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$50,000 for a 1959-D Lincoln Cent “Mule”

The 1959-D Lincoln cent should have the Lincoln Memorial reverse, as 1959 was the year the United States Mint retired the Wheat reverse. However, as many already know a 1959-D with the Wheat reverse has been discovered and has gone to the auction block a few times.

This 1959-D Lincoln Cent “mule” bears the 1959-D obverse paired with the 1958 Wheat reverse.

The oddity being discussed here was purchased by Leon Baller, a retired police offer, in 1986. Baller discovered the oddity and sent the coin to the U.S. Treasury in 1987 for authentication and received back a letter signed by Richard M. McDrew, a special agent for the Department of Treasury, which stated, “Enclosed is your United States 1¢ coin, dated 1959-D, with wheat reverse. This coin was microscopically examined by our Forensic Services Division in Washington, D.C. and it is their opinion the coin is genuine.”

In 1987 Baller sold the coin to Heritage Rare Coin Galleries, which was sold to a private collector. In 2002, the coin was boldly resubmitted to the Department of the Treasury and Secret Service for a more comprehensive review of its authenticity, knowing it could be seized if declared counterfeit. The coin was returned to the owner upon being declared genuine.

Yet, with the Treasury Department’s nod that this coin is indeed authentic, both Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. have deemed a “No Decision” grade to this mule. The American Numismatic Association Certification Service concurred on the “No Decision” grading in 1993, noting that there is no evidence that the U.S. Mint produced the coin. Goldberg Auctioneers grade the coin as MS60, although no certification service has confirmed this grading.

In their auction description Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers write, “It is very unlikely that new dies were used just to coin this one specimen, and the dies were very likely normal production dies which happened to be available when the new reverse was being adapted by the mints,” providing a calculation that perhaps as many as 2,000 Lincoln cent obverse dies were used in Denver in 1959.

Previously offered at a February 2003 Goldbergs auction the coin realized $48,300. In a Goldberg’s Auction in 2010, the same coin realized $27,000. The estimate this time of $50,000 for Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach Expo Auction seemed to be spot on, as the coin sold for $50,000 on June 2. Read more at www.goldbergcoins.com.

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