US Coins

Record price paid for double denomination mule error

The $192,000 paid at auction for this NGC MS-67 Die Pair I $1.25 double denomination mule error coin set a record.

Images courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries.

Farmington, New Mexico, collector Tommy Bolack is nothing if not persistent.

He paid a record $192,000 at auction March 22 to purchase the 17th identified example of the 2000-P State quarter dollar/Sacagawea dollar double denomination mule, during the Rarities Night session held by Stack’s Bowers Galleries in conjunction with the Whitman Baltimore Expo. Bolack now owns 14 of the 17 examples known. 

The most recent purchase, which only surfaced publicly earlier in 2018, is graded and encapsulated Mint State 67 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

The previous auction price record for one of the mules was $158,625, set in August 2012 during Stack’s Bowers’ sale at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia. Bolack missed out on being able to bid on that example, but was later able to purchase the coin in a private transaction for less than the coin brought at auction.

Mule errors are coins struck with dies not intended to be paired together. For this coin, a George Washington obverse die from the State quarter dollar series was paired with a reverse die for the Sacagawea dollar and struck on a manganese-brass clad dollar planchet on a coinage press dedicated to dollar coin production. Three different die pairs have been identified for the mule coin.

Almost quit

Bolack said he almost dropped out of the bidding as the hammer price escalated. Stack’s Bowers Executive Vice President Christine Karstedt said bidding was spirited, with the final two bidders, Bolack and the unidentified underbidder, placing bids by telephone.

The final total paid included a 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.

Bolack said the record price he paid March 22 may encourage the owners of any additional extant examples to bring the coins out of hiding. Bolack said he’s made overtures to the owners of the three examples he doesn’t own, in hopes of eventually owning all the examples. Since he began his quest to own all known examples, Bolack said he’s declined offers to sell the pieces he does hold in his collection; none of them are for sale, he said. 

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Currently, the known examples Bolack does not own are a PCGS MS-65, Die Pair 1 coin that error coin dealer Arnold Margolis sold to a private collector in September 2000 for $47,500; the Greg Senske specimen, NGC MS-67, Die Pair 3, discovered in September 2000 in change from a cashier at a Cape Girardeau, Missouri, cafeteria; and an NGC MS-67, Die Pair 1 coin that the late error coin dealer Nicholas Brown had purchased privately for an undisclosed sum in July 2011.

Three die pairs

Researchers have identified diagnostics for three different die pairs that were used in minting the 17 mule errors. The example Bolack purchased March 22 for a record price at auction is from Die Pair 1.

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Here are the die diagnostics for the three die pairings.

Die Pair 1: There is a die crack on the reverse in the F in OF in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA unique to this pairing. The obverse die shows the radial stress striations typically found when dies from two different sizes are used together. This is the most frequently seen of the three die pairs, with a total of 12 examples known, including the record-setting coin.

Die Pair 2: The obverse die is perfect with no distinguishing marks, but the reverse bears three die cracks: one projecting from the star above the E of ONE, a second by the star above the D in DOLLAR, and a third crack running by the wing above the same two letters. Only three coins are known from this die pairing.

Die Pair 3: The obverse die is mostly fresh with the exception of a tiny gouge in front of Washington’s lips. The reverse die is in pristine with no distinguishing marks of note. Two coins are known from this pair.

About the mule

The first example of the mule surfaced in late May 2000 when Frank Wallis found one of the errors in a roll of circulation-quality Sacagawea dollars in Mountain Home, Arkansas. The U.S. Mint confirmed the existence of the mules on June 19, 2000. Graded and encapsulated MS-66 by Professional Coin Grading Service, the discovery coin brought $29,900 in Bowers and Merena’s Aug. 9, 2000, auction session held at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.

Error coin dealer Fred Weinberg, who has handled many of the mule errors, maintains a pedigree listing at

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