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1916 Doubled Die Obverse Buffalo Nickel Part of the Brenda John Collection to be offered at Heritage’s Long Beach Coin Auction

In a March 15, 2005, Numismatic News column, Paul M. Green described the 1916 Doubled Die nickel “as perhaps the greatest and least known rarity of the 20th century. It is ironic, because the logical assumption would be that any coin of the 20th century is well known and appreciated.”

Knowledge of the variety became widespread only in 1976; even today, many otherwise knowledgeable numismatists fail to realize how rare the issue is–in all grades, but particularly in Mint State.

Although some regular 1916 Buffalo nickels are known to show strike doubling on the date, they are easily distinguished from the unusual Doubled Die coins, which show prominent but incomplete (at the bottom) digits from a first strike of a working hub, well southeast of the subsequent strike. Other obverse features are doubled–the chin, throat, and lips.

The feathers at the back of the head are plainly doubled at their bottoms, including the tiny partial feather closest to the neck. The butterfly-shaped attachment of the feather quills to the hair is plainly doubled on both sides. Traces of doubling are visible as well along the forward edge of the profile.

The finest certified are a number of near-Gems at both services, including two MS64 PCGS pieces that Heritage has handled in the last few years. (PCGS has certified only those two pieces in MS64.)

The 1916 Doubled Die invites a comparison with another popular Buffalo nickel variety, the 1918/7-D. NGC has certified three Gems of the 1918/7-D Buffalo, and 22 examples of that variety in MS64. Even if one deletes one-third of those coins as duplicates, it still leaves almost four times as many 1918/7-D Buffalos at the near-Gem level compared to the 1916 Doubled Die.

The obverse of this impressively lustrous near-Gem has gold-orange peripheral toning that yields to light nickel-gray in the centers. The reverse is more richly patinated in stark blue and green-gold hues. Both sides show a slight degree of central striking softness, but the crucial date area is crisp with strong impressions from both date hubs. Wispy abrasions on the major devices and in the fields account for the technical grade, though the eye appeal is more evocative of an even finer designation. Census: 6 in 64, 0 finer (4/10).

From The Brenda John Collection. Lot 391 of the Long Beach Signature Sale

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