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Prized MS62 1916 Doubled Die Obverse Nickel

1916 5C Doubled Die Obverse MS62 PCGS. FS-101, formerly FS-016. The image of the doubled date on the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickel has been a fixture in the Guide Book for years, and today, even collectors who have only casually browsed that reference would be able to identify the variety. As bold as the doubling is, though, the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse was not always so recognizable. In fact, for more than four decades after its creation, the variety remained incognito, and even the earliest published report (based on a submission by California collector Herbert S. Perlin in Numismatic Scrapbook magazine, July 1962, according to David Lange's The Complete Guide to Buffalo Nickels) did little to inspire collector interest. As Lange later notes, "Not until it was described and illustrated in the September 1976 issue of the Coin Dealer Newsletter Monthly Summary did this coin gain proper recognition." A Guide Book listing followed, and the rest is history, or rather, a history of almost continually increasing appreciation, in both the numismatic and the fiduciary senses. By then, however, the vast majority of known survivors had experienced circulation to some degree, unlike those doubled dies that were popular almost from the time of release, such as the prominent 1955 and 1995 cent varieties.
It seems strange that so obvious a doubled die would escape detection for so long, but by surveying the certified population data, one can appreciate just how elusive the variety is, which goes a long way toward explaining how the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse went unheralded for the better part of six decades. Looking at the PCGS Population Report, as of (11/08), there are a total of 138 examples certified in all grades, with a relatively even distribution among Very Good, Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine (with both XF40 and XF45 taken into consideration), and About Uncirculated (again, when all AU grades are combined).
A comparison to the data for the 1916 nickel without the variety reveals several interesting results. PCGS has graded 2,217 of the non-variety pieces, with only handfuls of examples in each grade until AU58, which shows the first substantial population concentration. Most pieces are Select, Choice, or Gem, reinforcing the variety's selection bias toward high end examples, as opposed to the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickel, which justifies the price of certification regardless of grade. PCGS has graded over 2,000 Mint State 1916 nickels, compared to just five (three in MS62 and two in MS64) of the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickels in the same grade range. One can imagine the multitudes of circulated 1916 nickels that have never been certified, and when one considers the circumstances of the 1950s, with few examples hiding among the survivors from an original mintage of nearly 63.5 million pieces, the third-largest production run in the series, it is little wonder that the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickel proved to be a late discovery.
The piece offered here, though graded MS62, exhibits substantially better eye appeal than that designation might suggest. Each side offers soft but delightful luster beneath rich, captivating patina. The obverse shows a crescent of gold at the left with nickel-blue, violet, and mint-green shadings elsewhere, while the reverse displays similar colors with a smaller golden crescent to left. The strike is pleasing, and the surfaces are minimally marked save for a handful of inoffensive stray abrasions in the busy areas of the central devices. All factors considered, an important, outstanding representative of this fascinating and dramatic variety.
From The Scott Rudolph Collection.
See: Video Lot Description(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 2TSS, PCGS# 3931)

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Auction Dates
January, 2009
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
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