Magnificent 1916 Doubled Die Obverse Nickel, MS641916 5C Doubled Die Obverse MS64 PCGS. FS-101, FS-106. While certain older references describe this legendary Buffalo nickel variety as a "doubled date" variant, the source of the doubling is not from repunching, as likely would have been the case were this a 19th century piece, but is the result of hub doubling. The nature of the doubling is Class V, or Pivoted Hub Doubling, in John Wexler's taxonomy. To quote The Authoritative Reference on Buffalo Nickels, written by Wexler, Ron Pope, and Kevin Flynn, "Pivot hub doubling occurs when a die is pivoted about a point near the rim during rehubbing. Because the point of the pivot is near the rim, the spread of doubling will be the strongest at the point directly opposite the pivot point and will decrease as you move away from that point."
In the case of the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickel, that pivot point is somewhere between 1 and 2 o'clock on the obverse, within the letters of LIBERTY. As a consequence, that word shows no doubling to the unaided eye, being too close to the pivot to show anything but a microscopic spread. Moving away from that particular area, however, doubling is widespread across the rest of the devices, from a small shift visible at the Indian's brow and lips (most examples show doubling below the nose as well, though this piece does not, likely due to die polishing), to more dramatic doubling on the feathers and braid. The most dramatic doubling of all appears directly across from the pivot point; happily for this variety, that area contains the digits of the date and the lower hair ribbons, both of which exhibit the characteristically bold doubling that has attracted collectors since the variety became widely publicized in the mid- to late 1970s. Wexler et al. note that the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse variety " ... actually has a wider spread on the date than the 1955 Lincoln cent doubled die obverse."
The 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickel is coveted by collectors, almost regardless of condition, since it rates as a URS-9 according to most sources, with between 126 and 250 pieces known. Even low-grade pieces with the date completely worn away, identified by the residual doubling on the hair ribbons, command substantial sums. (Such a state is more common than one might think; the date, exposed as it was at the base of the portrait, wore quickly. A similar, contemporaneous occurrence took place with the Standing Liberty quarter.)
Naturally, as grade increases, so does rarity and price. Lower and mid-range circulated pieces appear in the numismatic marketplace with some frequency, but they are ready sellers, whether in dealers' cases or on the auction block. Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated coins are borderline condition rarities. Regarding Mint State examples, David Lange's The Complete Guide to Buffalo Nickels notes that as of 2006, "Mint state examples of this variety are extremely rare and number fewer than ten."
Since then, a handful of other certification events have appeared in the combined certified population, but whether these represent new discoveries is open to question. Even after decades of intense searching, only a handful of unworn 1916 Doubled Die Obverse nickels have turned up, and the likelihood of previously unknown survivors turning up decreases with each passing year. Neither NGC nor PCGS has certified an example of this variety finer than MS64, with NGC acknowledging five pieces and PCGS grading just two (11/08). Heritage sold the first of the PCGS coins at our September 2005 Long Beach auction, and with the arrival of this piece, we shall have had the privilege of offering both MS64 coins known to that service.
The present example is delightfully, dramatically toned with centers that are generally light nickel-gray and colorful yellow, gold-orange, peach, and rose margins. The obverse shows traces of mint-green near the rims, while on the reverse, elements of golden-brown grace parts of the bison. Smoothly lustrous with few flaws overall, though small, identifying abrasions are visible on the portrait's nose and at the hair above and to the left of the braid. Absolutely spectacular eye appeal, entirely worthy of a coin that has few rivals within its widely collected series.
From The Scott Rudolph Collection.
See: Video Lot Description(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 2TSS, PCGS# 3931)
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