A Dave's Collectible Coins Article

Die Doubling and Other Forms of Doubling: Spotting the Difference

Here-in lies an area of coin collecting that is often misunderstood or not understood well enough. It is the subject of die doubling, a specific term in numismatics that is used to refer to doubling in the design elements of a coin as it is produced at the mint. Doubled dies can appear as an outline of the design or in even more extreme cases, having legends and dates appear twice in an overlapping fashion on the face of the coin itself.

One of the reasons why we are so interested in these coins is because doubled die error coins can fetch significant prices when they are noticeable to the naked eye or when they occur in a popular coin series that further increases their value. One example of this is the 1955 doubled die Lincoln Wheat cent, which is quite popular yet scarce.

How Do Doubled Die Coins Come About?

Doubled dies are an interesting item, and one which we all really enjoy finding. Doubled dies are a result of the way in which the United States Mint’s dies are created and then used in the coins themselves. For example, before the year 1997, die “pairs” (hammer die and anvil die) were made by hubs that contained the raised design elements that were intended to appear on the coin.

Here’s how the process actually came about. The blank dies were heated (to soften them and make them more able to accept a design) and then were pressed against the hubs to transfer the design from the hub to the working dies and to both sides too. But back in that time, one impression was not enough in every single case to transfer the design elements from the hub itself to the die, so multiple impressions were required to transfer enough of the design over to the coin to make it look good. For this reason, after the first impression was made, the die was reheated and prepared for a second impression on to the coin. This was an entirely different process.

To do this, the mint workers themselves would use guides to align the hub and the working die perfectly to prevent overlapping, or a “doubled die” as the term is used. It is when mint workers failed to align dies properly and accurately during this process that doubled dies were produced and still put into circulation in spite of their outpoints. In many instances actually about three to four impressions were required, which could sometimes lead to tripled and quadrupled dies, though that was rare. Needless to say though, the factor of die doubling becomes a lot more likely to occur when a coin is struck by the hub and die more than once.

The Significance of Doubled Dies

Doubled dies are not common and are therefore valuable. Their value and their unique look is what make them so desirable. In fact, no two doubled die coins look alike. It’s true, all doubled die coins will have a distinctly different look, because you have to remember that it was an accident that made these coins in the first place and therefore each and every coin made in this way is going to have a particular look to it.

Probably the most common coins to experience the fate of a doubled die are the Lincoln Cent. So, that being said the Lincoln Wheat pennies of over half a century ago typically speaking are the most valuable and the most interesting of them all. Regardless of monetary value though, doubled die coins in general are all quite interesting and pleasant one way or another. They are all liked and they are all loved by coin collectors, numismatists, and hobbyists everywhere, regardless of how rare the coin if to anyone. All in all, doubled die coins are a true sight to behold and a very pleasant and pleasing treat for many.

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