Monday, October 12, 2009

Coin Monday: The Double: Part Two

Oct. 12, 2009
Written by John Dale

Last week’s Coin Monday was Part One of “The Double,” a two-parter on the unusual and desirable coins appearing in multiples in Heritage’s October Dallas U.S. Coin auction. Today, as promised, it’s on to the 1969-S doubled die cents. (For background on what a doubled die is, please check out the Coin Monday post “Seeing Double?”)

The 1969-S doubled die cent is a rarity today; it’s thought that not many were made in the first place, and shortly after their discovery, a number of examples were confiscated by the government.

His confiscation, as it turned out, was a case of mistaken identity. Counterfeiters had struck spurious doubled die Lincoln cents dated 1969 — but these were supposedly Philadelphia Mint products, not San Francisco-made, and the spread between the two images on the P-mint phonies was comically large, making the famous 1955 doubled die cents look like masterpieces of precision. The 1969-S doubled die cents, on the other hand, had a smaller (but still prominent) spread and were absolutely legitimate.

That was not the opinion of a Mint consultant, who deemed as counterfeit a 1969-S doubled die cent he examined. There are five documented instances of 1969-S doubled die cents being confiscated by the Secret Service (then part of the Department of the Treasury) and later destroyed. The official position of the Treasury Department was that there were no legitimate 1969-dated doubled die cents from any Mint, a position that was carried through the trial of the counterfeiters.

After the trial, however, the Treasury paid more attention to the 1969-S doubled die cents and the questions they raised: if the 1969-S doubled die cents matched Mint specifications for weight, diameter, composition, and so on, what was the basis for declaring them counterfeit? By the mid-1970s, the Treasury had reversed course, with official acknowledgment of the 1969-S coins’ authenticity. This recognition, however, did not come before five of the coins were destroyed—and with estimates of between 17 and 32 survivors extant, five coins would make up a sizable chunk of the population!

With so few examples around today, it’s highly unusual for one to appear in any given auction, but the October Dallas U.S. Coin auction has two! Lot 176 is an AU55 example, lightly worn but otherwise well-preserved. Immediately after that piece is hammered down, Lot 177 comes up, and that coin is even finer, graded MS63 Red!

It’s a remarkable opportunity for the Lincoln cent collector, even rarer than the 1969-S doubled die cents themselves. Who says there are no second chances in numismatics?

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-John Dale Beety

1 comment:

  1. I thought the San Francisco mint stopped producing in 1955. How would a penny come out of there anyway?