Reports of new doubled dies in Lincoln cents happen frequently, but very seldom does it occur that a major doubled die sees its first discovery and publication a quarter century after it was minted.
That was the case when collector and roll searcher Richard J. Ziegler of Quincy, Mass., sorted through a roll he had purchased at the bank in July and found something special; a 1982 small-date zinc cent with major doubling on the reverse of the coin.
It took Ziegler nearly two months to find the equipment to properly image the coin, but as soon as he had photos to use, he promptly posted his find on the Coin Community Family forum (www.coincommunity.com) asking for help in its identification. Die variety enthusiast Bill O?Rourke and I quickly responded positively that Ziegler had scored a very nice find and that this doubled die had never been listed by any of the major sources to our knowledge.
Arrangements were made to send the coin to me, attributor of www.coppercoins.com, for photography and inclusion in as many major publications as possible to get the word out of its existence. Photographs of Ziegler?s coin were published on my Web site Sept. 15.
The new find is listed as 1982P-1DR-001 on coppercoins.com, 1982P DDR#001 by CONECA, and 01-1982-801 in the Fivaz/Stanton ?Cherrypickers? Guide? system. This doubled die shows very strong doubling on most of the devices on the reverse. Its major pick-up points are the ?E? of UNITED and the motto, ?E Pluribus Unum,? located just above the Memorial building in the upper center of the design. The doubling shows on many of the other devices, but is not as obvious to the unaided eye.
Markers for this particular doubled die include thin die polishing lines that run east and west through the lower design (around ONE CENT) and in the far upper part of the design around STATES. Another marker is a group of concentric (circular) die scratches inside the Memorial bays on either side of the building.
The obverse of the discovery coin is also riddled with many die scratches, most run east and west through and around the bust of Lincoln in the center of the design. Another important marker is a die chip inside the upper left of the ?T? of LIBERTY.
This coin was struck in a year of change at the U.S. Mint. Due to the price of copper, the Mint changed the composition of the Lincoln cent from the brass alloy (95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc) it had been since 1962 to a less expensive core of pure zinc plated with pure copper. The first run of copper-plated zinc cents in late 1982 proved to be very problematic.
The copper plating often bubbled up due to improper or incomplete washing of the zinc blanks prior to plating. The plating also had a nasty tendency to split open when the coins were struck, exposing the oxygen reactive zinc to the open environment, allowing rapid oxidation and corrosion. Needless to say, many of the early zinc cents have since corroded, making any 1982 zinc cent somewhat difficult to find.
Additionally, the Mint also modified the design of the Lincoln cent in 1982 to sharpen the design, creating what collectors know of as the small-date variety. The design used during the first part of the year is known as the large-date variety. This change occurred late in the year making the small-date cents more difficult to obtain.
Changing the metallic composition of the Lincoln cent and modifying the design to sharpen details created the possibility of four different varieties per mint. Since cents were minted for circulation in both Philadelphia and Denver in 1982, this gives us a total of eight different possible combinations (varieties). To date, only one of the eight possibilities has not been found (and probably was not minted): the Denver mint small-date brass (copper) variety. All seven of the other possibilities are known to exist.
Of the seven different varieties of 1982 cents, the Philadelphia-minted small-date zinc cent is the scarcest, with an estimated 5-10 percent mintage of the 10.7 billion total coins minted of all the varieties. Uncirculated rolls of this particular variety are selling for just over $100 per 50-coin roll, compared to the $2 selling price of large-date rolls.
The bottom line in my opinion is that this find is very special. Not only is this the only known example of this 25-year-old major doubled die, but it also happens to be the scarcest variety of the 1982 cent issue (Philadelphia minted small-date zinc). It is also an issue that is notorious for corrosion problems, which means many of the examples originally minted are now gone.
The coin studied is an early mid-die state (EMDS) coin, as determined by the slight lack of original sharpness of the devices near the rim of the coin. According to a generally accepted die study of die life by Delma Romines back in the late 1980s, this would mean that approximately 10,000-15,000 coins were minted prior to this example using this die. If we assume this number as the original mintage of these doubled dies, then further assume that only 10 percent of these are left now due to natural attrition and corrosion problems, we end up with a surviving number of these doubled dies not exceeding 1,500 pieces ? and the actual number is probably far less than that. This though can only be called informed speculation.
Using the same math on 1995 doubled-die Lincoln cents (600,000 die life mintage times an attrition rate of 10 percent of survivors per year) gives us an estimated surviving number of 168,000 examples, considering very late die state pieces are known to exist. Given the number submitted to all third-party grading services is still below 20,000 pieces in all grades, the mathematical estimate of survivors is probably quite high.
My conclusion is that preliminary estimates of possible surviving pieces of this particular doubled die are likely between 100 and 500 pieces, of which fewer than 20 percent are likely to currently be uncirculated in grade. This doubled die is also at present considered unique, and has a spread of doubling strong enough to warrant listing in all major references and recognition by all major grading services (compared to other pieces already recognized by all sources).
Given all these factors, an estimate of value for a lower-grade uncirculated piece should one be found is $1,000 (MS-60 through MS-63). Circulated coins should sell between $300 and $750, while higher grade uncirculated pieces (MS-64 and above) should exceed $2,000. For searchers out there, the time has come to look at the 1982 cents again.
Charles D. Daughtrey is the author of, ?Looking Through Lincoln Cents, a Chronology of a Series,? second edition, available through Zyrus Press. Color photographs of this and over 2,000 other Lincoln cent die varieties can be found on Daughtrey?s Web site, www.coppercoins.com.
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