||March 2018 Baltimore U.S. Coins Auction
||Extraordinary Sacagawea Dollar / Washington Quarter Muling
Die Pair #1
The 17th Known Example
A New Addition to the Census
(2000)-P Sacagawea Dollar--Muled with a Statehood Quarter--MS-67 (NGC).
A gorgeous specimen of this incredible rarity showcasing golden tan surfaces with areas of richer honey coloration throughout. The overall pristine surfaces are complemented by satiny, cartwheeling luster and bold definition to the design elements. Die striations at the border are as seen on all known examples, creating a spectacular sunburst effect most dramatic on the obverse.
Mules - coins struck using two dies intended for two different coins - have long been a "Holy Grail" of error coins for generations. In most cases, mules are intentionally produced using deliberate pairings of entirely unrelated dies purely for the purpose of creating numismatic delicacies in very small quantities intended for highly specialized collections. Such fanciful creations are familiar in many numismatic disciplines and such items may be found in a bewildering array of combinations and metals.
Far rarer are those mules created purely by accident or happenstance, especially employing dies from two different denominations. Among all the coins produced at the United States Mint, muling errors are of the highest rarity and were once branded an impossibility. With modern minting equipment and tracking technologies, it would seem that muling errors are even more unlikely except under very specific and most serendipitous circumstances. Just such an event occurred in early 2000 at the Philadelphia Mint that resulted in the best known of all muling errors, coins struck using Washington Statehood quarter obverse dies and the reverse dies of the newly introduced Sacagawea dollar on the new dollar planchets.
The stage for the Sacagawea Dollar / Washington Statehood Quarter mule has its origins back in 1979 with the introduction of the Susan B. Anthony dollar. The size of the new smaller dollar coin at 26.5 mm was sufficiently close enough to the quarter (24.3 mm) that the coins were frequently confused with quarters, prompting considerable complaints about the new coins. The Susan B. Anthony dollars were produced for circulation for only two years before the design was shelved in 1981. Nearly twenty years later, the Anthony dollar design was briefly resurrected in 1999 in preparation for the production of a new dollar coin, one that would be sufficiently different from the quarter to minimize the risk of confounding the two denominations. The new design by Glenna Goodacre featured a representation of the Lemhi Shoshone woman Sacagawea on the obverse and a flying eagle on the reverse was introduced the following year. While the new Sacagawea dollar employed an entirely new golden colored alloy and bore a smooth edge, one thing that did not change was the diameter. The 2.2 mm difference between the two denominations may indeed have been equally confusing to Mint personnel.
There may have been another contributing factor at work. According to leading error coin expert Fred Weinberg, around 1998 or 1999, the Mint instituted an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that employees in specific roles be rotated into other positions on a periodic basis. Sometime in either April or early May of 2000, just such a staff rotation may have occurred at the Die Room. A coin press operator arrived at the Die Room requesting an obverse die for the new Sacagawea dollar. The employee in the Die Room picked out what they thought was a Sacagawea obverse die, but was instead an obverse die for a quarter. Neither the Die Room employee nor the press operator took off the protective plastic cover off the die to double check, and so it was put in the hammer (or upper) position in the press and coining began with the Sacagawea dollar reverse die in place. Perhaps lack of familiarity with die sizes as well as procedure in the Die Room alongside the failure to check the dies before installation led to a "perfect storm" of events leading to the error. What makes this error especially perplexing is that three different die pairs have been identified among all the known specimens. Precisely how this occurred is pure supposition at this point; it is quite possible that the Die Room handed out incorrect dies to three separate press operators before the error was caught after several thousand impressions. The die pairs can be identified thusly:
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 twelve specimens known, including the present 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.
Once discovered, Mint employees combed through the bins where the freshly struck coins were deposited and culling out all the muled coins they could and destroyed all of them, or so they thought. A few managed to escape and in late May of 2000 the first example was found in a roll of the new Sacagawea dollars by Frank Wallis in Arkansas. Attention was already being paid to the new coin design when news reports started to come out through various press channels and the hunt was on. While there was some initial debate as to the authenticity of the error, as well as the legality of owning the coins, the Mint acknowledged the error as genuine on June 19. We (Bowers and Merena) sold that rare discovery piece at the August 2000 American Numismatic Association Millennium Sale for $29,900. This shocked everyone as this Mule was virtually unknown at the time. It had been reported that examples sold privately in the neighborhood of $250,000 in 2007/2008, and an example sold for as high as $158,625 in our August 2008 Philadelphia ANA sale.
Precisely how they escaped the Mint's dragnet is unclear, though most seem to have passed through normal official channels. A couple of coins seemed to have had questionable origins and the resulting investigation found two Mint employees complicit in smuggling a few out and selling them for personal gain, for which both individuals were found guilty and sentenced to probation, house arrest, and fines. In its sentencing memorandum in 2005, the Treasury made it clear that their goal was not to seize the coins but "to punish the defendant and to deter theft by current and future Mint employees and other government employees," effectively resolving any question of legality.
A total of 24 muling error coins of all types are presently known in all of American numismatics, making this the undisputed title holder of "king of all error coins." Until now, 16 examples of the Washington Statehood quarter/Sacagawea dollar muling were known until the discovery of the present coin. The remaining known muling error coins of all types are:
1. Roosevelt dime double reverse, undated but believed to be 1965 or 1966; unique. There is some circumstantial evidence that this coin along with the following two quarters may have been the product of midnight Mint machinations and intentionally made.
2. Washington quarter double reverse, undated but believed to be 1965 or 1966; two known.
3. 1993-D Lincoln Cent obverse with Roosevelt Dime reverse, struck on a cent planchet; unique.
4. 1995 Lincoln Cent obverse with Roosevelt Dime reverse, struck on a dime planchet; unique.
5. 1999 Lincoln Cent obverse with Roosevelt Dime reverse, struck on a cent planchet; unique.
6. 2000-P Jefferson Nickel double obverse; unique.
How many Sacagawea dollar/quarter mules escaped into circulation is not known, but considering how few coins have so far been found in the intervening years even with the media attention, it is unlikely many more (if any) will be found. Among world coins, muling errors occur on a comparatively more frequent basis and are an especially popular field for specialists. This is not the case for U.S. coins where the opportunities to obtain a mule of a coin intended for circulation are precious few and very far between. Here is a fantastic Superb Gem example of a famous and coveted rarity that will be talked about for generations to come.
NGC Census: 6; none finer.
PCGS# 508061. NGC ID: CWUN.
Click here for certification details from NGC.