The 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Memorial Cent is readily identified by extremely strong doubling on the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on the obverse, as well as on the word LIBERTY and the date. There is no doubling visible on the mintmark, as this was punched into the die just prior to the die being put into production, and no doubling is seen on the reverse.
Released into circulation (presumably) in 1969, it took awhile for the collecting community to note this variety, and early specimens were reportedly confiscated by the Secret Service as being counterfeit (fake 1969-S cents had been encountered in circulation, which also showed some doubling on the obverse). Once the variety was confirmed to be genuine, collectors started searching in earnest for the pieces, which soon proved to be extremely elusive.
It is unknown how many 1969-S Doubled Die Cents were produced or are in existence, but most estimates do not surpass 100 pieces. Most have been pulled from circulation, and several high grade examples have been pulled from original rolls, although chances are very slim.
Lot number 5550 in Heritage’s FUN auction was a 1969-S Double Die Lincoln Cent certified by PCGS as AU55. It sold for $22,325 including buyers’ premium, indicating the rarity and demand for this relatively modern coin. PCGS’ population report shows just six examples graded at that level, although that number may include a number of resubmissions. While not as famous or well known as the 1955 Lincoln Wheat Cent Doubled Die, the 1969-S is actually much, much rarer and one of the most difficult of all Lincoln Cent varieties.
The example in the Heritage sale must have circulated very briefly as very little wear is apparent on either side and the eye-appeal is still excellent. The coin was offered as part of the “J.D. Tanner Collection.”
While the sale price of just over $22,000 might seem like a high number this is by far not a record for this elusive variety, as the record price stands at $126,500 for a PCGS MS64RD example. That particular coin was pulled from an original roll in 2007 and is one of just two coins graded by PCGS at that grade level.
Auctions of this elusive variety are not often encountered, and very few dealers can say that they have ever had an example of this modern but important Lincoln Cent in inventory. That said, collectors interested in pursuing this particular variety for the collection should always keep a look at the major auctions as examples are occasionally offered.