Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Coin Tuesday: The Mule

Aug. 3, 2010
Written by John Dale

The Mule, or, A Mildly Embellished Slice of Life:

"Coin question.”

I looked up. It was one of the photographers. Young guy.

“Coin question? What’s up?” I asked.

“What’s a mule?”

I filed my first response — too much Captain Obvious — away for later. He did say “coin question,” after all. I owed him a Serious Professional answer.

“It’s a coin with two sides that don’t match. Like if a Washington quarter obverse was put together with a Sacagawea dollar reverse.”

I wondered to myself: which coin brought this on?

I started checking through the coins in the Boston ANA Auction in my head. Mules, mules… there was that one pattern with the three dollar gold obverse and the Shield five cent obverse on the same nickel planchet, Judd-531A, by the numbers, and unique by the book… that thing was cool, but weird - seriously weird even by pattern coin standards. New nickname for the Judd-531A: the Lady Gaga.

Maybe it was something else. Another Shield nickel pattern, perhaps?

There was the one dated 1865 with a reverse that has no rays between the stars, the Judd-418. Shield nickels weren’t made for circulation until 1866, and the No Rays reverse didn’t come out to play until 1867, so the two sides didn’t go together. Was there a little Mint hanky-panky at work? Almost certainly, just like with the Lady Gaga.

Two possibilities. I had to ask:

“So which coin is it?”

“This Gobrecht dollar. I was working on the video and it was in the script.”

Gobrecht dollar? I checked the script. Oh, right. Lot 3284, the Judd-65. It pairs the no-stars obverse used on Judd-60 Gobrecht dollars with the no-stars reverse used on Judd-84 Gobrechts. Subtle, but definitely a mule.

I explained what made the Gobrecht dollar a mule. He got the general idea, if not the terminology.

“All right. I still don’t get why they call it a mule, though.”

City kid. It was time to break out the Captain Obvious. I smirked a bit as I slipped into the voice I usually reserve for non-precocious three-year-olds.

“Well, you see, when a horse and a donkey love each other very much…” […and the horse is a male and the donkey is a female, you get a hinny. – Noah]

“Oh, I gotcha.” He cracked up. Point for me.

He got in a parting shot, though. As he walked away, he muttered under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear, in true non-collector fashion:

“Coin weenies," he said. "What’ll they think of next?”

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