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Mules and Hybrids


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The terms mule and hybrid are often used interchangeably but I have always understood that mule should strictly only refer to a hybrid that has been issued by an official mint. Any other hybrid is consequently unofficial and unauthorised. The definition of mule in NumisWiki explicitly states this (albeit just in the context of Roman coins).

Mules are scarce or rare because they were usually made in error and spotted fairly quickly by the mint's quality control processes. Hybrids are common because they were produced in volume as ancient counterfeits. So a reasonable assumption is that mules, being official and rare, should be more desirable than hybrids which are common fakes. But here's my question. How do you tell the difference? My understanding is that hybrids were generally struck from purloined genuine dies - perhaps a mint worker sneaking out two dies that were worn and had been put aside for destruction and hammering out a load of coins on the basis that the average person in the marketplace isn't going to spot or question the mismatched dies. In which case his coins, although counterfeit and illegal, would look exactly like an official mule using that same die combination would look. I appreciate that there are clues - mismatched dies from contemporaneous or consecutive issues are more likely to be real and two very worn dies are more likely to be counterfeit - but the central problem remains that in cases like the above all dies were originally genuine and therefore sorting official from unofficial is not easy.

Here's a mule of my own. I bought it because I couldn't see a similar type anywhere else. Dane Kurth of Wildwinds was kind enough to do what I was unable to do and identify its dies for me. She also confirmed that it appears to be an official mint issue.


Argolis, Argos.

4th-3rd centuries BC.

Female head right, wearing stephane or cap, hair in sakkos / Head of wolf left.

SNG Cop 57/64 mule. Variation of BCD Peloponnesos 1120 (Hera head left). Unpublished with Hera head right.

1.14g, 10mm.


Please post any interesting mules - or hybrids! - of your own. And I would be grateful if anyone can shed any more light on the differences between mules and hybrids and how to spot them. 

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