In the year 1955, some lucky individuals who smoked cigarettes (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), had the opportunity of receiving one or two brand new Uncirculated 1955 Doubled Die cents in change from cigarette vending machines.
At the time, a pack of cigarettes would only cost 23 cents from vending machines. However, there was one problem: those vending machines would only take quarters. In 1955, the vending machines were just not equipped to take different coin denominations or give back change. The cigarette companies had to either raise the prices or figure out a way to give back change.
Instead of taking the risk of raising prices and possibly losing customers to other cigarette companies, some cigarette vendors decided to place two cents inside each pack of cigarettes to give back as change. Therefore, when smokers placed a quarter in the cigarette vending machines, the customers would receive a pack of cigarettes with two Lincoln cents that were inside the cellophane packaging. And this is where many of the 1955 Doubled Dies were discovered!
Thanks to the dramatic doubling on the 1955 Doubled Die cents, it did not require strong magnification or a loupe in 1955 to see the doubling on the new cents. So many 1955 Doubled Dies were found the same year in which they were released, as most people could easily spot the doubling with the naked eye. Since many 1955 Doubled Die cents were pulled from circulation shortly after they were minted and set aside by collectors, most coins today exist in high-grade condition. In fact, the majority of existing 1955 Doubled Dies today are in AU to Uncirculated condition. This is because many of them barely circulated or did not circulate at all.
The 1955 Doubled Dies were created when the Mint accidentally struck a working hub and a working die together while they were both slightly rotated differently from one another. Consequently, this working die then received a doubled die impression. And as a result, this working die struck thousands of 1955 Doubled Die cents.
After the 1955 Doubled Dies were struck, they were mixed with millions of regular circulation strike cents of the same year. Mint employees did manage to capture many of the error 1955 Doubled Die cents before they went into circulation, but many more circumvented their screening process. Consequently, the Mint decided that it was just not worth the trouble of melting millions of cents just to try to retrieve the approximately 25,000 Doubled Die cents that were accidentally produced. Since then, so many coins have been lost and damaged in circulation, that today's number of surviving examples is more like 10,000 to 15,000 in all grades combined.