Stack’s Bowers Galleries is ready for its first major U.S. coin
auction of the year as it hosts the official auctions at the upcoming
Whitman Baltimore Spring Expo, March 22 to 25, at the Baltimore
Exploring the source of a valuable hoard from
the American Gold Rush era reveals almost endless
possibilities. Also in this issue, what is a ‘full
torch’ designation as it relates to coins?
Among the lead consignments is the ESM collection — the top-ranked
Professional Coin Grading Service Registry Set of Circulation Strike
Lincoln Cents with Major Varieties. Included is one of just three
known 1958 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cents, with prominent doubling
seen on LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST that rivals the better-known 1955
and 1972 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cents in terms of spread.
While the major 1955 and 1972 doubled dies were discovered by
eagle-eyed collectors soon after they were minted, the 1958 variety
became widely known by general collectors only in the early 1980s, and
when David Lange published The Complete Guide to Lincoln Cents
in 1996, just a single example was certified, then-graded Mint State
64 red by ANACS. This example has subsequently been crossed to a PCGS
holder, retaining the MS-64 red grade.
The finest known example, graded PCGS MS-65 red, is in the
collection of cent specialist Stewart Blay. The three known examples
allegedly all came from a Mint-sewn bag of Lincoln cents and it’s
possible that the variety never reached general circulation. That the
population has remained stable for decades seems to confirm this theory.
The subject coin, at PCGS MS-64 red, carries a PCGS Price Guide
value of $125,000, which is especially useful because of the lack of
comparable sales in the marketplace to provide guidance on value. PCGS
calls it a “mega-rarity” and its database shows no examples that have
been previously sold at auction.
The cataloger Jeff Ambio concluded in his description for the lot to
be sold in Baltimore, “Our offering of this coin represents a highly
significant and fleeting bidding opportunity for the legion of
collectors that has made the Lincoln cent series one of the most
popular in U.S. numismatics.”
Another standout in the ESM collection is a 1969-S Lincoln, Doubled
Die Obverse cent, also graded MS-64 red by PCGS, and carrying a green
Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the
grade. It is tied with one other as the finest certified at PCGS and
shows wide spreading on the date and Mint mark, motto and LIBERTY. The
variety was discovered soon after it was minted. The U.S. Treasury
Department initially thought that the variety represented a clever
counterfeit coin, but it was soon proven a legitimate product of the
Many examples show light wear, meaning that they entered
circulation, and reports of finds are published every few years
including coins plucked from circulation, providing hope to
cherrypickers. Stack’s Bowers estimates that 40 to 50 are known.
The offered example brought $86,250 when it was presented at Bowers
and Merena’s November 2010 Baltimore Auction.
The 1969-S cent (as are the more available and better-known major
1955 and 1972 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cents) is referred to as
Class I Rotated Hub doubled dies. As error specialist Ken Potter
explained in a Coin World article on the discovery of a 1969-S
DDO cent that was pulled from change in 2010, “This class of doubling
occurs when there is a rotational misalignment between images.” Potter
wrote, “Hub doubling, creating what collectors commonly refer to as a
doubled die, is possible because of a phenomenon known as work
hardening. This causes the metal of the face of a die to become too
hard and too brittle to allow a complete image to be sunk into the die
in one operation without causing it to crack or shatter (during the
multiple hubbing process). As a result, several impressions or
hubbings were required to produce a die when this process was used.”
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The 1958 variety is either a Class I doubled die or an example of a
Class V Pivoted Hub doubled die, depending on the expert. It was
initially listed as Class V and later as Class I.
Both of these cents will be offered at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’
Rarities Night auction on March 22, alongside other important Lincoln
cent varieties from the collection.