US Coins

Record broken for Sacagawea mule in GreatCollections sale

Graded PCGS MS-66 and attributed as being struck from Die Pair 1, this (2000)-P Sacagawea dollar double-denomination mule error realized a record price in a Jan. 21 online auction by GreatCollections.

Images by Professional Coin Grading Service.

New Mexico collector Tommy Bolack acquired his 15th example of the 20 known (2000)-P Sacagawea dollar double denomination mule errors for his collection.

Bolack was the winning bidder in a GreatCollections online auction that closed Jan. 21. Graded Mint State 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service and attributed as having been struck from Die Pair 1 from among three pairs of dies used to produce the errors at the Philadelphia Mint, the coin drew a hammer price of $172,500; the addition of the buyer’s premium brought the total price realized to $194,062.50, a record price paid for any of the known examples at auction.

The previous auction record was $192,000 realized in the March 27, 2018, sale to Bolack by Stack’s Bowers Galleries of an example of the mule error certified MS-67 by Numismatic Guaranty Company and identified as the 17th known specimen and struck from Die Pair 1.

A mule error is a coin, token or medal that is produced with obverse and reverse designs not intended to be paired together. In the case of the (2000)-P Sacagawea dollar double denomination mule error, the anomaly was struck with a George Washington quarter dollar obverse die the common obverse of the State quarter dollar series, bearing a P Mint mark,, and a Soaring Eagle reverse die from the Sacagawea dollar series. Struck on a manganese-brass clad dollar coin planchet on a coinage press dedicated to dollar coin production, neither side bears a date, but each carries a denomination.

Three different die pairs have been identified in the output of (2000)-P Sacagawea dollar double denomination mule errors .

Die pair diagnostics

The diagnostics for the three die pairs are:

➤ Die Pair 1: The reverse of Die Pair 1 has a die crack in the F in OF in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA that is absent from the reverse 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 is 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, with no die cracks.

U.S. Mint officials determined that upwards of 350,000 of the double denomination mule errors were struck, but Treasury staff was able to locate most of the output in the counting room of an armored carrier in the Philadelphia area, and they were subsequently destroyed by the Mint for metal reclamation. The 20 known examples extant are pieces that escaped detection and entered circulation.

The discovery piece was reported by Mountain View, Arkansas, collector Frank Wallis in May 2000 in a 25-coin roll, bound for circulation distribution; 19 more examples surfaced in the two decades since.

Bolack acquired the discovery piece in 2001 in a private transaction for $67,000. That coin is graded and encapsulated PCGS MS-66 and attributed as being struck from Die Pair 1.

The 20th example reported, which was acquired by Bolack in the Jan. 21 GreatCollections auction, according to Russell, was purchased in a private transaction eight or nine years ago by the consignor, but never publicly disclosed at that time.

Bolack’s winning bid was from among 97 total bids rendered by 27 different bidders. An opening bid of $1 was placed by another bidder on Dec. 10, 2023, with Bolack entering the bidding war with a bid of $115,000 on Jan. 21, 2024.

GreatCollections President Ian Russell said two underbidders were holding strong above the $150,000 level, whom Russell identified as serious collectors of United States coins who previously have acquired classic U.S. rarities.

Russell said 220 registered bidders were tracking bidding on the error, as the page with the auction lot description was viewed more than 6,000 times.

100 Greatest U.S. Error Coins, by Nicholas P. Brown, David J. Camire and Fred Weinberg, illustrates a (2000)-P Sacagawea dollar double denomination mule error on the cover and ranks this mule as the top U.S. coin error.

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