US Coins

Coin mules from two dies of the same side

When collectors think of “mule errors,” the U.S. coin that probably comes to mind first is the dateless piece pairing the State quarter dollar obverse, depicting George Washington, and the Sacagawea dollar eagle reverse.

But several other significant mules exist, all mysterious and all rare.

For the uninitiated, a mule error coin is a piece struck with two dies that were not intended to be paired together. 

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The list of U.S. examples is short.

The double-denomination mules comprise the quarter dollar/dollar mules from 2000, which were struck on dollar coin planchets; a unique 1993-D piece on a cent planchet, struck from a Lincoln cent obverse die and Roosevelt dime reverse die; and a 1995 piece on a dime planchet with a Lincoln cent obverse and Roosevelt dime reverse.

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A second major category exists: coins struck with two obverse dies or two reverse dies. At least two examples are known of undated Washington quarter dollars struck with two reverse dies, one Roosevelt dime struck with two reverse dies exists, and then there is the lone 2000-P Jefferson 5-cent struck with two obverses. In addition, a lone copper-nickel Indian Head cent was struck with two 1859-dated obverse dies; it sold in a 2008 sale by Heritage Auctions for $195,500.

Indian Head cent mule

The two-headed 1859 Indian Head cent was “rediscovered” when an article appeared in the Sept. 18, 2000, issue of Coin World about the coin having been submitted to ANACS for authentication.

The piece is believed to have first entered the numismatic record when U.S. pattern specialist Edgar H. Adams purchased the piece from S.H. Chapman’s May 1914 sale of the William H. Gable Collection, where the coin sold for $20.

Rick Snow, author of the Flying Eagle & Indian Head Cent Attribution Guide, Second Edition, Volume 2, believes the error is the lone survivor of a larger production run that was scrapped after the press operator discovered the production error.

According to the 2008 Heritage auction lot description, Snow notes that “the Flying Eagle cents struck in 1858 used the obverse die as the anvil die. When production of Indian cents began in 1859, the obverse die became the hammer die. 

“It is normally impossible to pair two obverse dies in the same press, but ... die blank configurations were changed in 1859,” leaving the possibility, Snow noted, that a blank die left over with the 1858 configuration could be used in creating an 1859 obverse die that fit into the anvil position, and could be mated with a second 1859 obverse die configured for the hammer position. 

“This is apparently what happened,” Snow wrote, adding, “The dies are rotated approximately 10 degrees clockwise from medal turn.”

The mule is attributed as Judd 229a in United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd, edited by Q. David Bowers.

It is graded Mint State 62 by Professional Coin Grading Service.

Two-tailed dime

Struck on a copper-nickel clad dime planchet, the mule error struck with two Roosevelt dime reverse dies is graded PCGS MS-64.

Jon Sullivan from Sullivan Numismatics in Charleston, S.C., recently purchased the coin from error specialist Fred Weinberg with Fred Weinberg & Co., Encino, Calif., and has resold the error.

Weinberg acquired the coin in November 2001 from error dealer Lonesome John Devine, who obtained it circa 1973 from a California collector.

Weinberg said he had the piece certified by PCGS and sold it in early 2002, but reacquired the coin several weeks ago before its sale to Sullivan.

According to Sullivan, one reverse die appears to have a Special Mint Set finish with mirrored surfaces, while the other reverse exhibits regular circulation strike qualities with cartwheel luster and strong clashed dies of Roosevelt’s head, indicating its previous use paired with a dime obverse die.

The clashed reverse is rotated 15 degrees.

The piece is believed to have been clandestinely made at the San Francisco Mint, with the dies modified to accommodate their pairing in the same coinage press.

“Written documentation has been found for the dime, which dates it back to at least 1973, although it is believed to have been struck in 1965 or 1966 due to the existence of two two-tailed Washington quarters that are also believed to be from this era, according to Sullivan. “Probably this two tailed dime and the two two-tailed quarters were made at the same time at the Mint, either intentionally or possibly unintentionally.

“We can never truly know what happened unless we know the person who made them or were “there when it happened.”

Two-tailed quarters

At least two examples exist, struck circa 1965 to 1966, of Washington quarter dollar mules from two reverse dies, presumably at the San Francisco Mint.

One example — graded MS-66 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and with an indent — sold in an August 2006 Heritage sale for $41,975.

According to the auction lot description, “The first reverse (face-forward reverse in the NGC encapsulation) is well struck, but a bit flat at the centers of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and showing minor distortion atop QUARTER DOLLAR. The other reverse was apparently struck normally once. It was then struck a second time by a blank planchet on top, resulting in swelling and distortion. The arc-shaped outline of the second planchet is most visible at ER DOLLAR.”

This coin surfaced at NGC following publicity about the first example.

The first two-tailed Washington quarter dollar was among numerous errors and other coins discovered by the state of California in 2000 in an unclaimed safe-deposit box, with the contents eventually sold by the state.

That two-tailed Washington quarter dollar was sold by Weinberg by private treaty for $80,000 at the 2001 American Numismatic Association Convention in Atlanta. That piece is certified by PCGS.

Weinberg said he does not know the current whereabouts of that coin. 

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