An 11th example of the undated double-denominated Sacagawea
dollar/Washington quarter dollar mule error coin has surfaced, 11
years after the first example was found in Arkansas in 2000.
Nicholas P. Brown, owner of Majestic Rarities in Chicago,
confirmed to Coin World July 12 his purchase of the coin from
its owner, who wishes to remain anonymous. Brown would not disclose
the purchase price, and added he had not yet physically seen the
The coin was submitted to Numismatic Guaranty
Corp., which authenticated the coin as an example of the
double-denomination mule error and graded it Mint State 67, according
to David J. Camire, president of Numismatic Conservation Services, a
sister company to NGC for whom he is also the error coin
Camire said the current example is tied for
the finest known specimen among the 11 confirmed pieces.
A mule is a coin, token or medal struck with dies not intended to be
What makes the production of this mule
error more unusual is that a State quarter dollar obverse die was
paired with a Sacagawea dollar reverse die not once, but three times.
The known mules are known to have been struck with three separate and
distinct die pairs mounted in a coinage press dedicated to the
production of dollar coins.
Camire said Brown's coin was
struck from Die Pair 1. The key diagnostic is the reverse for Die Pair
1 exhibits a die crack in the f in of in united states of america that
is absent from the reverses from Die Pairs 2 and 3. Complete
diagnostics for all three die pairs appear later in this
Of the now 11 publicly known examples, six are
from Die Pair 1, three from Die Pair 2 and two from Die Pair 3.
Brown said July 13 that he was
one of several persons approached by the unnamed seller about buying
the coin, a process that began three weeks before the deal was
completed. Brown said once he learned he was the top bidder, he had
the seller send the coin directly to NGC for authentication and
certification before the transaction would be completed. The
transaction was completed, Brown said, after he received confirmation
from NGC that the mule had indeed been authenticated as genuine,
graded and encapsulated.
Brown would not disclose the
specific location of the seller, other than to say the coin came from
the East Coast. He said the seller acquired the coin through purchase
and held onto it for the past 10 to 10 and a half years. Brown said
the individual who sold the coin to him did not learn from the person
from whom it was originally purchased how the coin was discovered —
whether in change, from a roll or bag of coins, or purchased from
Brown does not plan to sell the coin at
this time, but will have it on display at his table Aug. 16 to 20 at
the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Rosemont,
The book 100 Greatest U.S. Error Coins,
co-authored by Brown, Camire and California coin dealer and error coin
specialist Fred Weinberg, recognizes the quarter dollar/dollar mule as
the No. 1 U.S. coin error. The authors suggest that approximately 13
examples are known, but the reference published in 2010 pedigrees 10
publicly known pieces.
coin collectors, Sacagawea dollars and State quarter dollars offered
hobbyists two new series to search through in 2000 in the hopes of
finding something valuable. Until May of that year, however, no one
suspected that an error would be found that combined designs from both
In June 2000, Numismatic Guaranty Corp. announced
that it had authenticated a coin bearing the obverse of a State
quarter dollar and the reverse of a Sacagawea dollar, struck on a
dollar planchet. The mixture of designs struck by dies for two
different denominations was the first error of its kind confirmed on a
U.S. coin in the 208-year history of the U.S. Mint — a type of error
called a mule by specialists.
U.S. Mint officials
confirmed the mule error in a statement released Aug. 4, 2000.
The quarter dollar/dollar mules discovered in 2000 are undated
and bear the P Mint mark for the Philadelphia Mint. The reverse die
for State quarter dollars (not used for the mule) bears the date along
the top border, the same side as the design representing the
respective state. The date appears on the obverse die for the 2000 to
2008 Sacagawea dollars (also not used).
example of the mule was discovered by Frank Wallis in late May 2000 in
an Uncirculated 25-coin roll of Sacagawea dollars obtained from First
National Bank & Trust in Mountain Home, Ark. The area is part of
the St. Louis Federal Reserve District.
NGC graded the
Wallis coin Mint State 66, but a month later the coin was crossed over
to a Professional Coin Grading Service encapsulation. PCGS also graded
the coin MS-66.
Since the original find, grading
services have authenticated, in all, 11 examples of the mule. Nine of
the coins have been sold, either in private transactions or at
auction, at published prices reaching as high as $70,000. Brown notes
that the authors of the 100 Greatest book have confirmation of two
pieces changing hands for in excess of $200,000. One coin remains the
property of the man who found it.
U.S. Mint officials determined the mules
were struck sometime in late April or early May 2000. Coin
World sources in 2000 indicated that the Mint may have produced as
many as three bins of the coins, although the sources could not tell
Coin World what size bins were involved. If the larger of two
different bins in typical use at the Mint were involved, the number of
mules struck could have totaled several hundred thousand pieces.
When Mint officials discovered the error, they impounded
several bins — one that may have contained tens of thousands of the
mule errors struck by one press, as well as the bins from two other
adjoining coining presses. The coins were ordered destroyed.
Production of the mules led to an intensive investigation by
Treasury and Mint authorities. The investigation led authorities to a
Federal Reserve-contracted coin terminal and wrapping facility located
near the Philadelphia Mint, and authorities advised officials there to
be on the lookout for any of the mule errors. An undisclosed number of
mules were found at the facility.
While a government
investigation found that the errors were produced by mistake and not
deliberately, two former Philadelphia Mint coin press operators were
prosecuted on charges of selling, but not stealing, up to five of the
mules and converting the profits to their own use.
Mint officials in the summer of 2002 indicated the possibility they
might seek forfeiture of some of the double-denomination errors
depending on when they were discovered and whether they may have left
the Philadelphia Mint illegally, but to this date officials have not
pursued civil forfeiture proceedings.
Hobby experts by the fall of 2000 had determined
that multiple die pairs existed for the coin, which might suggest
large numbers of the errors were struck. Government investigators were
slow to accept the findings of numismatists that multiple die pairs
were used in making the coins; investigators did not accept the
findings of numismatists until September 2001.
how to distinguish the three die pairs:
??Die Pair 1: The
reverse for Die Pair 1 exhibits a die crack in the f in of in united
states of america that is absent from the reverses from Die Pairs 2
and 3. The obverse exhibits numerous radial striations attributable to
stresses involved during striking, resulting from the slight
differences in size between the two dies. The discovery coin is from
Die Pair 1.
??Die Pair 2: Die Pair 2 exhibits a perfect
obverse die, but a reverse that shows three noticeable die cracks: one
each projecting from the rightmost points of the stars above the e of
one and d of dollar and a third, curved die crack running along the
wing directly above these two letters.
??Die Pair 3: For
Die Pair 3, the obverse has been described as “fresh and frosty.” The
obverse of the Die Pair 3 coins shows just a hint of the radial lines
found on the discovery example. A small die gouge appears in front of
Washington's lips. The reverse appears perfect and exhibits no die
In addition to the
genuine mules, collectors should be aware that altered coins/replicas
resembling the mules are also in the market.
are made by several novelty companies and produced by machining out
the obverse of a genuine Sacagawea dollar, and then inserting and
gluing in a machined-down State quarter dollar with its Washington
obverse facing out.
The altered piece is then plated
over to simulate the color of the Sacagawea dollar.
identify the replica, look for a seam where the field meets the rim.
The altered piece's weight will be off from the 8.1 grams of a genuine
Sacagawea dollar, and the altered piece will produce a thud instead of
a distinct ring when tapped, a result of its method of
Additional mules surface
the discovery of the 2000 mule, several earlier U.S. mules have
surfaced and been authenticated: from a 1995-D Lincoln cent obverse
die and Roosevelt dime reverse die, struck on a cent planchet; from a
1995 Lincoln cent obverse die and Roosevelt dime reverse die, produced
on a dime planchet; and a coin produced from a 1999 cent obverse die
and dime reverse die, struck on a cent planchet.