Stack’s Bowers Finds an Error on the Quarter Dollar-Dollar Mule

20 Feb 2018  Tue

Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ March auction at the Whitman Coins & Collectibles Baltimore Expo confirms and consigns a 17th quarter dollar-dollar mule. The coin was struck in 2000 at the Philadelphia Mint from the obverse die of a State quarter dollar and reverse die of a Sacagawea dollar on a planchet for the dollar coin.

The coin is graded Mint State 67 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and is from Die Pair 1 from three known sets of dies used.

In May 2000, the first known example in a roll of dollar coins surfaced. It represented the first confirmed “mule” among U.S. coinage — a coin struck from dies not intended to be used together. The quarter dollar-dollar mule lacks a date, since the date of a State quarter dollar appears on the reverse and not the obverse, but is known to have been struck in 2000.

When the first coin was discovered and confirmed as a genuine error, other examples have cropped up, totaling to 17 pieces. From the 16 pieces confirmed, 12 belong to a single collector named Tommy Bolack from Farmington, New Mexico., who has aggressively pursued ownership of the coins as new ones surface in the marketplace.

Since the first coin was authenticated, the collector community has speculated about whether the coins are true errors — produced by mistake — or the deliberate concoctions of Mint employees.

Although a small number of coins have been confirmed, experts have identified three distinct die pairs, which indicates that the cause was not just a simple pairing of one obverse die and one reverse die. The new coin is from Die Pair #1.

The multiple die pairings don’t mean that the coins were struck purposely. According to Stack’s Bowers press release, Weinberg noted that “around 1998 or 1999, the Mint instituted an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule requiring employees in specific roles be rotated into other positions on a periodic basis, adding to the potential for confusion in the Die Room.” Conceivably, unfamiliarity with Mint operating procedures could have contributed to the improper installation of three pairs of dies.

Many thousands of coins were struck and many were shipped to the Federal Reserve before the error was discovered. As Coin World reported in May 2005, on the fifth anniversary of the coin’s discovery, after the mule error was discovered, Mint Officials tried to understand as to how the errors occurred, how many may have been produced and how many may have escaped the Mint into regular coinage distribution channels.

“An undisclosed number of the error coins were reportedly found in coin bins at the Philadelphia Mint. More were recovered from a coin-wrapping facility outside the Mint.”

A government investigation revealed how the coins entered the marketplace. They also found out that some coins came through legitimate circulation channels, presumably because they were placed into circulation before the majority of the coins were recovered. Other examples, however, are identified as having left the Philadelphia Mint illegally.

The government investigation eventually led to the filing of charges against two Philadelphia Mint employees, including a press operator, accused of converting government property by selling them to collectors and dealers for their own profits. The men were not charged with striking the coins; they apparently smuggled examples of the coins out of the Mint to sell. The two men were eventually convicted of the criminal charges.

Although several specific examples of the coins known in the marketplace are known to have left the Mint illegally through the efforts of the former Mint employees, the government has not pursued confiscation.

Images courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries

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