US Dime Struck on Nail Realizes $42,300

by on January 8, 2016 · 9 comments

An undated Roosevelt dime struck on a 6-penny nail realized $42,300 in Heritage’s Florida United Numismatists U.S. Coins Signature® Auction in Tampa.

Images of a Roosevelt Dime Struck on a Nail

Images of Roosevelt dime struck on a nail

The error, graded MS65 PCGS, had a pre-auction estimate of $10,000+. It was purchased by a prominent American collector of many kinds of collectibles across a wide range of categories, according to Heritage.

"Significant error coins are among the most sought-after in the hobby," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions, "as evidenced by the spirited bidding among collectors over this coin."

What is known is that the zinc-coated nail found its way into the coinage production line during the minting of Roosevelt dimes and apparently escaped through normal distribution channels.

"This is certainly among the most unique and mysterious errors to ever come to auction," Rohan said. "The truth is, no one really knows how or why it was struck."

This error coin is not the first coin to have such a distinction. A few examples of cents struck on nails were discovered in the 1970s, notes Heritage. The total number of similar errors is thought to be around six.

Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the U.S. and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of about $900 million and over 950,000 online bidder members. To learn more about the company, visit

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Seth Riesling January 8, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Mike Unser –

You really “hit the nail on the head” with this article! (Sorry, I couldn’t hold back the bad pun). I used to get Heritage coin auction catalogs back when I was a customer in the 80s when they only sold stamps & coins. Now they sell every category, including a T-Rex fossilized skeleton that was seized by U.S. government officials after the auction because it was illegally imported into the U.S. from Mongolia. Heritage would auction off human organs if they could! Lol. These errors on nails didn’t make it out of the Mint legally, they were taken out by employees in shoes in the 1970s when the metal detector machines didn’t detect all the way to the sole of your shoes. Also, some error coins escaped when the Mint used to send out forklifts for repair & oil changes & were found in the oil input area where Mint employees had put a mesh screen to hold the error coins in place & had agreement with the outside vendor as an accomplice! These didn’t appear at auction for years & the Mint stopped sending machinery outside its property for repair after it was discovered this illegal activity was going on. Coin World newspaper documented the story many years ago. The Mint can seize them at any time. Just like they can seize the 5 1913 Liberty Head nickels since they were never aporoved or issued but were made by employees & taken out of Philadelphia Mint illegally & sold years later to one coin dealer & then dispersed over the decades. Title to stolen government property never passes to anyone legally & there is no statute of limitations on such gov’t property. It is just a matter if time as to when the Mint gets just the right lawyer in their headquarters who will finally pursue such Mint errors obtained through illegal means. Once again, I say “Caveat Emptor” – Buyer Beware!
It’s “Hammer Time” to quote M.C.Hammer!


Boz January 8, 2016 at 4:55 pm

That should be a true statement, yet the gold coins purloined in 1913 by a San Francisco mint employee, buried in a coffee can, and “discovered” by an alleged bird watcher last year were deemed finders keepers.

Seth Riesling January 8, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Boz –

You are probably partially right on your comments. The Mint lawyers are basically acting as if they are impotent on such matters & spend most of their time worried about U.S. Mint trademark issues instead! I called them once about an illegal offering of a U.S. Mint Martha Washington bronze test strike experimental piece going to auction & even contacted the U.S. Secret Service about it and the agent called me back & said unfortunately the Mint lawyers basically didn’t care since it wasn’t a legal tender coin! That piece sold at auction a month later for $52,000 ! But when a 1933 $20 gold coin came on the market for $millions, the Mint’s lawyers stood up at attention & fought a 4-year long court battle for it! Go figure. Very inconsistent they are at the US MInt on this matter.


Richard January 8, 2016 at 5:55 pm

The addition 1933 double eagles apparently can’t be sold under the agreement with Fenton when his one Farouk specimen was monetized. As for the others, I think at this point the Mint would look pretty crazy going after a famous 103 year coin, even if they have the legal right (also, its issuance was pretty murky and the illegality could be argued in court). Maybe it comes down to ego–what coins they have gone after (such as pre-Fenton ’33s) they have to keep going after just because they already are and can’t admit a mistake. But the rest would be a major hassle.

Seth Riesling January 8, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Richard –

You are right on point on the King Farouk/Stephen Fenton specimen of the 1933 $20 Saint-Gaudens coin being the only coin of its type that is currently officially monetized by U.S. Mint officials. But those coins were struck in large amounts in 1933 for circulation but were ordered to be melted by President FDR’s orders etc. But the five 1913 Liberty Head “nickels” were never approved by Congress or U.S. Mint officials & were struck by at least 2 Philadelphia Mint employees (one in the die department & one press operator at least, & obviously after hours since it was not approved on any level !) The fact that they only struck five specimens (that we know of since 1913) also suggests that it was a quick “after midnight” type illegal operation. Otherwise they would have struck more to make more $ selling them to the dealer who bought all 5 specimens. The die was never found at the Philadelphia Mint or anywhere either. This was just a quick opportunistic inside job. Luckily 2 of the specimens (they are NOT coins!) are permanently impounded in museums. I was lucky enough to have held the specimen in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in the late 1980s & the curator at the time basically had no respect for that “piece of round metal” as she described it. “It leaves me cold” she told me (Dr. Elvira Eliza Clain-Steffanelli) I met Aubrey & Adeline Beebee from Omaha, Nebraska who owned the specimen that they donated to the American Numismatic Association’s Money Museum & he told me the only reason he bought it was for publicity for their coin business (he didn’t even leave it to his children in his will because he told me it would one day be ruled as illegal to own so he got a large tax write off for donating it to the ANA museum right before he retired! As for the 3 specimens that are currently in private collections, they are subject to forfeit at any time the U.S. government orders it. The U.S. government has a special division that seaks out stolen government property, including U.S. Depression era art work that President FDR had commissioned to hang in every U.S. federal building in every city/state & they recently recovered a painting done under his Works Progress Administration (WPA) that the U.S. gov’t paid the artist $10 to paint back in the 1930s. The painting was tracked down to a private art collection & had to be immediately forfeited by the “owner” & the gov’t auctioned it off for $700,000 a couple of years ago, after about 80 years of searching the country for such items. It is only a matter of time before a U.S. Mint young & upcoming lawyer gets the nerve to confiscate the 3 specimens currently in private hands! I saw all 5 specimens together at the 2003 ANA convention in Baltimore, Maryland & they are amazing “things” to look at, but they are not coins & are stolen U.S. government property & always will be wherever they are outside non-profit museum collections. Those who pay millions of dollars for such “bragging rights” will one day regret that their egos got the best of them! There are many legal coins that are unique coins (1 specimen known) or just a few specimens known that are a much better alterrnative IMHO.
Happy collecting !


jim January 9, 2016 at 11:29 am

Not error coins in my opinion. That implies the mint intended to do this and I doubt that. The offender should loose his job for putting a nail in the press.

RonnieBGood January 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm

I agree that this and several other “error” mintages were (proven) the result of an “Inside Job” by a US Mint employee(s). The reasons are made obvious by the Auction results.

fenderbender86 January 9, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Whats next, a quarter struck on a stuffed teddy bear? I’m surprised they didn’t slap a green bean on it as well.

Tom D in SC January 10, 2016 at 6:27 am

MS 65?!? Really?! What’s the deal about grading a nail but PCGS won’t grade a coin because it was cleaned or has a scratch on it or some other “defect” that renders a coin ungradeable? Yet they jump all over a nail that I doubt was an accidental. A NAIL!! I just read an article where PCGS was rated as having the highest standards. What kind of standards do they have?

It isn’t an error coin–it’s not even a coin and certainly it wasn’t done in error, I believe it to be intentional. How is a nail going to run through the system and come out pristine with an MS65 dime stamped on it? And ….”no one really knows how or why it was struck”? I think $42,300 explains that statement. If the nail wasn’t graded, I’m thinking it wouldn’t have been more than a curious little trinket.

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