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Lincoln cent collectors everywhere have several coins that they strive to have in their collections — with the 1955 doubled die penny being among the elite list of rare pennies that they seek.
However, with estimates that there are roughly only 15,000 or so 1955 doubled die pennies available today, there simply aren’t enough to satisfy the demands of all Lincoln penny collectors. And, there is that price thing, too… You’re looking at spending $1,300 to $1,500 even for a well-worn specimen.
While 1955 doubled die cents technically aren’t even considered “essential” for a complete Lincoln collection, since it’s not a “regular” strike penny, collectors still want an example for their collections because this doubled die error is so widely popular.
Still, one problem that collectors face when they can’t afford an example of this expensive coins is that many of the most popular Lincoln cent coin albums have a slot for the 1955 doubled die coin. While this may not seem like a big deal, the reality is that a lot of collectors are faced with an agonizingly empty slot that may never be filled.
Interestingly, this dilemma is often resolved by purchasing a so-called 1955 poor man’s doubled die penny.The poor man’s double die cent sells for only a fraction of the cost of the bona fide doubled die cent that has awed coin collectors for decades. But why is the 1955 poor man’s coin so cheap, and is it really a doubled die?
The answer to that question can be answered in one simple response: the poor man’s doubled die actually isn’t a doubled die at all. It’s really the result of a very common type of damage coins can suffer during the minting process.
Machine doubling, which explains the story behind poor man doubled dies, happens when a coin shifts or slides a bit during the minting process. Machine doubling can also occur due to the die (the device that imprints an image onto a blank coin) itself vibrating during the minting process.
A doubled die, on the other hand, is “created” when the die is made. The result of this can be hundreds, or even thousands, of coins being made with a doubled image.
So if the 1955 poor man’s doubled die penny isn’t really a doubled die and is actually a damaged coin, why is it so popular? As you may have guessed, it’s a piece that coin dealers made popular to satisfy the demand of thousands of coin collectors who wanted to fill the empty doubled die slot in their Lincoln cent coin albums. Plus, the poor man’s coin is an interesting piece to examine and study. The fact that it somewhat resembles one of the rare wheat pennies that is out of many coin collectors’ reach certainly is another reason many collectors purchase a poor man’s penny.
What’s important to remember when buying a 1955 doubled die cent is to not get mislead into paying big bucks for the poor man’s coin. A real 1955 doubled die cent has signs of dramatic doubling in the date as well as the lettering. However, a poor man’s example has much less dramatic “doubling” and this doubling is only really seen around the last ‘5’ in the date.
When buying a 1955 doubled die penny, your best bet is to buy an example certified by a major coin grading firm, so you can have peace of mind in knowing that your huge investment was in the real McCoy.
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!