US Coins

18th-double-denomination mule error surfaces

The number of publicly known examples of $1.25 mule error coins featuring a George Washington obverse and Sacagawea dollar reverse has risen to 18 since the first example was reported in 2000.

The most recent example reported will be offered Jan. 10 in Orlando, Florida, by Heritage Auctions during the firm’s Platinum Night sessions held in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists convention.

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A mule error is struck from a pairing of two dies not intended to be used together. In the case of the $1.25 mule, a die featuring the George Washington obverse intended for a State quarter dollar was paired with a Sacagawea dollar Soaring Eagle reverse die and struck on a manganese-brass clad dollar coin planchet by a press dedicated to dollar coin production.

Remarkably, researchers have identified three known die pairs for this mule error type, indicating three sets of dies were improperly paired during production at the Philadelphia Mint.

The errors bear no date but were produced in calendar year 2000. The date that year would have appeared on the intended dollar’s obverse, which features sculptor Glenna Goodacre’s portrait of Sacagawea carrying her son, Jean-Baptiste, on her back.

ANA appearance

The 18th reported example surfaced Aug. 16, 2018, during the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.

Reportedly, a local collector who found the error in circulation nearly two decades ago brought the coin to the bourse table of error coin dealer Fred Weinberg, who has sold or brokered the sale of a number of the known pieces.

The 18th example is graded and encapsulated as Mint State 67 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and is from Die Pair 1. 

Weinberg said the collector, who had the 18th example consigned to the Heritage FUN sale, opted for NGC over Professional Coin Grading Service for certification because another NGC MS-67 Die Pair 1 example brought $192,000 March 22, 2018, at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Whitman Baltimore Expo sale.

Wants them all

When the bidding starts Jan. 10 on this most recently reported example, Farmington, New Mexico, collector Tommy Bolack expects to be on the telephone placing his bids.

Of the 17 previously known examples, Bolack has purchased, either by private treaty or at public auction, all but three of the errors. Bolack said if the three privately held pieces were offered, he’d buy them.

For eight of the examples he owns, those for which the purchase price is publicly known, Bolack has already spent more than $750,000.

The only examples Bolack doesn’t own include a PCGS MS-65 Die Pair 1 coin sold by Weinberg to error dealer Arnold Margolis and resold by Margolis to a collector in September 2000 for $47,500.

Bolack also doesn’t own The Greg Senske specimen, an NGC MS-67 Die Pair 3 coin that Senske discovered in September 2000 in change from a cashier at a company cafeteria in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The coin had been in a 25-coin roll of dollars wrapped in a U.S. Mint designated paper wrapper.

Bolack also doesn’t own the Nicholas Brown specimen, which was sold privately for an undisclosed sum in July 2011. The coin is certified NGC MS-67 Die Pair 1.

The discovery mule error coin was found in Mountain Home, Arkansas, by Frank Wallis. Originally sold by Bowers & Merena Auction Galleries at the 2000 ANA Philadelphia Millennium Sale for $29,900, the piece was purchased from Dwight Manley by Weinberg in late June 2001 and then sold to Tommy Bolack for $67,000.

It is certified PCGS MS-66 Die Pair 1.

The U.S. Mint was able to determine that up to as many as 350,000 mule errors were produced on three adjoining coining presses, accounting for the three die pairs.

When the errors were detected (after at least some were shipped from the Mint), authorities were able to trace the delivery of that production to a Philadelphia-area armored carrier contracted by the Federal Reserve to count, wrap, and distribute United States coins to banking facilities.

Most of that production was recovered, except for the now 18 examples known and any other pieces that may yet surface.

Weinberg has a complete list of the 17 examples that have previously sold posted on his website under the Error News drop-down tab.

Die pair diagnostics

During its examination and grading of mule error submissions, NGC graders were able to attribute three different die pairs for the mule production.

The following are the diagnostics to look for:

??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. 

??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 cracks.

Novelty replica versions of the coins also exist and occasionally surface in collections and in circulation. 

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