Mules by Type | Error Coins by Type | U.S. Coins by Denomination 
Previous Coin on the "Cool Coins" Tour | Next Coin on the "Cool Coins" Tour


10 known

Known examples (in order of discovery):
1. PCGS MS-66 (formerly NGC MS-66).  Discovered by Frank Wallis of Mountain Home, Arkansas in May, 2000.  Sold by Auctions by Bowers and Merena, Inc. on August 9, 2000 for $29,900.00.  Reverse A.

2. NGC MS-67.  Found in a U.S. Post Office vending machine and brokered by Delaware Valley Rare Coins of Pennsylvania who sold it on eBay, July 7, 2000 for $41,395.00 - Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc. "Long Beach Signature Sale", May-June, 2001, sold for $56,350.  Reverse B.

3. NGC MS-66.  Sold by Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc. on August 6, 2000 for $31,050.00 - offered on eBay (#1308506580) in December 2001, where it failed to meet the reserve price despite a top bid of $60,100.00 from Fred Weinberg.  Reverse B.

4. PCGS MS-65.  Fred Weinberg - sold by Arnold Margolis around September, 2000 for $47,500.00 - Midwest collector.  Reverse A.

5. NGC MS-67.  Discovered in change August 30, 2000 by Greg Senske of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  Die characteristics unlike any of the first four examples listed above.  Obverse: small die gouge in front of Washington's lips and a small area of die lines in the space in the field just above the hair curl.  Reverse C.

6. PCGS MS-66.  Displayed by Fred Weinberg at the October 2000 Long Beach Coin and Collectibles Expo.  Die characteristics match those of the first and fourth examples listed above.  Reverse A.





Reverse die characteristics:
Reverse A: Perfect.
Reverse B: Die crack near the bottom of the eagle's right wing and die cracks in the stars above the E in ONE and D in DOLLAR.
Reverse C: Perfect (possibly an early state of Reverse A)

Images courtesy of Heritage Numismatic Auctions

The following Press Release was sent via e-mail by Heritage Numismatic Auctions on July 3, 2000

"A recently discovered and widely publicized Mint error--the first of its kind in more than 200 years of American coinage history - will sell as part of Heritage Numismatic Auctions' upcoming Philadelphia 2000 Signature Sale. The coin in question combines the obverse (or front) of a Washington quarter with the reverse (or back) of the new Sacagawea dollar.

"This muling error, putting an incorrect front and back together, is the first of its type on a circulating U.S. coin," noted Heritage's Executive VP Greg Rohan. "The example that we will be offering, one of only three coins
found so far, has been authenticated by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC) and given the grade of MS 66. The coin will be sold as part of our Philadelphia 2000 Signature Sale, which is scheduled for August 6-7 at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, 21 N. Juniper, Philadelphia, PA  19107. This event will mark the first live public auction appearance of this rare and interesting error."

The U.S. Mint began production of circulating coins in 1793 with the delivery of fewer than 150,000 half cents and cents. From this seemingly insignificant beginning, the Mint has expanded to include four facilities, one each in Philadelphia, West Point, Denver, and San Francisco, with the combined capability to produce in excess of 29 billion coins per year.
Throughout this 208-year period, and notwithstanding the steady increase to the production levels of today, the Mint has run a pretty tight ship in terms of quality control. Relatively few major error coins of any kind have been produced, and even fewer have escaped the watchful eyes of Mint
employees to find their way into general circulation.

Of course, error coins of various kinds do turn up in pocket change from time to time. The occasional off center Lincoln cent, while intriguing to behold, is neither individually significant nor particularly valuable. There is one type of Mint error, however, that was unknown on a circulating coin until now, and, as such, it represents a numismatic discovery that has already become a legend in its own time.

The terms "mule" or "muling error" evoke both curiosity and consternation in the minds of numismatists. The latter emotion seems to stem from the mysterious circumstances under which the Mint produced some of the most famous mules. While the Mint has produced numerous pattern and restrike mules since its birth, the most popular numismatic reference, A Guide Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman, mentions the term most prominently in reference to only one issue--the Gobrecht dollar patterns of 1836-1839. Page 177 of the 53rd edition of this book includes the following statement under the Gobrecht dollar header: "Mules with wrong edge or die combinations also exist and all are rare." In addition to being rare, there is still considerable debate surrounding both the time that these pieces were produced and their status as legitimate U.S. coins. Suffice it to say that sometime between 1867-1878, someone at the Mint took the obverse die of one Gobrecht dollar pattern and combined it with the reverse of a different Gobrecht dollar pattern to produce mules for special distribution. For more information on this subject, and for information on the 1836 Gobrecht dollar mule (Judd-63 Restrike) that Heritage will also be offering as part of its
Philadelphia 2000 Signature Sale, visit : Upcoming Auction Highlights.

Although pattern and restrike mules are rare coins, the fact that they were produced intentionally, albeit if somewhat clandestinely, has limited their appeal to only the most advanced numismatic specialists. A muling error on a circulating coin, on the other hand, is guaranteed to attract significant
attention for several reasons. First, such an error would be the first of its kind in the history of the U.S. Mint. Secondly, this error is just that--an error that was produced by accident and unknowingly released into
circulation. Finally, as the "thrill of the hunt" takes over and both numismatists and non-collectors across the country search through their pocket change with the potential for discovering a rare and valuable coin, this coin will doubtless achieve great and lasting fame.

Indeed, this error has already been featured in countless magazines, newspapers, and national television and radio shows.

"There is one further variable that one must take into account when evaluating the potential popularity of a muling error on a circulating coin," stated Bob Korver, Heritage's Auction Director. "That factor is, of course, the coin(s) that are involved in the error. A mule that combines the obverse and reverse of two different denominations would be rarer and more significant than, say, a mule that combines the dies of two different varieties of the same denomination."

"Furthermore," continued Korver, "new issues and/or denominations always receive a considerable amount of public interest, positive, negative, or otherwise. Coins such as the Statehood quarters and the new Sacagawea dollar have dominated both the numismatic and general presses since before the time of actual production. Everyone in the country is aware of these coins, and
everyone is looking for them for either their novelty or their value as collectibles. The muling error that has affected both of these series could not have come at a better time. To use a metaphor, I will compare this
Sacagawea dollar-Washington quarter muling error to the closing act at a musical concert. The final performer/group has the advantage of taking center stage in an arena whose seats have already been filled due to the
popularity of the entertainer(s) who have gone before. Likewise, this muling error is making its entrance into a pre-prepared market. It is literally the wind that is fanning the current numismatic firestorm."

The first Sacagawea dollar-Washington quarter mule was discovered in late
May in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Frank Wallis found that specimen in an Uncirculated roll of Sacagawea dollars that he purchased from the First National Bank & Trust. As this coin was the only known example of this error
at that time, a clamor arose over its authenticity and legality. There was even some speculation that the coin may have been produced intentionally by a Mint employee just like some of the Gobrecht dollar restrikes of 1867-1878. On June 19, however, the U.S. Mint issued a press release in which they acknowledged the Sacagawea dollar-Washington quarter mule as a legitimate error.

But was the coin legal to own? The answer to this question lies in the manner in which the error was produced. It appears that on that fateful day in the Philadelphia Mint, at least one of the coin presses was engaged in
striking 2000-P Sacagawea dollars. During this process, the obverse die wore down and/or cracked, a normal occurrence given the pressure with which coins are struck. A Mint employee stopped the press, removed the obverse die, and went to the die vault to seek a replacement. The reverse die, although worn and cracked, was still capable of producing coins. The employee returned
from the vault with the new obverse die, installed it in the press, and resumed production. An error befell the press sometime thereafter, an act that forced the employee to halt production. Upon closer inspection of the press and the coins that it had been striking, the employee discovered that he/she had inadvertently installed the obverse die for the Washington quarter. By this time, several thousand Sacagawea dollar-Washington quarter mules had been produced.

Mint employees then proceeded to scour the small bins into which the Sacagawea dollars had been fed, culling all of the mules that they could find and tossing them back into the melting pot. According to government
sources, all of the examples were destroyed in this manner. But apparently they missed at least three.

Indeed, the discovery of the example in Arkansas confirms that some of the mules must have escaped the Mint through regular channels. The June 26 edition of Coin World also made reference to Title 31, Section 5112,
Subsection D of the U.S. Code, which states: "United States coins shall have the inscription IN GOD WE TRUST. The obverse of each coin shall have the inscription LIBERTY. The reverse side of each coin shall have the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM and a designation of the value of the coin." As the Sacagawea dollar-Washington quarter mule was released from the Mint through proper channels, and since each example produced in this manner will conform to this subsection of the U.S. Code, it is perfectly legal to own.

"While this error is a genuine product of the U.S. Mint, I find it ironic that it exists at all," noted Korver. "The initial proposal to produce the Sacagawea dollar met with criticism that drew heavily upon the ill-fated experience of the Anthony dollar. Many felt that the Sacagawea dollar would be easily confused with the similarly sized Washington quarter. Eager to endorse the new golden dollar, Treasury officials assured us that this would
not happen. Yet, it appears that at least one person, an employee of the Mint no less, did confuse the Sacagawea dollar with the Washington quarter when he/she obtained the replacement obverse die from the vault room on that day of production."

The unique status of the Arkansas specimen was short-lived, however. A second Sacagawea dollar-Washington quarter mule turned up in change given by a Post Office stamp vending machine on the east coast. A 35-year old resident of north Philadelphia also found another specimen, which he eventually sold to a local dealer. It is the latter coin, now graded MS 66 by NGC, that Heritage will be offering as part of their Philadelphia 2000
Signature Sale.

Heritage Co-Chairman Jim Halperin was quick to comment on the significance of the example that his company is handling. "The best thing that could have happened to the Arkansas specimen is that other examples were found. Sometimes a coin is actually hurt by its own rarity. Take for example the
1873-CC No Arrows dime. It is true that this unique coin is one of the premier rarities in U.S. numismatics. Yet because of its rarity, most collectors simply ignore it as a non-collectible issue. I do not feel that the Sacagawea dollar-Washington quarter mule will suffer a similar fate. Now that there are several examples known, we can actually begin to talk about a 'market' for this item. Collectors may start to include the error as part of their dollar sets, a fact that will only increase the demand for every known example."

As implied above, this error was struck on a Sacagawea dollar planchet. The reverse is that of the dollar, with a die crack running from the rim through the letter F in OF to the tip of the eagle's wing. This feature is
diagnostic and confirms that the reverse die had started to wear significantly by the time that the error was produced. The obverse is that of the new Statehood quarter. Since the dollar planchet is slightly larger than that of the quarter, the obverse displays evidence of metal flow toward the rims. Furthermore, this is a fascinating piece because neither the
obverse of the Statehood quarter nor the reverse of the Sacagawea dollar display their issue's date. Had this error surfaced in 2001, there would be no way to tell that the mules were produced in 2000."

Sources and/or recommended reading:
Numismatic News, October 10, 2000, pp. 1 and 64.

Coin World, October 9, 2000, pp. 1, 78, and 97.