US Coins

1919 Winged Liberty Head dime has doubled die obverse

A newly confirmed doubled die obverse for a 1919 Winged Liberty Head dime has the specialty collecting community excited.

The coin shows strong doubling on portions of the letters of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, with no apparent doubling visible elsewhere on the two examples verified as of Feb. 24. The doubling on the coin is strikingly similar to that on the famed 1916 Indian Head, Doubled Die Obverse 5-cent coin, a variety that brings six-figure prices in high grade. 

Experts believe that the two early 20th century doubled die varieties were produced in the same way. A complete obverse design was hubbed over an incomplete obverse design, with a misalignment occurring between the partial and complete designs. 

Only a portion of the motto was formed on the dime die during the first hubbing operation, that being the tops of the letters. When the hub used to create this obverse die was repositioned for a second hubbing, the tops of the letters in the motto were in a different location than on the partially formed motto on the die. 

While new doubled die varieties are discovered in older series fairly routinely, many of those finds do not necessarily draw the attention of the variety collecting community in the way that the newly confirmed dime variety has. That may be attributed to several points, including the strong degree of separation between the doubled letters on the coin; the similarity of the coin to the rare and very expensive 1916 5-cent coin; and the relative paucity of early doubled die varieties in the Winged Liberty Head or “Mercury” dime series. 

According to a listing of doubled die varieties for the series, maintained by James Wiles and updated on March 9, 2014, the earliest previously known (by date on the coin) doubled die variety for the series appears on a 1928-S Winged Liberty Head dime. Wiles lists several dozen doubled die obverse and doubled die reverse varieties for the series between 1928 and 1945, but none with an earlier date.

Location of the doubling

Tom DeLorey, a die variety expert who is a former grader and authenticator for ANACS and author of the Collectors’ Clearinghouse column for Coin World in the mid-1970s, described the location of the doubling in a press release sent to news publications in the collecting community. He writes: “On this new die the doubling is confined to the upper right portion of the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, taking in all of the letters in ‘GOD’ and ‘UST’ plus the upper right corners of the ‘N’ of IN and the ‘R’ of TRUST. The dot between IN and GOD is also doubled.”

Doubling is visible nowhere else on the discovery specimen and, DeLorey added, “the lack of additional doubling was subsequently verified on a higher grade coin.

Discovered and rediscovered

The 1919 Winged Liberty Head, Doubled Die Obverse dime was “co-discovered by New York state collectors Scott Kerr and Jeffrey Sam,” DeLorey writes.

According to DeLorey, Kerr apparently discovered the coin in the 1980s, but set it aside with other variety and error coins in his “Neat Box” and did not publish the variety. 

In January, Kerr and Sam, friends from their memberships in a local coin club, reached a deal in which Kerr sold Sam his “Neat Box” of errors and varieties. Subsequently, Sam took photos of the doubling on the 1919 dime and some of the other coins in the collection, and began publishing them online at a collector forum hosted by Professional Coin Grading Service.

According to DeLorey, the dime was “dismissed by one forum member as displaying simple mechanical doubling, and by another as being a counterfeit coin. Nobody acknowledged it as a doubled die error.” 

On Feb. 8, DeLorey said, Sam published the images of the dime on the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. U.S. Coins forum, where DeLorey then saw the photos for the first time. DeLorey recognized the coin as a doubled die and immediately noticed the resemblance to the 1916 Indian Head 5-cent coin variety that exhibits similar die doubling.

DeLorey writes, “At my suggestion Jeff Sam sent the coin to Bill Fivaz for verification, and Fivaz confirmed that it is indeed the result of a doubled working die and not machine doubling or some other type of striking error.”

Fivaz and co-author J.T. Stanton plan to list the new discovery as “FS-101 for that date” in the next edition of Volume 2 of their Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties

DeLorey adds, “As of this writing only one additional specimen of this doubled die has been discovered, by coin dealer John Hodson of Munster, Ind. He saw a notification of the new variety that I posted on the coin dealer network Coinnet, and went through his inventory and found a high grade piece. That piece has also been examined by Fivaz and declared to be a true Doubled Die error, confirming the attribution of the Discovery Specimen.”

DeLorey grades the discovery coin as Fine; the second piece to be discovered apparently grades Extremely Fine.

It is too soon to determine a possible value for the new variety. The similar 1916 Indian Head, DDO 5-cent coin brings healthy prices in the marketplace, with well-circulated examples selling for $5,000 or so, and Mint State examples selling for a quarter of a million dollars and more. 

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