Roll Find May Hit $100,000 By Numismatic
News - October 24, 2007
columnist and coin dealer Ken Potter of Michigan reports
what may be a $100,000 find of a 1969-S doubled-die obverse
#1 Lincoln cent. He said that a "local collector"
cherry-picked a specimen from out of an uncirculated roll
on Oct. 6. The coin was consigned to Potter and is currently
at Professional Coin Grading Service of Newport Beach,
Calif., for certification and grading. He feels that it
may very well tie for the finest piece graded or exceed
it. He says that it appears to be just one of two mint
state specimens known that is full red.
According to Potter, there are just
38 examples certified among the three major grading
services that publish population reports. Most of those
coins are circulated. Since many coins of this stature
are crossed over to anther grading service (or cracked
out and resubmitted to the same service) by owners hoping
to get a higher grade, or having a personal preference
for one service over another, the actual number of specimens
in collector hands may be far less, perhaps as few as
25 pieces, Potter estimates. He said that a local Michigan
collector Michael Tremonti found the coin while searching
uncirculated rolls of cents. After opening an uncirculated
roll of 1969-S cents, he searched through more than
half the coins before he spotted what he knew had to
be a 1969-S doubled die. Tremonti told Potter that he
was able to spot it with the naked eye and said he knew
it was a very valuable coin but didn't know how much
its current value was. Hoping to learn more, he immediately
contacted Potter knowing that he specializes in rare
die varieties and was local.
Potter said, having never met Tremonti,
"I am unaware of his level of expertise, so just
assumed the find was one of the exceedingly common examples
of strike doubling encountered on this date. This date
(along with the 1968-S and 1970-S cents) is the most
notorious for this form of doubling damage occurring
on Lincoln cents. I advised him of this but he shrugged
it off as not being what he found. As I talked to him
further he seemed to be knowledgeable with the subject.
It seemed that for once there was a possibility that
one of the folks making the common claim of finding
a 1969-S doubled-die cent might have actually done so.
To my surprise, the coin turned out to be a beautiful
brilliant uncirculated example of variety."
The 1969-S doubled die cent has an interesting history
in that shortly after it was discovered in 1970, examples
sent into the U.S. Treasury Department for verification
were subsequently declared counterfeits and confiscated.
Several respected hobby representatives continued to
insist that they were genuine based on where they were
found and on the diagnostics exhibited on the coins.
As it turned out, the counterfeits were
actually dated 1969 (with no mintmark) and were produced
to defraud collectors. According to John Wexler in his
cover story in the February 28, 1981, issue of Error-Variety
News, (where he shows excellent images of the counterfeit
1969 doubled die provided by Alan Herbert) Roy Gray
and Mort Goodman received prison sentences for their
involvement in the counterfeiting scheme. Later when
the government reversed their position on the 1969-S
doubled dies, at least some of the genuine pieces were
returned to collectors.
Discovery of the variety was originally
reported in July 1970 and attributed independently to
Cecil Moorhouse and Bill Hudson. According to Walter
Breen in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial
"Moorhouse's coin came 6/16/70
in a lot of 5 rolls from the San Francisco Federal Reserve
Bank via the Belmont branch of Bank of America. Secret
Service Agents seized it in the mistaken belief that
it was one of the Goodman counterfeits, but later returned
it as genuine." Of the grading
services that publish population reports, ANACS of Austin
Texas, shows they have graded seven 1969-S doubled-die
obverse #1 cents ranging from XF to AU-58, Numismatic
Guaranty Corporation of Sarasota, Fla., has graded nine
examples ranging from AU-53 to two in mint state both
grading MS-61 Brown; while Professional Coin Grading
Service of Newport Beach, Calif., has graded 22 pieces
ranging from VF to MS-64 with only one of seven mint
state grades being classified as a full red example.
Prices for the 1969-S doubled die in uncirculated
grades as found on the online PCGS Price Guide range from
$40,000 for a PCGS-graded MS-60 Brown to $100,000 for a PCGS
graded MS-64 Red. The guide does not offer pricing information
on lower grades nor is it necessarily applicable to coins
graded by other services.
The PCGS Auction Prices Realized feature on their Web site
gives an average auction price for the coin in MS-64 RB as
$85,000. This price apparently reflects the fact that the
one full red example they have listed in their population
report has not traded in auction.
Sam Lukes of Sam Lukes Rare Coins of Visalia, Calif., who
tracks prices on rare die varieties like this one provided
records of known sales since 2004. The following prices include
the 15 percent buyer's fee where it applies:
MS-62 BN (PCGS) March 27, 2004, (Heritage Auctions), $43,700,
(Live phone bid).
MS-64 RB (PCGS) Jan. 15, 2005, (Heritage Auctions), $36,800,
(Live floor bid). Within a few months of this sale, the same
coin was sold privately for $75,000 to a collector.
MS-61 BN (PCGS) May 7, 2005, (Heritage Auctions), $39,100,
EF-45 (PCGS) Private sale earlier this year (2007), $22,000.
MS-64 RB (PCGS August 2007 (Bowers and Merena Auctions), $85,100.
Potter stated that the coin was sent into PCGS and if it
comes back as an MS-64 Red that it will tie for the highest
grade with just one other coin and could easily sell in excess
of $100,000, but that if it grades higher that it could sell
for considerably more.