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Muled medal confuses the Adams

A beginning collector had the find of his short hobby career when in January he purchased a muled First Spouse bronze medal as part of a four-piece set.

A beginning collector had the find of his short hobby career when in January he purchased a muled First Spouse bronze medal as part of a four-piece set.


Michael Descamps wrote Jan. 31 to say that he purchased a 2007 First Spouse set of bronze medals from eBay in which he later found an Abigail Adams medal with a reverse appropriate to the Louisa Adams medal.

Abigail was the wife of our second president, John Adams. The medal honoring her was first released in 2007 within four-piece sets packaged as shown here and as a single medal. Louisa was the wife of our sixth president, John Quincy Adams (who was the son of John Adams), and her medal was released in 2008 in sets or as single medals.

The type of error involved is referred to by the hobby as a “mule.” A mule is a coin, medal or token that has been struck with dies not intended to be paired together.

Two days after Descamps report to me, more news on these errors came in from Paul Gilkes in an article he wrote for another publication indicating that at least three of the errors had come to light in the previous three weeks and that all were found in government-issued “Four-Medal Sets” that were offered during the U.S. Mint’s clearance sale, dubbed the “Last Chance Sale,” Nov. 15 -Dec. 19.

Although Descamps’ set was housed in an aftermarket presentation box and capsules, I learned from the seller that it was originally housed in one of the government issued sets.

The seller, Maria Kuhn of Michigan, who goes my the user name of “1dobiewonam” on eBay, indicated she has ordered four of the sets in December and received them Jan. 16.

She said that she and her husband decided to keep three sets and sell one on eBay. The one sold on eBay was broken out of the original Mint packaging and put into Air-Tite™ capsules and a presentation box because the offering matched the way they were selling sets of the Presidential dollars on eBay.

Kuhn said that she first leaned of the mules in a phone call from her husband who told her that the buyer of the set she sold on eBay had called to advise them of the error and of my interest in interviewing her. She said she was sick all the way home thinking that she might have sold off the only mule she had without knowing it, but when she arrived home was pleasantly surprised to learn that all three of the sets she had kept contained the mule.

Descamps, who just started collecting coins three months ago in November said the first item he purchased was a state quarter silver proof set from Don’s Coins and that by January he decided he wanted to collect the Presidential dollar and First Spouse medals. He said that when he got the 2007 First Spouse set he looked it over and put it away. Then the 2008 First Spouse set came, (which he had purchased from another seller on eBay), and he found it very revealing.

He said, “I looked them over and said to myself, I’ve seen that reverse on the medal in my 2007 set. I got them out, looked at the Abigail Adams [medal] and on the back was the reverse of the Louisa Adams [medal]. Then I got the envelopes from the Mint that explained the reverse, and that’s when I knew I had a medal with a Mint error. It’s amazing that the first medals I bought could produce such an error. Talk about beginners luck!”

Beginning in 2007, the U.S. Mint began honoring our nation’s First Spouses by issuing one-half-ounce $10 gold coins and 1-5/16-inch bronze medals featuring their images in the order that they served as First Spouse. The medals bear the likeness of the gold coins except they do not contain a denomination and mottoes required by law to be a coin.

The obverse of the Abigail Adams medal was designed and sculpted by Joseph Menna, U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver and was inspired by Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Abigail Adams.

The reverse, was designed by Thomas Cleveland, U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program master designer, and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill, Mint sculptor-engraver.

It features Abigail Adams writing the famous words, “Remember the Ladies,” to her husband when he was in the Second Continental Congress drafting the Declaration of Independence.

The obverse, of the Louisa Adams medal was designed by Artistic Infusion Program master designer Susan Gamble, and sculpted by Hemphill. A portrait of Louisa Adams circa 1816 inspired it. The reverse was designed and sculpted by Menna and depicts Louisa Adams with her young son, Charles, on an arduous journey from St. Petersburg, Russia, across much of Europe to join her husband in Paris.

The mule error shows the Abigail obverse paired with the reverse depicting Louisa with Charles.

What is interesting about this mule is that it contains a reverse design that was not officially released until 2008 on a medal contained in a set first offered for sale in 2007. It suggests that the Mint either had the reverse dies ready for use by 2007 and one of them was picked up and set into a coining press in error in 2007, or that the Mint was still striking medals for the 2007 sets in 2008 and made the mistake then.


No mintage estimates are available. Values will depend on how many are found and how strong demand will be from coin collectors, who often ignore medal issues.

The 2007 “Four-Medal Sets” are now listed on the Mint’s Web site as sold out.

This will be the second mule reported on an official Mint medal in the past several years. In January 2006, Gilkes credited Dr. Walter Chinoy with finding a Rutherford B. Hayes medal bearing a reverse die intended for the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential medal.

Later, in 2008, Bill Fagan of Pennsylvania reported another example that was featured in an article that I wrote for the September/October 2008 issue of CONECA’s Errorscope. To date these are the only two examples reported for the Hayes/Grant mules that I’m aware of. A PDF version of that story can be seen online here:

Ken Potter is the official attributer of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collectors Association of Die Doubling. He also privately lists other collectible variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register. He is a regular columnist in Numismatic News’ sister publication, World Coin News, were he writes the Visiting Varieties column. More information on either of the clubs or how to get a coin listed in the Variety Coin Register may be obtained by sending a long, self-addressed envelope with 59 cents postage to P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076, or by contacting him via e-mail at An educational image gallery may be viewed on his Web site at