From the Grading Room: 1964 Lincoln Cent Struck On a Coin of India

Posted on 6/14/2016

NGC Graders share an intriguing and visually dramatic error coin that was recently submitted for certification.

Among the various types of error coins that exist, one of the most coveted are coins overstruck on foreign coins from other countries. At a glance, these coins look so unusual or different from typical coins, they immediately invite investigation. Second, they prompt an interesting series of follow-up questions: how did these come to be made; were they made deliberately; and why?

Recently submitted to NGC was one of these very curious double-denomination errors: a 1964 Lincoln Cent struck on a cancelled India 1942 ¼ Rupee. In .500 fine silver, its color immediately signals it is something different. Odd diamond cross-hatching, the results of cancellation, has overlaid a textured pattern to both obverse and reverse. Closer examination identifies the undertype. Clearly discernible running vertically across Lincoln’s profile bust are the words, in four lines, "¼ / RUPEE / INDIA / - 1942 -". This undertype, an India ¼ Rupee, KM-546 is a two-year design type struck in Calcutta, which was cancelled prior to being overstruck with Lincoln Cent dies.

1964 Lincoln Cent overstruck on cancelled Indian 1942 1/4 Rupee
Click images to enlarge.

Fortunately, we do know a little of its provenance. It was submitted to NGC by coin dealer Gregory Field, a partner with New England Rarities, who represents the family of the original owner. He relayed to NGC that the owner removed the coin from circulation himself in 1964. It had been used in purchase at a Brooklyn Heights, NY delicatessen he owned. Being a casual collector, the owner began to look more closely at the change drawer in his restaurant after it was announced silver coinage would soon be removed from circulation. The coin has remained with the family since then, now offering it for sale by Field on the website

The coin may be known to some in the numismatic community as it was first sent to a prominent numismatist for authentication in 1976. At least one Cent struck on an uncancelled ¼ Rupee is also known. It’s natural to assume that such coins were made deliberately by a Mint employee or for the favor of an important visitor to the Mint, wanting an oddity to sell for profit or a special keepsake. This may not be the case here.

Adding to the evidence that these coins were made by mistake are two considerations. First, the coin was found in circulation in 1964, suggesting that it promptly entered commerce and wasn’t held back as a momento or to be sold. Second, a 1964-D Jefferson Nickel struck on a cancelled India 1940 ¼ Rupee is also known. This means that the same circumstance that occurred at the Philadelphia Mint, where this Lincoln Cent was struck, was repeated at the Denver Mint. That may well rule out the theory that a single Mint employee or someone with special access to the minting process was involved. For an unknown reason, silver India ¼ rupees were intermixed with cent planchets at Philadelphia and nickel planchets at Denver!

Overstruck 1964 Lincoln Cent, NGC certified AU 58
Click images to enlarge.

Similar errors have occurred in the past. The US Mint struck coins for over 40 foreign countries from 1876 into the 1980s. Occasionally these foreign coins got mixed with regular US coinage planchets, creating popular double-denomination error coins. But the US Mint has never produced coins for India, adding to the intrigue of this piece.

The subject coin shows only the lightest evidence of circulation, perhaps amplified in appearance by the color of the undertype which was circulated before cancellation. The melding of the cancelled ¼ Rupee and Lincoln Cent design has created a charming and visibly appealing error. It is graded AU 58 by NGC.

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