MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) â€” Three weeks after he wrapped up a personal bankruptcy, Frank Wallis got some good financial news â€” he found a misprinted gold dollar that could be worth up to $100,000.
Wallis bought four rolls of Sacagewea $1 gold coins a couple of weeks ago. He opened one, expecting to see the American Indian guide's youthful face on the coins inside. But one bore a more familiar profile: George Washington, in a pose usually seen on quarters.
The error is believed to be the first of its kind in the 208-year history of the U.S. Mint.
Even after spotting the mistake, Wallis didn't realize how valuable the coin, minted in Philadelphia, might be.
``I decided probably at least it was a fun coin to own because of the George Washington ad campaign,'' he said, referring to a $40 million campaign in which Washington, illustrated by his portrait on the $1 bill, insists he doesn't mind being left off the new coin.
After contacting experts, Wallis realized the coin was likely quite valuable.
The mistake is known by collectors as a ``double-denomination mule error'' â€” two currencies stamped on different sides.
Wallis' coin bears the front of the Washington quarter and the back of the Sacagawea dollar.
It is not known whether other coins with the same error are in circulation; 500 million Sacagawea coins were minted. A spokesman for the U.S. Mint did not return a call seeking comment.
Twenty days before he found the coin, Wallis, the business page editor of The Baxter Bulletin, was completing a bankruptcy.
``I was in financial ruin,'' he said, explaining that a hospital stay in 1993 caused him to forfeit two months' salary. Since then, he has been trying to get caught up.
``Now, if the Lord wills, I can pay the debts,'' he said.
But he noted his fortunes may again change.
``Today it's a valuable coin, but if somebody has found several more, it's not so valuable,'' Wallis said. ``It's just another error coin.''
A dealer will auction the coin during the American Numismatic Association's convention in Philadelphia in August.
On the Net:
U.S. Mint: http://www.usmint.gov
American Numismatic Association: http://www.money.org
Bowers and Merena auctions: http://www.bowersandmerena.com
Coin World magazine: http://www.coinworld.com