A frequently asked question for coin collectors is: "How much is a two-headed coin worth?" People find these coins in circulation and wonder if they've found some valuable and rare mint error. What is the truth about two-headed (and two-tailed) coins?
Is Your Two-Headed Coin Genuine?
A two-headed coin is worth very little, usually between $3 to $10, depending on how well the crafter made the coin and the face value of the coin. The U.S. Mint does not produce two-headed coins that you find in circulation or buy at flea markets. Somebody made the coin as a novelty device or for use in magician's tricks.
There have been anecdotal reports of two genuine two-headed quarters that relatives found in the safety deposit box of a deceased San Francisco Mint worker. Both of these coins are supposedly in grading service slabs, which is why you won't find them in circulation. Even if these tales are true, it is a sure thing that no two-headed U.S. coins could ever possibly have entered circulation. Any two-headed U.S. coin you find in pocket change is a novelty item. That is 100 percent certain. With that in mind, it may help you to know how two-headed coins are made, and how to tell whether the two-headed coin you have is a genuine mint error or not.
How Are Two-Headed Coins Made?
Two-headed coins are made by taking two identical coins of the same denomination and machining them to approximately half the thickness of the original coin. The two halves are then fused together by either welding or soldering the two halves together. This process usually leaves a seam on the edge of the coin where the soldering has oozed out. The machinist will then grind and polish the edge of the coin in an attempt to hide the seam.
The U.S. Mint Can't Make Two-Headed Coins
Production processes in the U.S. Mint make it virtually impossible for a two-headed (or two-tailed) coin to be manufactured by the mint. The coining presses that are used to produce U.S. coins have two different shaped receptacles for the coin dies. When coin dies are manufactured, the shank of the coin die for the obverse is a different shape than the shank of the coin dies for the reverse. This manufacturing process design makes it virtually impossible for a coin press operator to load two obverse (or two reverse) dies into the coin press.
However, in June 2017 CoinWeek reported that PCGS had certified a United States 2000-P Jefferson nickel struck with two obverse dies. Experts are puzzled as to how this can happen, but the professional authenticators at PCGS agree that the coin is a genuine mint product.
"Mule" Coins Made by the U.S. Mint
Although it is technically not a two-headed coin, the U.S. Mint did make several coins in error that had the obverse of a U.S. Washington quarter dollar and the reverse of a Sacajawea one dollar coin. These types of coins are technically known as "mules." In other words, coin dies from two different coins which were not intended to be used together to produce a single coin.
The Washington quarter Sacajawea dollar mule was first discovered in May 2000 when Frank Wallis from Arkansas discovered one while searching rolls of one dollar coins. Since then, a total of 15 examples have been found and verified as authentic. Uncirculated examples have sold for between $30,000 and $75,000, with most specimens selling for around $50,000.
Edited by: James Bucki