Readers Ask column from July 25, 2016, Weekly issue of
Reader Andrew Rowell II emailed us images of a much-abused Lincoln
cent of uncertain date (it has the Lincoln Memorial reverse) with
the very succinct question: “Double die/strike reverse?”
The coin is not a doubled die nor is it a double-struck coin. It is
an alteration intentionally made outside of a Mint production facility
and is not the result of being struck on a coinage press. It is a form
of damaged coin that error experts refer to as a “sandwich” alteration.
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To create this piece, someone stacked two or more Lincoln cents on a
hard surface, creating the “sandwich.” The reverse face of this coin
was positioned so it faced the reverse face of a second coin. The two
coins were not stacked in perfect alignment — the second coin was
positioned slightly off-center in relation to the reader’s coin. It
was in this configuration that pressure was applied, possibly through
the use of a hammer brought down hard on the stack of coins.
As a result of the blow, the obverse face of the reader’s coin,
which was probably facing a flat hard featureless surface, was
flattened, and all design details were obliterated.
The reverse face of the reader’s coin was also partially flattened,
with the resultant damage to the design details most evident in the
crescent of the coin not adjacent to the face of the second coin.
While much of the design details in this section remain visible, they
The blow to the stacked coins also resulted in design transfer from
one coin to the other, with both pieces serving as surrogate dies. The
second coin left an incused mirror-image impression of a portion of
the Lincoln Memorial, the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM and a portion of the
word AMERICA in the face of the reverse of the reader’s coin. These
transferred design elements partially overlap the original surviving
design elements, making for a striking presentation and a confusing
appearance as well.
While the reader’s coin has certain features that vaguely resemble
those found on certain genuine errors — a misshapen appearance from
being struck outside of a collar, multiple design elements, mirrored
design elements — to an expert they are clearly from alteration and
not from an error or variety occurring at a U.S. Mint facility.