Coin errors that occur during minting have often created coins that are in demand by collectors. There are many different types of coin errors. In our last blog we discussed off-metal coins. In this blog we will talk about doubled die coins - what they look like, how they are made, and which are especially collectible.
Doubled Die Coins
Doubled die (not “double die”) is a numismatic term referring to doubling or repeating in the design elements of the die which creates the coins. As the term suggests, it is the die that is doubled and then used to create thousands of coins.
During the minting process, when the coin is fed into the coining press, the collar holds the planchet in place. This allows the coin die to strike the coin cleanly and produce the intended image - if a properly made die is used. If a doubled die is used, the resulting coin will have a doubled image - the intended image and an additional misaligned image over it.
Doubled dies happen because of the way the minting process works. Prior to 1997, the coin dies required several impressions from the coin hub in order to create the design image on the die. The dies were heated and then pressed by the coin hubs and then reheated and prepared for a second impression. In order to align the hub and the die correctly and prevent overlapping, mint workers would use guides. If they failed to properly the hub and the die, that would result in a doubled die. Sometimes the dies would have to be struck three or even four times to get the image to form on the die. Because of this, there are rare instance of tripled and quadrupled dies.
If a doubled die was then used to make coins, all the coins struck using that die would be error coins with the misaligned or doubled image. After 1996, a new process was used to make dies that only required one impression of the hub to transfer the entire design to the die. Unfortunately, this process requires great pressure, and some dies rotate slightly during the process. This can also lead to coin errors.
There are many different types of doubled die misalignments. These have been organized into eight accepted classes: rotated, distorted, design, offset, pivoted, distended, modified, and tilted.
The 1955 Lincoln Cent
The most notable example of doubled die coins are 1955 Lincoln cent errors. The doubling on this die affected the date (1955) and the inscriptions (“Liberty” and “In God We Trust”). An estimated 40,000 Lincoln cents were minted in one night shift at the Philadelphia Mint using a doubled die, and about 20-24,000 of them went into circulation. It’s very hard to find a 1955 doubled die Lincoln cent in mint condition, but this is a very collectible coin. Other collectible doubled die coins are the 1972 and 1995 Lincoln cents.
Beware of Counterfeit Doubled Die Coins and Double Strikes
Unfortunately, whenever something is in high demand, there will be people who seek to profit from it. Chinese counterfeiters are producing reproductions of valuable doubled die coins like the 1955 Lincoln cents. Because of this, you should be careful who you acquire your coins from. Choose a coin dealer with a good reputation or buy coins certified by a third party grading service.
Another type of doubling can result from mechanical doubling or double strikes. This happens when the coin is struck multiple times in the coining press. True doubled die coins are made from dies with the error on them. Double strikes may look similar, but they are not collectible or worth more than the face value of the coin.
If you have questions about doubled die coins or coin errors or would like to collect certain types of coin errors, please call us at Mullen Coins. We would be happy to help you locate your desired coins to add to your collection.