Last week I wrote about doubled-die cents, how they occur and some examples to look for when going through your pocket change. Although I limited my article to coins currently in circulation, there are many examples from the 1800s and 1900s that can bring a respectable reward to the lucky finder.
While discussing this article on "Tthe Don Williams Show" last Monday, a caller inquired if I had heard of a doubled-die dime, a 1942 over a 1941 date. I told the caller that this example is not a doubled die, but an overdate, which while not as common as a doubled die, it too can be more valuable that the regular coin.
What if I were to tell your there could be thousands of dollars' worth of coins in your pock…
A doubled die is the result of a die that was created by the hub shifting and putting a double image in the die, which is then transferred to the coin. Sometimes the doubling is very faint and requires a magnifying glass to see. An overdate, however is the intentional reusing of a die that was used to strike coins in a preceding year, a common practice in the early years of our country as well as other countries.
A die typically was used until it broke apart or became worn. Since coins were supposed to be dated in the year they were struck (a practice not always followed), if at the end of the year a die had a lot of life left in it, the mint master could have a new date struck in the die so it could continue to be used. In all cases the old date could be seen under the new date. This was a common practice through the early 1800s, with an example of virtually all denominations of our coins having undergone this modification. It became less prevalent after the 1830s with some examples of exceptions being Morgan silver dollars dated 1880 over 79 and 1887 over 6.
Two examples occurred ing the 1900s during war years, when a shortage of material and manpower necessitated the reuse of dies. The first examples were 5 cent coins (nickels) struck at the Denver Mint in 1918. A 1917 die was modified by punching an 8 over the 7 in the date.
The same thing happened in the San Francisco mint that year, where a quarter die from 1917 was reused by punching an 8 over the 7. During World War II the first dies used to mint dimes dated 1942 in both the Philadelphia and Denver mints were dies from 1941 that had the number 2 stamped over the 1.
Two other examples from the 20th century exist: a 5 cent coin (Buffalo Nickel) with 1914 struck over 13, and a 1909 over 8 $20 gold piece. What necessitated these dies being reused is not known.
Now for a really strange overdate. All previous examples were done using a die from a preceding year. In 1853, some quarters were struck using a die that originally had the 1854 date. Why? No one knows.
Could it have been a mistake? Or could a die have already been prepared for 1854 when a need for more 1853 quarters developed? We can only guess, but I had a direct involvement in this discovery. Actually, the coin pictured in the Guide Book of United States Coins (the Red Book) was a coin I purchased at a Long Beach California coin show in the 1970s. Although I did not discover this variety, I was involved in obtaining the coin.
Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins Inc. He and his wife, Linda, operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles, formerly in the Shore Mall and now at 6692 Black Horse Pike in the old Wawa building just beyond the former Cardiff Circle. They have satellite offices in Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have more than 70 years of experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of the American Numismatic Association, the Industry Council of Tangible Assets, the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, the Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.