Monday, May 17, 2010

Coin Monday: 1916/1916

May 17, 2010
Posted by John Dale

Heritage has had at least one Featured Collection in each U.S. Coin auction since I started cataloging here, and the June Long Beach Auction is no exception. There are three Featured Collections this go-round, the most prominent of which is The Brenda John Collection. If you haven’t seen this collection already, it’s chock-full of top-quality Lincoln cents and Buffalo nickels.

Need some further convincing? Try this: there’s a 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickel in MS64. No, you aren’t seeing double…the doubling is that strong! That huge spread between the two dates is completely real. It’s not hard to imagine production of a die being bungled this badly—accidents do happen, after all—but for such a die to then be put into use is rather baffling.

Also rather baffling is how doubling this blatant went basically undiscovered for two decades. Once you know where to look, the doubling is obvious and unforgettable, yet collectors seem to have missed the variety at the time of release. By the time it was discovered and publicized, an unknown number of examples had been lost forever to circulation, and many others were well-worn. A survivor in MS64 is a precious treasure indeed.

Also early on, collectors didn’t really understand what they were seeing. Overdates, where one date was punched over another, were familiar to them; so were repunched dates, where the same date was punched in twice, not perfectly in sync. So collectors of the time, seeing the obvious doubling on the date, naturally called it the “1916/1916,” to signal a repunched date, only it wasn’t a repunched date at all.

Take a closer look at the coin, and look away from the date. The feathers at the back of the portrait’s head are doubled, too. Also doubled are his neck and his profile, particularly the chin and lips. As collectors increased their knowledge of doubled dies, fueled by interest in the now-famous 1955 Doubled Die Obverse cent, earlier varieties were re-examined, and the more subtle signs of the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickel were recognized. The “Doubled Die” usage became much more prevalent after this.

Every once in a while, though, the “1916/1916” term pops up, often in old catalogs or coin albums. It may not be considered strictly right by most numismatists nowadays, but there’s still room for the old term. Then there’s a rule of collecting that I picked up from a member of my local coin club when I was still a boy: you own the coin, you can call it whatever you like! So, who wants the naming rights?

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

No comments:

Post a Comment