One of the rarest and most controversial forms of doubling is
abrasion doubling. As originally defined by Alan Herbert, two forms
were identified: “inside abraded die doubling” and “outside abraded
Herbert’s description of inside abraded die doubling establishes
it as a type of intentional retouching in which an abrasive (instead
of an engraving tool) is used to modify recessed design elements in
the face of a working die. Retouching is a rare but well-documented
phenomenon, with most cases involving proof dies.
Unfortunately, the coins Herbert used to illustrate inside abraded
die doubling are emphatically not cases of intentional retouching;
they are garden-variety examples of die deterioration doubling.
For example, the Jefferson 5-cent coin pictured on page 174 of the
6th edition of Herbert’s Official Price Guide to Mint Errors shows the
irregular expansion of peripheral letters typical of this common form
of doubling. As a result, inside abraded die doubling can be discarded
as a useful concept.
Outside abraded die doubling suffers from similar problems.
Herbert defines this form of doubling as an occasional side effect of
intentional die abrasion performed to remove light clash marks and
other forms of die damage.
But the coin he chose to illustrate the category (page 175) is a
1955 Lincoln cent with a “poorman’s double die.” The outside of the
last digit shows hazy doubling that is widely recognized as a
manifestation of die deterioration. Similar doubling affects the
terminal digit of 1947, 1948, and 1953 cents.
From this point on I’ll simply refer to outside abraded die
doubling as simply “abrasion doubling,” because the two terms have
become synonymous within the hobby.
I’ve always been skeptical of abrasion doubling because I’ve never
found it in association with clear evidence of intentional die abrasion.
Common signs of intentional die abrasion include the presence of
profuse die scratches, attenuated (thinned) design elements, and the
loss of low-lying areas of design.
Of the thousands of coins I’ve examined that were struck by
heavily abraded dies, not a single one showed anything that could be
considered “abrasion doubling.”
Despite the absence of a smoking gun, I held out the possibility
that abrasion doubling might constitute a legitimate, albeit rare form
John Wexler published images of several Lincoln cents with
intriguing patterns of doubling at doubleddie.com/144864.html,
I recently acquired an example of what is arguably the most
dramatic case of abrasion doubling depicted in Wexler’s gallery, a
1971 Lincoln cent (see photos). It is considered by some to be a
doubled die and for those who operate under that assumption it is
classified as FS-1c-030.7 in The Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die
Varieties (fourth edition).
The specimen I purchased shows a middle die state, i.e., one
characterized by an average state of die wear.
Strong doubling occurs north of the last two letters of LIBERTY
and the middle two digits of the date.
The coin shows no independent evidence of intentional die
abrasion. It has no die scratches, the width of letters and numbers is
normal, and areas of low relief remain intact.
Many of the extra elements have an irregular “beaded” appearance
when viewed under high magnification.
Whether such an odd appearance should be considered a hallmark of
abrasion doubling is unclear. At the very least, the beaded appearance
seems inconsistent with its proposed status as a doubled die.
I find compelling evidence that the doubling is due to die
deterioration. Extending from the back margin of Lincoln’s coat are
numerous tiny spiky extensions.
Elsewhere in and around Lincoln’s bust are tiny bumps occurring
singly or in clusters (see photos). The spikes and bumps are not the
result of intentional abrasion but represent a peculiar manifestation
of somewhat accelerated die deterioration.
The clusters of bumps share the same characteristics as the beaded
When the most dramatic example of abrasion doubling turns out to
be just another case of die deterioration doubling, one must question
the validity of the entire category.
Until more persuasive evidence is presented, I will henceforth
consider abrasion doubling a myth.
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