The Sacagawea Mule Coin

In the year 2000, the US released a newly minted dollar coin for public circulation called the Sacagawea dollar, named after the Native American guide that crucially assisted the famous American explores Lewis and Clark. It’s colloquially known as the golden dollar, but it contains no actual gold.

Rather, the Sacagawea dollar gets its trademark golden color using a copper core clad by manganese brass (this also explains why the coin is relatively light). Of course, the face of the coin bears an artist’s interpretation of Sacagawea (no contemporary image of the real Sacagawea exists) and the opposite side of the coin has undergone several design changes over the years. However, several thousand coins were once minted with a very curious error.

Shortly after the Sacagawea coin was released to the public, a small batch was discovered in a bank in Arkansas with a major design error. Instead of Sacagawea’s portrait, the coins were mistakenly minted with the same design as the US state quarter and featured George Washington instead.

Such an error was not unheard of at the time. Coins mistakenly minted with the wrong design are known as “mule coins” in the field of numismatics and are highly sought after.

The faulty coins were traced back to the Philadelphia mint where they were immediately impounded to keep them out of circulation. The coins that did manage to reach circulation are considered very valuable and have sold for as much as $200,000 apiece.

That’s a large sum for a non-gold coin!

MGS Holds Breast Cancer Fundraiser

Manhattan Gold & Silver is proud to announce a fundraiser in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to be held in its Manhattan location.

From October 24-28, Manhattan Gold & Silver will have a full stock of Pink Ribbon Cupcakes from Magnolia’s Bakery. Mini-cupcakes will be on sale for $5 and large cupcakes will be $20 (or whatever amount you feel comfortable donating). One-hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Magnolia’s Bakery will also donate $.50 for each Pink Ribbon Cupcake to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, as icing on the cake. It’s like donating to two good causes at once! 

Breast cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women – more than one in four cancers found in women are breast cancer. Manhattan Gold & Silver is proud to join the fight against this disease by raising as much awareness as possible. We hope to see you at our Manhattan location in the Diamond District (45 West 47th Street) to honor this good cause.  In addition, we will be wearing pink the entire week!

Coin Grading: The Sheldon System

At Manhattan Gold & Silver, we determine the value of items sent to us by measuring purity and weight. We accept coins for refining (often from our pawnbroker clients), but our standards for value aren’t the same as professional collectors.

Coin collectors, or numismatists use a process called “coin grading” to determine the overall collectible value of a coin. It is complex, with a number of factors including quality, liquidity, rarity, and more. In this post, we’ll talk about coin quality, which is the factor most closely associated with the discipline of coin grading.

A coin’s quality or grade is based on a close visual evaluation of the coin. Early in the history of coin collecting, coin grades were sporadic because no set system was in place. In 1948, a famous a respected numismatic, Dr. William Sheldon, created a standardized system for coin grading now known as the Sheldon System. Coins measured by the Sheldon System are given a “Mint State,” or MS number between 1 and 70. The scale looks like this:


•    Basal - (Mint State 1) An extremely worn piece of metal that was a coin at some point, but is now unidentifiable.
•    Fair - (Mint state 2) Much like MS 1, but identifiable and may or may not have a legible date
•    Almost Good (AG) - (Mint State 3) The date is legible, but most of the coin is worn smooth.
•    Good (G) - (Mint state 4 and 6) Legends, designs and dates are visible but are mostly worn down from circulation.
•    Very Good (VG) - (Mint State 8 and 10) The elements of the coin are clear, but  lacking details. The full “rim" (the line around the edge of the coin where it was raised up) must be visible to count as “Very Good.”
•    Fine (F) - (Mint state 12 and 15) All major details of the coin are virtually complete.
•    Very Fine (VF) - (Mint state 20, 25, 30, and 35). Even more design details are complete when compared to a “Fine” coin.
•    Extremely Fine (XF or EF) - (Mint state 40 and 45) Only the highest points on the coin show light wear. Usually, some traces of mint luster are still present on the coin.
•    Almost Uncirculated (AU) - (Mint state 50, 53, 55, and 58) Like extremely fine, but with at least half of the mint luster still present.
•    Uncirculated (UNC) - (Mint state 60 to 70) The coin has virtually no wear, but some small nicks or marks may be present.
•    Proof (PF) – Proof coins are struck purely for collectors. They are often flawless because they go straight from minting press to collector’s case.


Thanks to the Sheldon System, numismatists are able to get fair prices for their collectible coins.