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The Tremonti 1969-S Doubled Die Cent, MS64 Red

1969-S 1C Doubled Die MS64 Red PCGS. FS-028. In The Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties, Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton use a system of stars to assess demand for different varieties, ranging from one star for low-demand, minor variants to a stated high of five stars for bold and popular oddities such as the 1955 doubled die cent. The 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse listing shows six stars.
This important, interesting, and generally unavailable variety has one of the most surprising backgrounds in 20th century American numismatics. As described in several publications, counterfeit doubled die cents dated 1969 had appeared, and government agents confiscated any examples it came across. The legitimate 1969-S doubled die pieces were caught up in this dragnet; Fivaz and Stanton report that the coins were later authenticated by the Mint and returned, while Lange's The Complete Guide to Lincoln Cents states that the Mint destroyed at least a few of the S-mint coins. That early excitement greatly increased the notoriety of the 1969-S doubled die coins, though the population of survivors remains excessively low.
The piece offered here, however, has no such story of confiscation and redemption. In fact, its history is essentially blank until October 3, 2007, when collector Michael Tremonti discovered the coin in a heretofore-unsearched roll of 1969-S cents. As related by Ken Potter in a report for the October 29, 2007 edition of Coin World, the noted numismatist was understandably skeptical: " ... I just assumed that his find was one of the exceedingly common examples of strike doubling found on this date. ... I advised [Tremonti] of this, but he shrugged it off as not being what he found."
While Potter agreed to examine the coin, he was not expecting to find an actual doubled die: "Even though [Tremonti] sounded like he knew what he was talking about, I was still prepared to find an example of strike doubling. To my surprise, what I beheld was a Brilliant Uncirculated example of the 1969-S Lincoln, Doubled Die cent."
Interest in the 1969-S Doubled Die cents has increased dramatically in recent years, and prices have skyrocketed in tandem. A recent sale by Bowers and Merena included an MS64 Red and Brown example, which sold for $85,100, the current high price for this issue. Collector and dealer speculation has suggested that this representative might set a new record at auction. Among the authorities who have brought up the possibility is David Hall, one of the co-founders of certification service PCGS. His commentary, as printed in the November 13, 2007 edition of Numismatic News: "I was totally amazed that this coin could turn up out of nowhere. The coin is completely original and full mint red. ... What an incredible find! This could be a six-figure coin."
The shining surfaces of this important cent are fresh copper-orange with a triangular area of peach-umber behind Lincoln's head. The strike is crisp, and the peripheral elements of the obverse show this variant's characteristic doubling, with the effect most prominent at LIBERTY and the date. Though a handful of marks are present in the fields, the devices are attractively preserved, and the overall effect is tantalizingly close to an even finer designation.
The combined certified populations of NGC and PCGS show just three Choice 1969-S Doubled Die cents as the highest-graded examples, all of which were certified by the latter firm (12/07). One was graded as Red and Brown, while the other two (including the present piece) were graded as Red. This recent discovery, at the acme of desirability for this challenging doubled die, presents an important opportunity for the series specialist.(Registry values: P1) (PCGS# 2923)

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Auction Dates
January, 2008
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