The 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cent was one of the few coins ever to appear on America’s “Most Wanted” list, not because it was such a desirable coin but because it was once considered to be counterfeit. By sheer coincidence, this absolutely real coin became tainted by another counterfeit – the 1969 Doubled Die Obverse cent.
In 1969, Roy Gray and Morton Goodman began producing fake 1969 Doubled Die Lincoln cents and other counterfeit coins which soon came to the attention of the authorities. When the Secret Service searched Gray's residence in July 1969, they discovered rolled sheets of silver with the approximate thickness of unfinished U.S. coins as well as planchet punches for nickels, dimes, quarters and half dollars. Gray also possessed a collar for dimes, with 120 serrations (as opposed to the 118 serrations on authentic dimes). This collar was damning evidence when fake 1941 Dimes with 120 serrations were charged to Gray in his criminal proceedings.
Gray had managed to acquire an Agietron electrical discharge machine from Alina Corporation. This electrical discharge machine was capable of producing fake coin dies through the spark erosion process. Alina Corporation employees trained Mort Goodman in the proper use of the machine.
Once the fake 1969 Doubled Die Obverse cents were produced, Gray contacted a collector by the name of Robert Teitelbaum and asked him to market the illegal coins. One of the first fake cents sold for $100. Later, Teitelbaum sold 2900 of the fake 1969 Doubled Die Obverse cents to Sam Jowdy for $92,000 (slightly more than $30 each).
Gray asked Teitelbaum to place 85 fake 1969 doubled die cents into circulation in Washington. Instead, Teitelbaum turned over the 85 coins to the Secret Service.
Agent Miller from the Secret Service, using an electrical discharge machine, was successful in reproducing Gray’s fake 1969 Doubled Die obverse cents. This evidence was used against Gray and Goodman and the Secret Service began to recover as many of the fakes as possible. In the meantime, Cecil Moorhouse and Bill Hudson were credited in July 1970 with discovering the first 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cents. As the Secret Service searched for fake 1969 Doubled Die Obverse cents, they found several authentic 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cents. The Secret Service automatically assumed that some of these 1969-S Doubled Die cents were fake and ordered them to be destroyed, making a rare coin even rarer.
Roy Gray and Morton Goodman were sentenced to multiple years in prison for counterfeiting U.S. coins.
It is believed that less than 100 examples of the authentic 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cents were produced.
As of August 2009, less than 40 examples have been certified by all grading companies combined. More than likely, this number contains resubmissions, as a jump in one grade can easily be worth thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
True 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cents today are extremely scarce. However, many new collectors confuse the 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cents with machine doubling. Machine doubling is caused when the coin dies bounce as coins are struck. This occurs when the bolts holding the coin dies loosen. Machine doubling is very common and commands no premium.
A true 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cent will not have doubling on the mintmark as the mintmark was punched into the die separately. On a machine-doubled coin, the mintmark will be doubled along with most or all of the legends and devices.
A true 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cent will have strong and prominent doubling on the date. The doubling appears on a south-east direction and is more prominent on the date, the word LIBERTY, and the words IN GOD WE TRUST.
Any discovery of a 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cent is big news in the coin hobby. For example, in the spring of 1995, an unemployed woman found a 1969-S Doubled Die in circulation. The woman offered the coin to several local dealers and refused their offers as she thought they were too low. Upon the recommendation of friends, she contacted Jack Beymer, a dealer in Santa Rosa, California, who offered the woman $3,000 for the coin. Beymer sold the coin for $3,500. The new owners sold the coin for $4000 to a dealer who sold it to another dealer for $5,250. Ultimately, the coin ended up with a collector for $6,000, all within in a couple of months’ time.
On October 29, 2007, collector Michael Tremonti created a lot of excitement in the coin market by announcing that he had discovered a 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse cent in an unsearched roll of Lincoln cents. The coin he found was in high mint state condition. This coin was immediately submitted to PCGS in a Brinks Armored truck, where it was assigned a grade of MS64 Red by PCGS. This same coin sold on January 09, 2008 at public auction for a record-breaking price of $126,500. Remarkable, Tremonti found a second example which is probably the PCGS MS63 Red graded example that sold in a Heritage auction on March 27, 2009 for $86,250.
The 1969-S Doubled Die is listed in the CherryPickers’ Guide and classified as FS#101 (old FS#028).
It’s unknown whether or not all the fake 1969 Doubled Die Obverse cents were recovered by the Secret Service.