Two Heads Are Better Than One

2 headed nickelIn some hobbies, production mistakes are regarded as just that – errors, and they’re disregarded or at least not held in particularly high regard.   A record by the Beatles with the same label on each side might be regarded as an oddity, but it isn’t a record that collectors will pay a lot of money to own.

It’s different in the coin world, where production standards are very high and where the U.S. Mint takes tremendous care to ensure that no mistakes occur.  Mistakes do occur, however, and that’s not surprising, given that the Mint produces billions of coins every year.

Still, they’re better at it than they were in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, where date overstrikes, mint mark overstrikes, and off-center strikes were far more common than they are today.

One particular oddity that has never been common, however, is a coin bearing the same artwork on each face.  Either a two-headed or a two-tailed coin are both quite rare, with only a handful of examples in existence dating to the first days of U.S. coinage.

How rare are such coins?  To date, there are only four known examples:

  • Two Washington Quarters with tails on both sides (undated, obviously)
  • A Roosevelt Dime with tails on both sides (undated)
  • A Jefferson Nickel with heads on both sides (2000-P)

That’s it.  Part of the reason for the relative rarity of double-anything coins is that there are two dies used to strike a coin.  One is known as the “hammer” die and one is known as the “anvil” die.  They’re made with shafts of different lengths, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to accidentally confuse the two, making it almost impossible to pair them up incorrectly…unless you’re doing it on purpose.

That is the speculation on the double-headed Jefferson Nickel, according to a recent article in Coin World.   The coin has been PGCS certified as MS 65, but few people believe that the coin is an actual Mint mistake, especially since there is only one known example.  Not only that, but the coin has been weakly struck, with Jefferson’s image being poorly defined on each side.

Despite the coins lack of perfection, it is unique in that it is the only currently known example of a U.S. coin pressed with heads (and a date) on both sides.  That, regardless of condition, makes it a Pretty Big Deal in collecting circles.

The nice thing about a double headed coin is that it does have a date.  The dates of the other three known same-sided coins can only be guessed, since the dates are on the obverse and these coins don’t have one.

Of course, not everyone collects error coins, but those who do largely collect nothing else, and if you’re looking for a truly odd example of an error coin, along with one that is almost guaranteed to let you win any coin toss, then you might want to look at this one.

According to the article, the coin is now in the possession of Mike Byers of Las Vegas, and it’s being offered for sale for $100,000.