With only about two months left to go, 2018 is quickly slipping into history. But before we bid farewell, we will take a moment to mark the centennial of two very famous overdate issues of 1918.
Overdates used to be quite common in the early years of the U.S. Mint. Dies were often prepared by hand, and an unused die at the end of the year could be used the following year by simply updating the date shown. The coinage of the 1810s and 1820s is replete with overdates as well as other anomalies. By the 1830s though, the pace had slowed, and while the occasional overdate still appeared, they became the exception rather than the rule.
Our first centennial celebrant is the 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel. Despite a very obvious "7" lurking beneath the "8", this variety remained "undiscovered" until 1930, when Paul Lange of Rochester, NY offered one as the last lot in his Hobby Shop’s 14th Auction. In that sale he noted:
"WHO KNOWS ABOUT THIS? 545. 1918 over 17 D mint nickel!!![sic.] The seven shows on top as well as the lower rounded part of it. I have looked over 8000 other pieces but have not found another. The mint as well as many collectors of whom I inquired do not know anything about it – never saw one!"
A few other mint state examples were offered in the 1930s, but as the variety was not discovered for nearly 13 years after its issue, the vast majority of surviving pieces are in the lower grades of Good to Fine. Today, average mint state examples are worth in the mid-five-figures and top end pieces go well into six-figures. Even a nice Fine example is worth $2,500.
Our second centennial coin is the 1918/7-S Standing Liberty Quarter. Like the Buffalo Nickel, this variety remained unrecognized throughout the 1920s making its first auction appearance in December 1937 in a Barney Bluestone sale. And again, like the nickel, the overdate is not at all difficult to detect. This certainly suggests that during the 1920s and early 1930s, few people, if any, were "checking their change."
Values for the overdate quarter are similar to those of the nickel with values in the low to mid four figures in grades of Good through Very Fine. Lower end mint state pieces run into the lower five-figures and top end pieces approach six-figures. Mint State pieces are quite rare, with only about a dozen pieces certified between the two major services – and that figure includes the possibility of duplication.
Full head examples are prohibitively rare and as Jay Cline noted in his book, Standing Liberty Quarters, Fourth Edition: "Without any debate, the 1918/7-S Standing Liberty quarter is the very rarest Full Head in the entire series. None in MS65, MS66, or MS67 FH exist, and it is head and shoulders rarer than any other date, including the 1927-S."
Interestingly, we would have to wait for another World War for the next significant overdate in 20th century American coinage – that would be the 1942/1 Mercury Dimes, made incidentally, at both the Philadelphia and Denver mints!