The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 15, April 11, 2010, Article 10


Dick Johnson submitted this tale of his quest to improve one web site's definition of "double die". -Editor

1955 Double Die Lincoln Cent

Numismatic glossaries appeal to me. I search each new numismatic book for such a glossary. Then search these glossaries to see that I have all the technical terms in the field covered in my Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology. It is one way I learn of the terms currently in use.

The best of all these glossaries is found in Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. The glossary contains 582 terms – the most authoritative in the field! – it is found on pages 695-711.

Within the last decade some of these glossaries have been appearing on the Internet. Six years ago in August 2004 I discovered one I thought was particularly useful. It was on the web site of the Johnson City Coin Shop. What a great service to collectors and their customers to offer this, I thought.

JC-Coin Shop's web site listed 742 terms and I delighted in perusing each one. About 200 of these were good technical terms I had in my Encyclopedia. Another hundred were names of coins, mints, people, or organizations. A small percentage (about 10 percent) was condition terms or abbreviations. What was left (43 percent) was numismatic jargon. Such terms are what you hear at coin shows, coin clubs, in conversations among collectors and dealers. Not necessarily precise terms but what we all use in our field.

Terms like "bag toning," "deep cameo," "full steps," "monster" coin are all numismatic jargon. With any time in the field collectors know -- or quickly surmise -- what these terms mean. I was surprised there were so many. What the good folks at JC-CS had also listed were a lot of terms called "slang" as well. They used the word slang to excess I thought. Describing a coin "Canadian" as a coin from Canada is not slang.

Then I found more numismatic glossaries on the web. Another was on the PCGS web site. It was similar to JC-CS's. One must have borrowed from the other.

In comparing the two I found one blatant difference. JC-CS had 19 lines to describe "double die." It was lengthy -- the longest on the list -- and absolutely impossible to understand. It seemed to keep repeating itself. In an attempt to make some sense I copied it to a blank page and separated each sentence.

I numbered each sentence: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - that last sentence was incomplete - then the same repeated sentences 1 - 2 - 3 - then it started over again 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6.

On August 15, 2004 I sent them an email describing some inaccuracies in that definition and its jumbled nature. At the beginning of sentence 2 "before the introduction of hubbing" bothered me. I pointed out the ancients had used hubbing in the making of their dies, so hubbing was not recently "introduced." I added parenthetically: “A new type hydraulic press was installed at the Philadelphia Mint in 1892 so perhaps the errors they were describing had occurred since then.”

To be helpful I rewrote that double die entry and included it in my email:

A die which has been impressed with a hub more than once with a shifting before the last hub impression. This shifting causes some elements to have two images. Coins struck from such malformed dies exhibit these multiple images, the most famous being the 1955 Double Die Lincoln cent. PCGS uses "double die" as the designation for this hubbing error.

That was six years ago. This week I went to their web site again. That jumbled definition of double die is still there! Go see for yourself -- click on this link and scroll down to “double die.”:

They hadn't changed it! They either didn't get my email, thought I was a crank, or didn't care! I hope not the later.

They had a good service to collectors. Too bad it is spoiled by one bad definition.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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