What does a 1955 double-die penny look like? The 1955 double die penny is one of the most famous and valuable error coins in US numismatic history. Instantly recognizable by the dramatic doubling of design elements on Lincoln’s portrait, these rare Lincoln cents have an intriguing backstory and remain highly sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts today.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The 1955 double die cent shows a clear doubling of the date, lettering, and design elements like Lincoln’s portrait and the building Lincoln Memorial. This ‘doubled’ look is the result of coin dies that were misaligned during the striking process at the US Mint in 1955.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about identifying the rare 1955 double die penny, including the unique features that set it apart, its fascinating origin story and production process that led to the error, tips for spotting counterfeits, current value estimates, and why this unusual penny has earned its vaunted place in US coin collecting lore.

Unique Identifying Features of the 1955 Double Die Obverse Lincoln Cent

Dramatic doubling of date, lettering, building designs

The most obvious indicator that a 1955 Lincoln penny is the rare and valuable Double Die Obverse (DDO) variety is the dramatic doubling or replication of elements like the date numerals and lettering. This doubling gives the coin an almost 3D effect under magnification.

For example, close inspection would reveal nearly complete extra images of the number “5” shifted northwest from the primary date digits. The same pronounced doubling can be seen on LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST lettering near the top rim of the coin’s obverse (front) side as well.

In addition to the clear doubling of the wording, further evidence is visible in the intricate architectural details of the Lincoln Memorial building behind Lincoln’s bust. Under a loupe or macro lens, steps, columns, and the memorial’s roofline display obvious doubling shifted slightly counterclockwise from the main designs.

This replication of fine design elements is a testament to the dramatically misaligned die that struck a small batch of 1955 pennies.

Most noticeable on Lincoln’s portrait and date digits

While the hallmarks of DDO are present throughout the obverse face of qualifying 1955 cents, the most dramatic doubling manifests on Abraham Lincoln’s portrait and bust. A second phantom image of Lincoln’s head, hairline, and bow-tie scarf is offset a few millimeters clockwise relative to the main bust.

This pronounced doubling effect is likely what first caught collectors’ eyes and signaled something special in some pennies minted 65+ years ago.

In a similar area of the coin’s obverse face, the date numerals show some of the most conspicuous evidence of being struck by the improperly aligned DDO die. You can plainly see a lighter secondary image of the number “1955” shifted slightly northwest relative to the bolder primary date digits nestled under the sprawling branches of wheat stalks.

Origin and Backstory: How the 1955 Double Die Came to Be

Struck from misaligned dies at the Philadelphia Mint

The interesting story of the 1955 Double Die Lincoln penny begins at the Philadelphia Mint. This rare coin came about from a mistake during the coin minting process. In 1955, the Denver and Philadelphia Mints were tasked with producing large numbers of Lincoln pennies to meet demand.

During production at the Philadelphia Mint, a worker accidentally installed a misaligned die into one of the coin presses. This resulted in a doubled image being struck onto some of the pennies. It is estimated that around 20,000 to 24,000 of these error coins entered circulation before the problem was caught and fixed.

Only around 20,000-24,000 specimens entered circulation

Due to the short production window before the misaligned die was removed, the 1955 Double Die penny has become famous for its rarity. Out of the billions of Lincoln cents produced in 1955, only about 0.01% feature the distinctive doubling effect.

This scarcity has made the coin highly sought-after by collectors and numismatists over the past 60+ years. According to the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), they have certified around 14,000 examples in various conditions.

There have been conflicting estimates on the actual number of 1955 Double Die cents produced, but most experts believe it falls somewhere between 20,000 and 24,000 pieces originally released into circulation.

Total 1955 Lincoln Cents Produced Approx. 3.1 billion
Estimated 1955 Double Die Cents 20,000 – 24,000
Percent that are Doubled Die About 0.01%

Finding one of these treasured error coins in pocket change is incredibly unlikely today. But that has not stopped collectors from excitedly searching through jars of old pennies anyway, just in case they get unbelievably lucky.

While the origin story of how the 1955 Double Die came to be was accidental, the intrigue and legacy of this rare coin have made it one of the most famous mint errors in American numismatic history.

Spotting Fakes: Tips for Authenticating Real 1955 Double Die Cents

Examining the depth and symmetry of doubled elements

One of the best ways to spot a counterfeit 1955 double-die penny is to examine the doubling of design elements closely. On authentic specimens, the doubling should have visible separation and depth – almost looking three-dimensional.

Fakes sometimes exhibit more flat and uniform doubling without clear separation between the two images.

You’ll also want to check that the doubling is symmetrical. On real double die cents, the secondary image mirrors the primary design accurately. Fakes sometimes have doubling that look “off” or doesn’t precisely reflect the main elements.

It takes a keen eye and experience to detect small discrepancies. When in doubt, compare the coin to images of verified authentic specimens like those provided on reputable dealer websites like PCGS CoinFacts.

Verifying accurate weight and metallic properties

Using a precision digital scale, an authentic 1955 doubled die penny should weigh 3.11 grams. Some counterfeits are underweight or overweight. Test the coin’s magnetic properties with a strong magnet – authentic copper pennies are not attracted to magnets while fakes made with steel or other materials often are.

Examine the coin’s surface and edge closely. On authentic specimens, you should see uniform copper coloration and finely-grained metal composition. Fakes sometimes have inconsistent coloration or texture.

Metallurgical test kits can detect chemical compositions of coin metals, providing definitive proof of authenticity. Local coin dealers may offer this verification service to protect collectors from fraud.

Measurement Authentic Specimen Counterfeit Watchpoints
Weight 3.11 grams Over/underweight
Magnet Test Not attracted Magnetic attraction
Surface/Edge Consistent color and grain Inconsistent appearance

Following these tips will give you greater confidence when seeking and verifying real 1955 Double Die Wheat Pennies. With so many fakes on the market, diligence is a collector’s best defense against fraud. Stay skeptical and rely on expert opinions whenever possible. 

Estimated Value in Current Coin Market

Mint State (MS60-MS65) examples worth $1,000+

1955 Double Die pennies certified in the higher uncirculated Mint State 60 to 64 range typically sell for between $1,000 and $6,500 at online auction websites like eBay or certified coin dealer portals. Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) are the most renowned 3rd party grading services that provide quality assessments and increase collectible coin values compared to raw uncertified examples.

The 1955 doubled die is one of the few major U.S. Mint error varieties where a lower-end Mint State specimen still carries a four-figure price tag.

Moving up into the MS65 category, examples with almost no signs of contact or wear have traded for between $12,000 to $15,000 in online auctions when certified by PCGS or NGC. These coins showcase strong, well-defined design details like the distinct doubling in the words “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” from the dual impressions created in the coin die hubbing process at the Philadelphia Mint facility.

Out of the hundreds of millions of Lincoln cents produced in 1955 bearing Victor David Brenner’s iconic president portrait design on the obverse, only around 20,000 to 24,000 of these influential doubled die error coins have been graded at the elite Mint State 65 level so far by PCGS and NGC combined.

Highest quality specimens valued up to $18,000+

At the pinnacle MS66 grade, the 1955 doubled die Lincoln cent sees another massive increase in value up to the $15,000 to $18,500 level when offered at auction or for sale by dealers. So few examples exist at this lofty near-pristine certified quality, with NGC reporting only 8 instances graded MS66 over the company’s 30+ year history.

Similarly, PCGS CoinFacts shows a total of 7 examples making the MS66 grade thus far.

These nicest-known 1955 double die cents stand out with breathtaking reddish-orange, yellow, and tan toning across the obverse and reverse design fields. Striking detail remains needle sharp on Abraham Lincoln’s portrait and in the extreme doubling of mintmark letters and date digits.

Besides their astronomical price tags up to nearly twenty thousand dollars, ownership of one of these MS66 specimens also provides what the numismatic community refers to as “bragging rights” – the prestige and pride that comes with securing a place in the census records tracking the finest condition 1955 Double Dies known to collectors.

Why the 1955 Double Die Cent Has Achieved Legendary Status

One of the most publicized error coins in US history

Very few coins have achieved the fame and legendary status of the 1955 Double Die Lincoln cent. This error coin stands out as one of the most publicized and coveted mint errors in U.S. numismatic history (study of currency).

The dramatic doubling of design elements gives the coin an unmistakable look. While other doubled dies exist, the 1955 penny’s doubling is particularly intense. This, combined with relatively few specimens known to collectors, has fueled demand over decades.

The coin represents a fascinating fluke in the minting process. During production at the Philadelphia Mint, a misaligned working die imprinted the coin design twice, slightly offset. This resulted in a strong doubling of letters and numbers in “LIBERTY” and the date.

Scarcity and dramatically doubled features fuel collector demand

With only around a small amount of confirmed specimens of the 1955 Double Die cent, its rarity fuels the “holy grail” mystique. As an exceedingly scarce famous error, demand from Lincoln cent and error coin collectors continues to push values ever higher when pieces trade hands.

Auction sales over decades show an exponential increase in valuation:

  • 1970 – $7,900
  • 1996 – $29,900
  • 2010 – $207,000
  • 2022 – $960,000

This upward trajectory seems poised to continue as more collectors compete for one of America’s rarest coins. Values are now approaching seven figures.

Those lucky few who own a 1955 doubled-die cent relish its celebrated status. While other famous rarities like the 1913 Liberty Head nickel and the 1804 silver dollar may be more valuable, the 1955 Lincoln penny has a special place in collectors’ hearts.

The excitement and connection collectors have for this dramatic mint error coin has fueled legendary interest for over 65 years – and will undoubtedly continue for decades more!

What Does A 1955 Double-Die Penny Look Like – Conclusion

With its brief, mysterious stint into circulation and extremely limited supply, the 1955 double die cent has rightfully claimed its place among the most popular and coveted coins in the US. Thanks to its reputation and one-of-a-kind appearance showing pronounced doubling, coin enthusiasts and collectors remain fascinated by this Lincoln wheat penny variety over 60 years later.

Through examining the identifying traits, grasping the backstory behind the error, and understanding the minting flaws that produced a tiny run of just 20,000-some double die pieces, the 1955-DDO’s legendary status becomes clear.

And with auction prices continuing to reach 5 and even 6-figure levels for uncirculated, high-grade examples, the double die retains immense value decades later in line with its lore.

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