There’s a steadily growing number of coin enthusiasts globally, and a large number come from the US. Many of the most valuable coins, including the double die coins, were also minted there. Interestingly, a good number of these coins are still in circulation, and you might just be lucky enough to find one if you know how to spot it.
You can spot double die coins by paying attention to the details, including the year, the value, the images on the obverse or reverse sides, and the words “LIBERTY,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E. PLURIBUS UNUM.” You can also use a magnifying glass under bright light.
Although many double-die coins are worth large sums of money, not all are valuable. This article will guide you on how to spot high-value double-die coins for potential profitability and low-value double-die coins for collection purposes. Read on!
1. Look Out for the Mint Year
The term “double-die” is a minting error where coins are pressed while incorrectly aligned. The result is the doubling of texts or images either on the obverse or reverse side of the coin. Some are easily visible, while others are less conspicuous.
Despite the lack of technology in the past, the US Mint observed a high level of quality to ensure the coins came out in perfect condition. However, mishaps or lack of quality control in the overnight shift resulted in a few thousand coins coming out with defects.
That said, this error is a rare occurrence, making the resulting coins extremely rare and often highly valuable. Still, not all double-die coins are equal in value.
You may refer to the details below to give you an idea of the potential value of double-die coins. Note that these values can change depending on the demand for certain coins, the dynamic collector behaviors, and the coin’s mint state (MS).
- Low value: up to a few hundred dollars
- Average Value: $1000 – $10000
- High Value: over $10000
Check out the list of some mint years to look out for and the potential value for high-MS coins below:
A US penny has a face value of one cent. Old pennies consisted of up to 95% copper until the composition was replaced due to high production costs. The new coins have been made with an inner zinc layer (97.5%) and copper coating (2.5%) since 1982.
Some double-die pennies can fetch up to hundreds of thousands of dollars due to their rarity.
- 1955 (DDO) – high value
- 1958 (DDO) – high value
- 1969-S (DDO) – high value
- 1972 (DDO) – average value
- 1983 (DDR) – average value
- 1995 (DDO) – low value
A nickel is worth 5 cents. Interestingly, there was another 5-cent coin in circulation in the US called the “half-dime.” The half-dime was made of silver, while the nickel was made with a 3:1 copper-nickel alloy. These two coins coexisted for a few years.
Although the half-dime has increased in value over the years due to the rise in the worth of silver, the cheaper nickel coins with double-die errors are still more valuable for coin collectors.
- 1916 (DDO) – high value
- 1918/7-D (DDO) – high value
- 1935 (DDR) – high value
- 1939 (DDR) – average value
- 1943-P (DDO) – average value
- 1945-P (DDR) – average value
Old US dimes were made of silver until 1964. Conversely, the modern dime consists of an alloy of copper and nickel. Therefore, double-die dimes minted before 1964 should have a high melt value. Still, they’re relatively cheaper than the double-die pennies and nickels.
- 1960 (DDO) – average value
- 1963 (DDR) – low value
- 1964 (DDR) – low value
- 1967 (DDO) – low value
Like earlier US dimes, the old quarter or 25-cent coin was made of silver until 1965, when it was replaced with an inner copper layer and a coating of copper-nickel alloy.
Pre-1965 quarters naturally have a high melt value due to the silver content. However, some double-died ones can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
- 1934 (DDO) – high value
- 1937 (DDO) – high value
- 1942-D (DDO) – average value
- 1943 (DDO) – high value
- 1943-S (DDO) – high value
- 1976-D (DDO) – average value
The US half-dollar or 50-cent coin underwent many transformations before getting to its current design. Old coins also had high percentages of silver before being replaced with a copper-nickel alloy.
Up until 1963, the half-dollar coin featured Benjamin Franklin on the obverse side of the coin. In 1964, the image was replaced with John F. Kennedy. There are more double-die Kennedy half dollars than Franklin half dollars.
- 1961 (DDR) – high value
- 1964-D (DDO and DDR) – low value
- 1965-D (DDR) – low value
- 1967 (DDO) – average value
- 1974-D (DDO) – low value
In the past few years, the US Mint produced one-dollar coins mainly as collectibles. Modern dollar coins undergo several redesigns every year, and their worth won’t appreciate until much later in the future.
On the other hand, some old dollars with double-die errors have higher values. Here are some of them:
- 1888-O (DDO) – high value
- 1922 (DDO) – average value
- 1923 (DDR) – low value
- 1924 (DDR) – low value
- 1934-D (DDO) – high value
2. Check the Details on the Obverse Side
Official and widely recognized coin grading services label double-die coins as DDO or DDR. DDO or Double Die Obverse refers to coins with doubling errors on the obverse side or front of the coin. This is often the part where you’ll see a person’s profile.
In addition to the year, you can refer to the DDO/DDR designations above to know where to look. It helps you save time and search for doubling errors more efficiently.
Here’s a list of the typical areas where doubling errors in valuable coins occur:
Most coins indicate the mint year on the obverse side.
Here are some examples of coins with double-die errors on the year and the text’s position:
- Penny: The year is spelled out horizontally on the right side of Lincoln’s profile. This error is easy to see with the naked eye. Coins with apparent doubling in the year include a few copies of the 1955 wheat penny.
- Nickel: The year is at the bottom of the coin, right on the shoulder of the Indian head in the 1916 buffalo nickel. This error is pretty easy to spot. Conversely, the year is spread along the right edge of the coin right next to the word “LIBERTY” in the 1943 nickel, but you’ll need a lens with at least 5x magnification to see it.
- Dime: It’s on the lower right side of the coin, below Roosevelt’s neck. You’ll need a magnifying glass to clearly see the double-die error.
In God We Trust
US coins bear these words in uppercase on the obverse side of the coin.
Famous examples of coins with double-die errors in this text include the 1969-S wheat penny and the 1960 dime. However, one of the most precious coins with distinct doubling in these words is the 1958 penny, which was valued at over $300000.
Note that this text can vary in position depending on the coin value and mint year. Here are some examples of the positions of the text in modern coins:
- Penny: spread along the top edge
- Nickel: spread along the left edge
- Dime: spelled out in two lines below Roosevelt’s chin on the left side of the coin
- Quarter: spelled out in two lines below Washington’s chin on the left side of the coin
Another common feature of US coins is the word “LIBERTY” in front. The doubling error on this text is clearly visible in some 1972 pennies. These high-value coins can easily rake in more than $10000.
Like the words “IN GOD WE TRUST,” you can find the word “LIBERTY” in different positions on various US coins. Here are some examples:
- Penny: spelled out horizontally on the left of the coin, behind Lincoln’s nape
- Nickel: spelled out along the upper right edge of the coin
- Dime: spread along the left edge of the coin
- Quarter: spread along the edge above Washington’s profile
The two faces of a coin are called head and tail for a reason. The ‘head’ usually features the face or profile of a person. In the case of the 1888-O one-dollar coin, the doubling is evident on Liberty’s nose, lips, and chin. On the other hand, in some 1922 one-dollar coins, Liberty’s crown had this double-die error.
3. Check the Details on the Reverse Side
The DDR designation means Double Die Reverse and refers to the error in the features on the back of the coin. Although a few coins have double-die mistakes on both the obverse and reverse sides, it’s more common for the errors to occur only on one side.
Below are some examples of DDR errors:
- UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You’ll typically see these words on top of US coins except for the nickel, where they’re right on the lower curve of the coin. Those that contain doubling errors in this text include the 1983 penny and the 1963 dime.
- The coin’s face value: The value of most US coins is indicated at the bottom of the reverse side, spelled out in words. This doubling error is easy to spot in the 1935 five-cent coin.
- E PLURIBUS UNUM: This text means “Out of many, one,” which is the motto of the United States. It appears on many seals, dollar bills, and US coins. If you have some 1935 five-cent coins, inspect them carefully for any doubling error.
- MONTICELLO: The reverse side of the nickel featured Thomas Jefferson’s home called Monticello from 1938 to 2003 and resumed in 2006. Below the image of the building on the coin, the name is spelled out. A few 1939 nickels had visible doubling on this word, making them worth a few thousand dollars today.
4. Use a Magnifying Glass
Many double-die errors are readily visible to the naked eye. However, some errors require closer inspection, and some professional appraisers use a stereo microscope to thoroughly examine the coin.
You don’t have to buy one to inspect the coins in your collection. Instead, you may use a magnifying glass or a hand lens. Choose one with at least 5x magnification to see the details more clearly.
To spot double-died coins more efficiently, check the texts and the images by following the tips above regarding the location or position of the errors.
However, it’s also good practice to check the other details on the coin if you have plenty of time. Who knows? You might even come across a rarity that’s never been seen before!
But please remember that although it can be tempting to clean the coin to see the details more clearly, it may actually do more harm than good. Incorrect cleaning practices and using the wrong materials or cleaning agents can significantly devalue otherwise valuable coins.
Suppose you firmly believe you have a valuable double-die coin but can’t confirm it due to dirt or discoloration. In that case, it’s always best to consult a professional. Some grading services also estimate high values for coins with natural toning due to age.
5. Inspect the Coin Under Bright Overhead Light
Another important factor to consider when inspecting the coin you suspect has a double-die error is lighting. You’ll need bright overhead light to see the doubling of letters or images.
Admittedly, it can be tricky to tell whether or not the coin is legit a double-die variant, especially if it’s one of those coins with less conspicuous errors. In that case, you can have your coin appraised by a professional.
However, it’s worth noting that it can cost a lot to have coins with higher values graded. You can consult a tax accountant or advisor if the grading costs can be deducted from your income in case you decide to sell the coin.
6. Refer to Online Sources to Confirm the Error
Although this article tries to provide simple tips to help you identify potential double-die coins and spot the errors, please understand that new reports come out every day. These reports can either bring up newly discovered double-die coins or nullify previous claims due to evidence of counterfeiting.
Some reliable sources to compare your coins include the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC). They both have massive databases for valuable coins.
The PCGS also provides zoomable photos for many coins in its database, making it possible to compare your coins without visiting a professional and possibly incurring hefty fees. Online data can also provide valuable information regarding your coin’s potential sale value.
Expanding your network by joining non-profit coin enthusiast groups, such as the American Numismatic Association (ANA), can also give you vital information and experience to help you spot double-die coins more easily.
7. Beware of Counterfeit Coins
Due to the high-profit potential of double-died coins, it’s unfortunately pretty easy to come across counterfeit coins. Some beginner collectors are likely to fall victim to these illegal activities, especially since having coins appraised or graded can cost money.
As a new collector, you may be tempted to purchase numerous coins to quickly build up your collection. Remember that double-die coins are typically expensive due to their rarity.
Although you can find some double-die coins at reasonable prices, it’s best to be extremely cautious of counterfeit coins. Counterfeiters manufacture these coins in bulk or press other coins to give them a double-died effect. You’ll be surprised about how advanced these people are, including their tools and techniques.
So it doesn’t hurt to be suspicious when you get your hands on an otherwise rare coin. As exciting as it is, remember that buying or selling counterfeit coins — although unwittingly — is illegal and can subject you to severe legal implications.
8. Get a Second Opinion
Due to the rise of counterfeit coins, some professional appraisers are likely to doubt the authenticity of your collection. Don’t be offended when that happens because their judgment is often affected by their prior experience with counterfeiters.
Similarly, there’s also a risk of having counterfeit coins valued highly, especially if the technique used to manufacture them is flawless. Therefore, in addition to consulting reliable organizations or service providers, it’s also essential to be open to second opinions.
If you’re collecting coins simply as a hobby, you might not be too interested in grading services. However, many collectors eagerly search for double-die coins primarily due to their high sale value.
So if you’re aiming for potential profit from selling your coin in the future, you may want to consider having multiple professionals evaluate the authenticity of your double-die coins.
Double-die coins are among the most elusive but highly sought-after items for coin collectors in the US. These collectibles are a result of minting errors, making them pretty rare and valuable.
Due to their rarity, many double-die coins are worth over $10000, with some even worth up to several million dollars.
There’s no doubt that these coins will continue to increase in value over time, so every coin enthusiast needs to know how to spot them. With the information presented in this article, you’re on your way to developing such a skill. Enjoy coin hunting!