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1980-D&S Lincoln Cent Debunked!

by Ken Potter – NLG

The 1980-D&S Lincoln cent variety has bit the dust! Referred to by some as a Dual Mint Mark and by others as an Over Mint Mark (OMM), it had been one of the most hotly debated varieties amongst specialists for over a decade. James Wiles, 20th Century Variety Coin Attributer for CONECA provided an image of a specimen submitted by collector, Gary Darlington. Wiles distributed the image via email and it took a panel of prominent variety coin examiners that he sent to image to less than 24 hours to reach consensus that it debunked what was previously thought to be a D&S.

The image was of an early-mid-die-state, (EMDS), a stage earlier than previously seen. Specialist, Billy Crawford created overlay images of two different stages demonstrating that they were from the same die. The EMDS specimen shows an irregular pattern of probable die damage as being the source of what looks every bit like the lower two-thirds of an S on mid-die-state (MDS) examples. Later stages are less convincing but the presence of the deceptive MDS seemed to legitimize the LDS.

George Allegado first discovered the variation in late-die-state (LDS) and reported it to Alan Herbert in early February of 1981. Herbert later reported upon it in Numismatic News. CONECA member, John Wexler, published a story on another LDS specimen in the May 1981 Error-Variety News, its image splashed on the front cover. This piece became the plate-coin in Wexler and Tom Miller’s, The RPM Book published in 1983 which kept the coin in the limelight for a number of years.

However, not all observers including this writer were sure the coin displayed a D&S. The coin was LDS and the outline of an S was questionable. It was eventually removed from the RPM Book files (then owned by me and later by CONECA after Wexler sold them in the late 1980s) at which point the variation became hotly debated.

Then, a number of years later variety specialist Brian Allen found a MDS example showing more of what appeared to be an S. It was so convincing that most if not all variety specialists were swung over to the OMM camp. Wiles, who had not included it in his, The RPM Book Second Edition: Lincoln Cents, reinstated its OMM status to the files and included it in his Lincoln Cent RPM Book Update. I also declared it to be a D&S variety in Coin World and Cherrypickers’ News articles. After shunning it previously, the authors of The Cherrypickers’ Guide To Rare Die Varieties, Bill Fivaz and JT Stanton included it in their 4th edition. It had finally gained universal acceptance!

Now, with the appearance of an EMDS, the entire group of specialist who had accepted it previously has virtually reversed their position overnight! Darlington’s EMDS coin contained damaging evidence that all was not as it appeared on the MDS!

Most examiners who viewed the new image felt the variation was caused by die damage. Charles D. Daughtrey of CopperCoins said, “ …there actually appears to be areas of indentation in the coin that would signify raised areas on the die, especially in the right third of the curve. I highly doubt that a mintmark punch set so softly into the die as to not show its top third would displace enough metal to “crater” the die like this.

Crawford, responded to Wiles’ image by saying: “ … it appears to me the 1980-D&S is debunked. I would hate to see this variety pulled from listings — but, it is what it is.”

Specialist, Jose’ Cortez’ said, “ … at least this specimen of the purported 1980D&S is not a D&S.” John Wexler said, “The evidence is compelling. I hate to make any definitive statements without a chance to view an actual specimen, but the photographic evidence sure does seem to push it in the doubtful direction.”

John Bordner, President of the National Collectors Association Of Die Doubling said, “ … this earlier stage really answers the question. It’s going to break a few hearts…”

Fivaz said: “Without seeing the actual coin … I would have to say that I agree with you guys in that it is NOT another Mint mark punch. Foremost in my evaluation … the edges are too rough and indistinct, etc.”

Brian Allen said, “I agree that the variety should be removed …”

Alan Herbert said, “Given the evidence, and as Bill Fivaz states, without examining the coin, I’m going to go with the majority in deleting this as a mintmark punch. It’s a rare opportunity to see an earlier die state. Back when this was first reported most, if not all of the experts were still authenticating new varieties on circulated coins.” Ultimately when all were asked to vote, it was given unanimous thumbs down.

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