Auction preview: Newly discovered Sacagawea dollar/Washington quarter mule to be offered

The 17th known example of the famous 2000-P Sacagawea dollar/Washington quarter mule will be offered by Stack’s Bowers Galleries in an auction held in conjunction with the Whitman Coins and Collectibles Baltimore Expo this March.

This blunder is among the greatest mint errors of modern numismatics and has captured the imagination of collectors and roll hunters for two decades.

According to auctioneers, the newly offered example is “gorgeous and exhibits golden tan surfaces with areas of richer honey color. The pristine surfaces are complemented by satiny, cartwheel 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 that is most dramatic on the obverse.”

ICONIC ERROR

The creation of such a coin would seem impossible considering the rigorous standards of the modern U.S. Mint; however, a “perfect storm” of circumstances allowed for this incredible issue to emerge.

According to leading error coin expert Fred Weinberg, 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. Sometime in spring 2000, a coin press operator requested an obverse die for the new Sacagawea dollar from the die room and was given instead an obverse die for a quarter.

THOUSANDS STRUCK, DESTROYED

Many thousands of these dramatic errors were struck before mint employees noticed the mistake, but once discovered, employees culled and destroyed as many muled coins as possible.

Alas, a few examples escaped, and in late May 2000 the first was found in a roll of new Sacagawea dollars by Frank Wallis in Arkansas. While initially there was some 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, 2000.

STRONG PRICES

Bowers and Merena sold the rare discovery piece at the August 2000 American Numismatic Association (ANA) Millennium Sale for $29,900 USD—a “shocking price,” according to auctioneers, as this mule was virtually unknown at the time. Other examples were reportedly sold privately for about $250,000 USD in 2007 or 2008, and one piece sold for $158,625 USD in Stack’s August 2012 Philadelphia ANA sale.

Today, these 2000-P Sacagawea dollar / Washington quarter mules are highly prized by collectors for their dramatic appearance and rarity.

Error enthusiast Tommy Bollock owns 12 of the 16 previously known specimens.

Contact the firm at 1-800-458-4646 or email Info@StacksBowers.com to secure a copy of the auction catalogue, which features rarities from the A.J. Vanderbilt Collection, the Joel R. Anderson Collection, the Dobbins Collection, the RSC Collection, the Sutton Court Collection, the ESM Collection and other significant cabinets.

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