Collector's Edge

Posted on 8/13/2019

A little bit of reading can prevent frustration.

Q: I submitted some coins to NGC for grading and variety attribution. I clearly marked the variety column on the form with the doubled-die variety FS-101, but it came back without a variety on the label and a sticker saying that it was "Strike Doubling Only." How do I know the difference?

A: As a variety attributor for NGC, this is the problem scenario I experience most often. It's not pleasant for me to give submitters the bad news that their coins are not true varieties and thus don't warrant any mention of the odd feature on the coins' labels.

A true doubled-die, such as the 1916 Buffalo nickel having a broadly doubled Indian portrait and date, is a very desirable variety sought by many collectors. It results when a working die (the one actually used to strike coins) receives two or more hub impressions that are out of alignment with one another. While the low-relief coins being struck by the US Mint these days utilize dies that typically are hubbed just once, the higher-relief coins made before the 1990s were struck with dies requiring multiple hub impressions to completely impart the design. If not perfectly lined up with the first impression from the hub, subsequent ones will show distinctly doubled features that transfer to every coin struck from them.

On the other hand, strike doubling does not require a doubled-die. Instead, it results from slight lateral motion of the die or dies at the moment of withdrawal after striking a coin. This causes some features to have duplicated images that are shallow and flat-surfaced. They do not possess the raised relief and contours of the primary feature. Strike doubling is fairly common and does not bring any premium from knowledgeable buyers. Therefore, it's essential for collectors to learn the difference. There are a couple options for this, and both are inexpensive.

1969 S 1 Cent
Strike Doubling
Click images to enlarge.

1969 S 1 Cent
Strike Doubling
Click images to enlarge.

A great start is to acquire The Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins. Either volume features an appendix titled "Doubled Dies vs. Other Forms of Doubling," and this is a great primer for distinguishing the real thing from the wannabes. NGC offers its own guide to variety attribution that includes examples of both true doubled-dies and strike doubling. This may be found on NGCcoin.com. On the home page, select the Resources tab and scroll down to VarietyPlus. At the top of this page is a link in blue to several articles, one of which is "Attributing US Coin Die Varieties."

Q: In a recent submission of mint error coins, two came back without the errors listed and with a sticker reading "Not a Mint Error." Both coins are really blurry, so how could they not be errors?

1955 1 Cent
Poor Man's Doubled Die
Die Erosion
Click images to enlarge.

1955 1 Cent
Die Erosion Close Up
Click images to enlarge.

A: In recent years the US Mint has been more careful about not overusing its dies to the point that the resulting coins look blurred. This was not the case in the past, some of the worst abuses appearing in the early 1980s. The Philadelphia Mint in particular made some really awful coins then, with Mint State examples almost looking corroded! The 1950s was another period of really mushy coins from severely eroded dies. Unfortunately, poor quality control by itself is not a mint error. Sometimes, such coins are submitted for variety attribution, and in these instances they will be returned with a sticker reading "Die Erosion Doubling Only."










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