US Coins

Roll searching yields 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cent

Searching through thousands of Lincoln cents as respite therapy from tending to the medical needs of her 4-year-old son, 27-year-old Texas mother Megan Green hit the jackpot with the discovery of a 1969-S Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent.

Professional Coin Grading Service authenticated the coin and graded it About Uncirculated 55 Brown. PCGS assigned a value of $24,000.

The coin is the DDO #1 variety, which has exceptionally strong doubling.

Green said that, as bittersweet as it will be to part with the coin, she is planning to sell it, most likely at public auction, with the proceeds to help offset her son’s medical expenses not covered by insurance.

Green says she began her interest in numismatics when her son, Kaysen, was 2 years old. Kaysen was born with a rare heart defect that will eventually require a transplant, Green said.

Green said she was looking for a hobby to entertain herself during what she refers to as “Mommy time” when she wasn’t tending to her son’s medical needs. She and her husband also have a 3-year-old daughter. Green eventually settled on coin collecting, which has become somewhat of an obsession that carries her into the wee hours.

Green said she searched through YouTube videos dedicated to a variety of subjects, including photography, music, education, and news, when she came across a video about a 1970 Washington quarter dollar that had been struck with dies for a Canadian 25-cent coin and had been sold for $35,000.

“I was dumfounded as to how someone would pay that much for a quarter,” Green said. “A thought came to my mind about trying out this new hobby and I felt if it could help out financially for my family and enjoy doing it at the same time, it’s a win-win-situation. I sat there almost two hours scrolling through different coin videos which soon had me hooked.”

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While going through the videos, she recalled the tin full of coins that came from a fundraising event soon after Kaysen was born. She searched through those coins first looking for anything interesting, separating them by denomination. Green employs a Celestron digital microscope that allows her to look through coins quickly as they are magnified on her computer screen and she can examine diagnostics and details of each coin studied.

Green said she began following the YouTube video postings of Dustin Morgan from Coin Opp in York, Pennsylvania, concerning variety collecting. Each time she heard if a new variety or error coin, she searched through the coins she already had to see if she might have any examples.

Green said she then learned about securing wrapped rolls of coins from a local bank, which she could continue searching. Quickly overwhelmed by trying to search multiple denominations of rolled coins, Green said she decided to concentrate strictly on cents.

“While coin searching, I would collect all Wheat cents even though some may not have errors,” Green said. “I still find them to be unique, all 1959s thru 1973s for different die varieties and doubling, any 1982-D Small Dates for 3.1 grams in weight, 1983s 1989s and 1990s also transitional pennies accidentally produced during those years, 1984s for doubling on Lincoln’s ear, 1988s produced with the wrong FG, all 1992s to search for close AM, 1994s and 1995s for doubling, 1998 1999 and 2000s for the Wide AM and doubling, and last but not least the 2009s for doubling.”

In July 2017, Green said she slowed down her coin searching because she felt defeated not finding much unusual. She said she resumed her searching in October 2017 by going to a local bank and acquiring a $25 face value box containing 50 wrapped rolls of cents containing a total of 2,500 coins. She followed that with a single box in each of the next few weeks.

The break she had taken gave her the spark she needed to continue roll searching and she picked up the pace, increasing the search to include three to five boxes per week. She said she went to multiple banks to pick up the coins and, after searching, returned the searched coins to different branches so as not to wear out her welcome.

On Nov. 28, 2017, Green said, she picked up three boxes containing a combined total of 7,500 coins and brought them home to begin her searching ritual.

“When I collect more than one box I tend to open all of them at once,” Green said. “While searching, I’ll keep in mind which box came from which bank in hopes that if I find good coins they’ll have more when I go to pick up more. Especially when they give me the customer-rolled pennies. In this case, having them all from the same bank, I still skipped around because I wanted to know if there was really any difference in the boxes.”

Green said she searched through the first box with only a few coins exhibiting minor errors or varieties. Three-quarters of the way through the second box, she came across what she suspected might be a 1969-S Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent. It was late, her eyes were tired, and she wondered if the doubling she was seeing was caused by exhaustion from lack of sleep.

Once she examined the coin closely with her Celestron, she woke her husband to share her excitement over her find and the family’s good fortune.

Green said she sent images of her find to Dustin Morgan at Coin Opp, who subsequently congratulated her on her discovery. Before eventually arranging to send the coin to PCGS, Green decided to share her discovery by sending it first to noted variety specialist John Wexler, who writes the “Varieties Notebook” column that appears in the third issue of Coin World every month.

(Wexler features Green’s find in this week's issue, the May 21, 2018 edition of Coin World.)

After Wexler’s examination of the cent and his confirmation that it is a 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse coin, arrangements were made to send the coin to PCGS.

Green received the authenticated, graded and encapsulated coin back from the grading service on April 28.

A rare doubled die

In the third edition of their reference, 100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins, authors Scott Schechter and Jeff Garrett rank the 1969-S Lincoln, DDO cent No. 2, behind the Proof 1975-S Roosevelt, No S dime (of which only two examples are known).

The authors write about the cent: “When the variety was first discovered in mid-1970, the U.S. Secret Service declared it a counterfeit, and even seized the first of these coins that were reported. ... When everything was sorted out, the Secret Service reversed their position and declared the 1969-S cent to be genuine, and returned the seized coins.

“Over the years since then, finds of this coin remained scant. Freshly found examples were almost always circulated and did not retain their original Mint red color.”

While PCGS estimates that 30 examples are known today across all grades, PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. combined list 65 total submissions — PCGS with 50 and NGC with 15. ANACS has graded eight submissions between Extremely Fine 45 and About Uncirculated 58. Independent Coin Graders has not certified any examples.

The most recent sale of a 1969-S Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent occurred April 26 as part of Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night session in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society’s Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois, when a PCGS Secure Mint State 63 red example realized $40,800. The price includes the 20 percent buyer’s fee added to the closing hammer price. 

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