tilted hub/die seated into proper position within the single squeeze of the hub.
As the name implies, the single-squeeze hubbing procedure impresses a complete design into a die with just one press of the hub. The single-squeeze hubbing process was introduced to U.S. coinage starting in fiscal year 1986, at which point it was used for master dies, working hubs and pilot testing for production dies. It was introduced to widespread use of production dies starting in 1997 and phased in for other dies over the next year or so with some exceptions.
Prior to FY 1986, all working dies were created via the multiple hubbing process, which required anywhere from two to a score or more impressions from a hub into a single die. This process required annealing (softening) of a partially completed die in between hubbings and a perfect alignment between the hub and die for all subsequent hubbing to avoid doubling. When the alignment was off for any reason, hub doubling resulted. From this process was created great numbers of doubled dies recorded by specialist up into the thousands of dies so affected, mostly minor, along with some notable widespread varieties including the famous 1955 and 1972 doubled die cents.
According to a report in Coin World in 1996, during inaugural ceremonies for the Denver Mint's new die shop, Bill Gibbs was advised by an official that the single-squeeze hubbing process could produce some close-spread doubled dies but that it would eliminate those of a wider spread.
Shortly after, Philadelphia Mint officials took the opposite position and have continued to maintain over the years that there was no possibility of doubled dies being created at all from the single-squeeze process. They have consistently stated that none of the varieties submitted to them for examination in recent years were true doubled dies. This included the 1997 double-ear cent that contains 15 areas of doubling in the central regions of the design and the 2004-P Peace Medal five-cent piece that displays fairly widespread doubling with classic diagnostics that many in the hobby, including all the doubled die specialists and major grading services, consider proof of hub doubling.
At this point all researchers agree that the Minnesota coin in question needs more research before it can be listed as a doubled die. Examples of the coin are being sent to the various doubled die examiners for first-hand examination. However, the initial response to this being a doubled die based on images alone is positive toward it being a probable doubled die.
In my e-mailed presentation of the image to specialists, I pointed out several considerations for what appeared to be portions of a partial tree in the center of the design, including it being from a tilted hub. I gave no indications of where the doubling may have originated from within the design simply because I was not able to place it. All I had was a strong gut feeling that the "extra design" was hubbed into the die and not the result of damage or die clash.
One of the first researchers to respond to my e-mail was John Wexler, who apparently saw within short order what I had been staring at all the time but failed to see! He said, "If you look at the tree (rock?) design southwest of this 'extra' design, it appears to be a match. This looks like a job for an overlay."
Tom DeLorey, former senior authenticator for ANACS and past editor of Coin World's Collectors' Clearinghouse, who was actually the first person to respond, said, "The marks look less like the tree to the left of them than they did before on the eBay image, so I could see either a tilted hub or just die damage. Back at ANACS we used to 'No Decision' stuff we couldn't be sure of, and I think I'd vote that on this one."
However after Wexler made his observations, which I circulated, DeLorey said, "I think Ken's yellow overlay nails it as being a doubled die, with the extra tree being a duplication of the lower part of the tree to the left of it. Not having had the coin in front of me, I had failed to think three-dimensionally and remember that the lower part of the tree was higher on the coin than the top of the tree, and therefore higher on the hub, and therefore the first part of the hub to kiss the tilted die blank. You got it right, Ken! Run with it!"
Variety specialist and publisher of the online magazine Die Variety News, Billy Crawford, created actual overlays with one image in red placed over another one in black. It was difficult to interpret due to the combination of a proliferation of nondescript design elements all closely blended together and deep shadows in the image I supplied, so when I asked him to interpret the overlay, he stated that the "extra design" fit perfectly within the area that Wexler described as the possible source of the doubled image.
Crawford noted further, "From photos and preliminary overlays, it appears this is a good candidate of tilted hub doubling." He also stated that he had located a normal version of the coin to study first-hand and said, "Comparing [it] under the stereoscope and then looking at your photo ? it looks to me like it?s corresponding into the area that John pointed out."
James Wiles, the 20th Century Variety Attributer for Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA) said, "I would agree that the character here is significant. The uniqueness of the design makes it highly probable that this is a tilted hub doubled die."
Bill Fivaz, co-author with J.T. Stanton of the Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties said, ?I think John has nailed it ... the design that is highlighted in the lower trees to the left seems to match the area in question. ... However, I think we should explore possibilities other than a doubled die, just to be sure all bases are covered ... Neat variety!"
Variety specialist and Webmaster of a Washington quarter error-variety site, Jose Cortez, said, "Good possibilities for a doubled die. We are all well aware that Philly [the Philadelphia Mint] has put out several doubled die reverses in the last few years. This may well be another."
Watkins found the coins in early September of last year while searching uncirculated rolls of the Minnesota quarters that he obtained from his local bank. He said he found 91 or 92 of them with an average of about four per roll being found; some rolls contained only one of the variety while others contained as many as seven or eight of the coins.
Watkins has been selling them on eBay under the nickname "Extra Tree Error." I ran a search on the last 30 days of his sales (the maximum this eBay function will allow) and learned that he has sold six of them in the past month at an average price of $104.50 each. Chronologically, they sold for $20.49, $46, $104.48, $148.12, $145.38 and $162.50, with the final two sales occurring on July 1.
Two of the coins are now in the process of being sent around to variety coin attributers for first-hand examination. I will report further when their findings come in.
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 63 cents to Ken Potter, P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076-0232.