Is It A Nail, Or Is It A Dime? Improbable ‘Error Coin’ May Bring $10,000 At Auction

How do you turn a 6-penny nail into a 10-penny nail? If you’re the U.S. Mint, you strike a Roosevelt dime on it and create one of the most improbably error coins in existence.

It might sound like the setup to a bad joke, but someone, somewhere, actually did strike a Roosevelt dime onto a 6-penny zinc nail. The result, which technically qualifies as an error coin, even if it still looks mostly like a nail, then managed to escape into the wild. The circumstances that led to the creation of the strange error coin are not clear, and the impression doesn’t include a date or mint location, so experts aren’t even able to say where or when it was minted.

Wherever it was minted, and however it managed to get out of the mint in the first place, a report from the Associated Press indicates that the nail dime is up for auction, and it may command a price in excess of $10,000 by the time all is said and done. At the time of this writing, bidding has already topped $4,000 with 17 days to go. That isn’t bad for a 6-penny zinc nail, which you can pick up at any hardware store for less than $4/lb.

Heritage Auctions is handling the sale, and the site where you can bid on the Roosevelt dime-struck nail indicates that the item has been graded MS65 by the Professional Coin Grading Service. This is one of the highest grades a coin can receive, classifying it as a “gem uncirculated” coin that is nearly flawless.

“An uncirculated coin with only minor distracting marks or imperfections. At this point, mint luster is expected to be full, although toning is quite acceptable.”

In this case, the “minor distracting mark” is apparently the fact that it was struck on a 6-penny zinc nail instead of a standard Roosevelt dime planchet.

The nail was struck with portions of both the obverse, or heads, and reverse, or tails, of a Roosevelt dime, but neither side contains even a hint of date or mint markings. According to Coin World, that makes it very difficult to determine whether the nail was struck before or after the 1965 advent of clad coinage, or which facility it originated from. However, it is very likely that striking the nail damaged the dies, which could have resulted in a number of dimes entering circulation that were struck by those damaged dies.

nails Nails might seem like an improbable item to end up in coinage machinery, but there may actually be an explanation. [Photo by Yiorgos GR/Shutterstock]This isn’t the first time an error coin was created by something other than a planchet being struck by coin dies, but Coin World reports that it’s usually a piece of the mint machinery itself that ends up on the production line. Tooling objects like springs and screws can come loose and end up being struck by accident, but a nail ending up in the machinery seems a little more suspect.

One possible explanation that doesn’t involve foul play, such as an employee intentionally striking a nail and then sneaking it out, was suggested by Coin World’s Tom DeLorey.

DeLorey wrote that his mentor once saw a nail sitting on a coinage press during a tour at a U.S. Mint facility, and that he asked what it was doing there.

“He asked the press operator what it was for, and the press operator said that when the feed tube clogged he used the nail to clear the feed tube, which had a slot down the side for this very purpose! So, although a cent strike on a nail is very unlikely, there does exist the chance that at least one such strike was a legitimate random error.”

Although DeLorey was writing about nails that had been improbably struck with penny dies, the same explanation could be extended to the creation of this much rarer Roosevelt dime that was struck on a 6-penny nail.

Do you believe it was all an accident, and that the dime-struck nail also made it out into the wild on accident, or could a mint employee have done this on purpose? Either way, it looks like some lucky collector is going to fork over upwards of $10,000 for this bizarre amalgamation of dime and nail.

[Photos by Yiorgos GR, Darren415/Shutterstock]