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Modern Mules: The Rarest Error Coins

Modern Mules: The Rarest Error Coins

Posted by Bullion Shark on May 14th 2024

Modern Mules: Rare Error Coins

When it comes to error coins, a mule is simply a coin that was struck from a die pair that was not intended to go together, and that can be the obverse die, reverse die or collar die. The two types of mules are those that pair an obverse of a coin with a reverse of another coin of the same series, and those that pair an obverse of one coin with the reverse of a different type of coin. All mules are extremely rare, often even unique, and are the rarest type of error coin that exists. And mules of different coins are the rarest of the rare. Continue reading to learn more about Modern Mules: The Rare Error Coins.

To determine the denomination of a mule, it is based on the planchet used for that coin. And of those mules that exist, most were created from coins whose planchets happen to be very close in size to each other such as Lincoln cents and Roosevelt dimes, or Washington quarters and $1 coins including the Presidential ones and the Sacagawea/Native American golden dollars.

2000-P Sacagawea Dollar Muled with Statehood Quarter

Moreover, mules of modern circulating coins are so rare that they did not even exist, or at least had not been discovered until the year 2000. In May of that year collector Frank Wallis of Arkansas made numismatic history when he found the first discovery of a 2000-P Sacagawea dollar in a roll of those coins that was paired with the obverse of a Statehood quarter with the reverse being the flying eagle design of the Sacagawea coins.

Today there are 19 confirmed examples of this amazing mule error coin that is known as the king of U.S, Mint errors and was ranked the #1 U.S. error coin of all time in the popular book, 100 Greatest U.S. Error Coins.

Since then, we have learned that this error was struck from three different die pairs that are discernable based on some die cracks or die gouges on those coins. The U.S. Mint confirmed the coin’s existence the following month and has also indicated more recently that as many as 350,000 of these mules were produced on three adjoining coin presses, which is why there are three die pairs. 

The coins were also all produced at the Philadelphia Mint, which is where subsequent examples were discovered, and their delivery was traced to a particular armored carrier company in the same city. Most examples were destroyed apart from the 19 examples discovered to date, of which 6 have been graded by PCGS and 11 by NGC. There could be others in theory, but it seems likely they would have been found by now unless they are sitting in sealed rolls or bags.

The second example of this coin discovered was actually the first one sold, which took place on eBay on July 7, 2000 for $41,395 at a time when eBay was still establishing itself as a platform for buying and selling coins. The sale of this coin received so much attention that it is believed to have played a key role cementing eBay’s role in this area.

The first time one of these celebrated errors was sold at auction was an MS66 PCGS coin from die pair #1 that sold in August 2000 for $29,200. That example, which was the first one found, or the discovery coin, was sold again in 2001 for $67,000.

After that, sales of the other examples continued to generally trend higher, reaching as much as $192,000 in a March 2018 sale for an MS67 NGC from die pair #1.

Currently, at the top grade of MS67 PCGS values the coin at $200,000, and NGC values examples at the same grade at $235,000.

Other Modern Mules

On January 14, 2021, NGC certified the first discovery of a mule that combines the obverse of a Sacagawea dollar with the reverse of a $1 Presidential coin struck in 2000 at the Denver Mint that received a grade of AU58. That year both types of golden dollars were being produced by the Mint, and it was discovered in a mixed bag of dollar coins obtained from a bank in 2019.

The day after NGC made this announcement the U.S. Mint said it was aware of the existence of the coin from 2014 and that since it had been made, they had implemented multiple new controls and mistake-proofing procedures to prevent a similar coin from being made in the future.

They did not disclose how it was made, how many they believe were produced, nor exactly what procedures they had put in place. It is also not known if the obverse was intended to be paired with the normal reverse of the Sacagawea dollar, or if the reverse was intended to be paired with one of the Presidential dollars that were being made that year.

When the latter coins were first made, hundreds of thousands of errors were made that involved the edge of the coins, where the date, mint marks and for a time the motto (“In God We Trust”) appeared. The Mint would later change its coinage presses so that the coins would have their correct edge inscriptions imparted during the production process instead of being done afterwards in a separate location.

Another recent mule discovery paired a 2001-D Lincoln cent obverse with the reverse of a Roosevelt dime. That coin, which graded MS65 Red PCGS and is second known example of this particular mule, sold on February 22 of this year for $78.000.

If you think you have discovered a mule, it is important to have it evaluated by at least a knowledgeable dealer and then by PCGS or NGC since there have been cases of counterfeit mules, which are typically created by cutting two coins in half or grinding them down and then gluing the two sides together. 

Sources:

www.pcgs.com

www.ngc.com

Heritage Auctions (www.ha.com)

100 Greatest U.S. Coins, 3rd edition (Whitman, 2014)

Paul Gilkes, "Mint officials were aware of the 2014-D mule dollar," Coin World, Jan. 22, 2021

FAQ

What is a mule error coin? A mule error coin occurs when two dies that were not intended to be paired together are used to strike a coin. In the case of the 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter, the coin features the obverse (front) of a Sacagawea Dollar and the reverse (back) of a Statehood Quarter.

How did the 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter occur? This error happened when a mint employee accidentally paired a Sacagawea Dollar obverse die with a reverse die intended for a Statehood Quarter. The exact circumstances remain unclear, but such mistakes are rare given the stringent controls in modern coin manufacturing.

How rare is the 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter? This mule error is extremely rare. Only about 17 examples of this error are known to exist, making it highly sought after by collectors and error coin enthusiasts.

What is the value of a 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter? Due to its rarity and the dramatic nature of the error, this mule coin can be quite valuable. Prices can vary widely based on the coin's condition and the market demand at the time of sale, but they often fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

How can I authenticate a 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter? Authenticating a mule error like this should be done by a professional grading service such as the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). These organizations have the expertise to confirm the authenticity of the coin and grade its condition accurately.

Where can I see a 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter? Because of their rarity, these coins are infrequently available for public viewing. However, they do appear in major coin auctions and might occasionally be displayed in numismatic exhibitions or shows.

What features should I look for in a 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter to confirm it's real? Key features to examine include ensuring that the obverse matches the standard Sacagawea Dollar design and that the reverse correctly matches one of the Statehood Quarters. Any discrepancies in these features might suggest a counterfeit.

Can I find a 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter in circulation? Finding one in circulation is extremely unlikely due to their rarity and high value. Most examples are held by collectors or institutions.

What impact does the condition of the 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter have on its value? Like most collectible coins, the better the condition, the higher the value. Coins in nearly mint condition (uncirculated) will command the highest premiums, especially if they have been professionally graded.

How does owning a 2000-P Sacagawea Dollar muled with a Statehood Quarter impact a coin collection? Owning such a rare and notable error coin can significantly enhance a collection, adding not only value but also a piece of numismatic history that highlights the complexities and potential mistakes in the coin minting process.

What are error coins? Error coins are minting mistakes that occur during the coin manufacturing process, resulting in coins that differ from their intended design, composition, or denomination. They are often highly sought after by collectors due to their rarity and unique characteristics.

What makes an error coin valuable? The value of an error coin is influenced by several factors, including its rarity, the severity and type of error, the demand among collectors, and the coin's overall condition. More dramatic and obvious errors typically command higher prices.

What are some common types of coin errors? Common types of errors include double dies, off-center strikes, blank planchet (no design), clipped planchets (irregular shape), wrong metal or denomination, and overstrikes where a coin is struck on a previously struck coin of a different type.

Can any coin become an error coin? Yes, any coin can become an error coin if mistakes occur during the minting process. However, not all errors are notable or valuable—minor errors might not significantly affect a coin's value.

How are error coins graded? Error coins are graded like other coins based on their condition, but the evaluation also considers the nature and appeal of the error. Grading services such as PCGS or NGC can certify error coins, providing authenticity and a condition grade that helps determine their market value.

Where can I find error coins? Error coins can be found in circulation, coin rolls, estate sales, auctions, and through coin dealers. Some collectors specifically look for error coins by examining large numbers of coins from banks or circulating change.

Are there famous examples of error coins? Yes, some famous error coins include the 1955 double die penny, the 1943 copper penny (a steel penny mistakenly struck on copper planchet), and the 2000 Sacagawea dollar coin paired with a Washington quarter obverse (mule coin).

What should I do if I think I've found an error coin? If you believe you've discovered an error coin, it's a good idea to have it appraised by a professional coin dealer or send it to a grading service for certification. This will help verify the error and determine its market value.

Are error coins a good investment? Error coins can be a good investment if you understand the market and choose pieces that are likely to appreciate in value. Collecting rarer error types with significant collector demand can offer good potential for financial appreciation.

How can I avoid counterfeit error coins? To avoid counterfeit error coins, purchase from reputable dealers, participate in recognized numismatic organizations, and consider using verification services from recognized grading companies. Always seek coins that have been authenticated and graded by trustworthy third parties.