James B. writes: I’ve recently purchased an 1883 Proof Indian Cent and upon close inspection under a jeweler’s loupe the obverse lettering (including the Liberty on the headband) are staggered/stacked. I’m new to this hobby, but from my investigations on the net , it appears the coin is a “double-die”.. Is it possible for this to occur in a proof?, if so, what about it’s value if indeed it is a proof double-die. Thanks for your time.
A doubled-die is an improperly made die where subsequent strikes from the master hub are rotated out of line with the original strike. All coins struck from this defective working die show the same doubling error. A good example of a doubled die error is the 1955 doubled-die cent. One obverse die had a severely out of alignment hub doubling causing a very spectacular error. All coins that were struck from this die exhibited this error. Fortunately, the Mint workers missed this bit of quality control which has supplied the hobby with something quite exciting. Note that other obverse 1955 dies were normal and struck normal 1955 cents.
Most likely only one die was made to strike the 6,609 1883 proof Indian cents and since this die wasn’t a doubled-die, your doubled lettering has another cause. Proofs are struck on specially prepared planchets and are generally in higher relief than business strikes because they are struck more than once. If the collar that holds the coin in place when it is struck is loose then the planchet will move slightly when it is struck causing a slightly doubled image on part or even all of that coin.
“Strike doubled” coins are unique and are not the result of a defective die. This type of manufacturing defect is usually minor and requires a loop to see it. The characteristic look of this type of doubling is often called “shelf doubling” because of the shelf like appearance of the lettering. Doubled-dies show distinct separation of the doubled areas. Shelf-doubling rarely brings a premium above the price of a normal coin.
One characteristic to look for on 1883 proof Indian cents is the presence of a repunched “3” in the date. This may have been done as a bungled attempt by a mint worker to strengthen the digit. Only a small number of 1883 proofs with repunched “3” exist. If you discovered this characteristic on your coin it would add value as this is a rare variety.