Readers Ask column from May 9, 2016, issue of Coin World:
I have this coin I want to sell to Tommy Bolack. Can you help me
find him please?
Arsen Gold / Via email
For Coin World readers not familiar with the name Tommy
Bolack, he is the error collector who has acquired 10 of the 14
confirmed known examples of the $1.25 State quarter dollar
obverse/Sacagawea dollar reverse double-denomination mule error coins,
for tens of thousands of dollars each.
There’s no need to contact Mr. Bolack. What the reader has is not a
genuine example of the mule (struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 2000,
but dateless), but a novelty piece fabricated from two separate coins.
Several different companies make them for sale for a few dollars each.
One of the diagnostics for a piece being one of the novelties is the
seam visible along the inside of the rim on the obverse; there’s no
way to hide that seam. Another diagnostic is the surface finish on the
obverse and reverse, which appears Proof or prooflike, while genuine
coins are circulation strikes, exhibiting distinctive metal flow lines.
The novelty piece is made in part using the obverse of a quarter
dollar bearing the reduced George Washington portrait introduced on
State quarter dollars in 1999. The diameter is trimmed and the reverse
machined away. The piece is then inserted into an opening that was
machined out from a Sacagawea dollar; the dollar reverse is left
intact. The piece is then plated to make the color uniform.
The genuine mule errors were struck in the spring of 2000 at the
Philadelphia Mint on coin presses dedicated to dollar coin production.
A State quarter dollar obverse die was matched in the press with a
dollar coin reverse die and a dollar coin planchet was struck. The
mismatching of dies from the two different denominations was executed
with at least three different die pairs.
Several hundreds of thousands of the mule errors were struck, but
almost all were recovered by the Treasury Department from a
Philadelphia armored car company contracted to secure the struck coins
for distribution into general circulation.