One of the best things about recently issued U.S. coins is that some
truly great coins are among them. By any analysis, the three coins
featured here seem certain one day to find their way into the ranks of
classic U.S. rarities.
First up, the Proof 1990-S Lincoln, No S cent. As its name implies,
this coin is a Proof Lincoln cent struck at the San Francisco Mint
without the S Mint mark. This curious omission has occurred several
times over the years on other denominations, but this issue is both
the only Lincoln cent and the last time it happened.
In 1985, the S Mint mark was added to the master die for Proof
coins. How this error could have occurred has not been explained
definitively. While the extant mintage is thought to be about 3,500,
fewer than 300 have been discovered in 1990-S Proof sets.
As the most important Lincoln cent of the late 20th century, this
issue is already highly coveted. Today, top grade examples trade for
well over $10,000.
Next is an American Eagle 1-ounce gold coin. Any list of important
U.S. modern coins should rightly include an American Eagle. Here I’ve
selected the Reverse Proof 2006-W $50 coin. It was struck to celebrate
the 20th anniversary of U.S. bullion coinage and it is one of the
first Reverse Proof coins issued in this country. To date, it is still
the only Reverse Proof gold American Eagle.
Its most remarkable feature is a net mintage of just 9,996 pieces —
a figure well below anything that would be offered today. It is nearly
five times more scarce than the Reverse Proof 2013-W American Buffalo
gold $50 coin, yet this classic-to-be can still be purchased for less
Last is a coin that is both undeniably modern and may already be a
classic: the 2000-P Sacagawea dollar/Washington quarter dollar mule. A
mule is a coin struck from dies that were not meant to be paired
together. U.S. coinage mules are exceptionally rare. This error coin
was produced at the Philadelphia Mint when a State quarter dollar
obverse die was paired with a Sacagawea dollar reverse. They were
struck on manganese-brass clad dollar planchets, an entirely new and
solely modern composition.
To date, just 14 examples of this error are confirmed. Fitting its
rarity and status, it was ranked #1 in the 100 Greatest U.S. Error
Coins reference. The last one to trade at auction sold for $117,500,
in August 2014.
In years to come, when the great U.S. coin collections of the future
are sold, the equivalents of Eliasberg, Garrett, Norweb or Newman in
their day, it is easy to imagine they will all include a 1990-S
Lincoln, No S cent, a Reverse Proof 2006-W American Eagle $50 coin and
a Sacagawea mule among other great modern coins.