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First Spouse Gold Coins – Collecting First Ladies

September 11, 2017 0 Comments

In a time of gender equality, coin collectors too are paying more attention to coins portraying important women. One popular series, with a gender theme, is the First Spouse Gold Coin Program of the US Mint. Although the series has now finished, with 39 coins released between 2007 and 2016, almost all the coins command premium prices. The oldest releases are being sold at prices considerably above their cost at release, and this is a popular series with collectors. Although all the First Spouses were all First Ladies, the Act specifically used the term ‘spouses’. One day a coin may show the husband of the first female president.

As collectibles, the series is a perfect companion for the Presidential $1 Coin Program. It shows the wives of many of the same presidents, and reflects the varied interests and achievements of these remarkable women, both inside and outside the White House. All the coins in the series show a bust of the First Lady on the obverse, with their name, their position in the sequence (1st, 2nd, etc.), the year of issue, and the years they were the First Lady. As well the words ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’, and ‘LIBERTY’, appear.

On the reverse is a picture showing the person in an iconic aspect of their role. For example, the first coin in the series shows the wife of George Washington, Martha Washington, who was First Lady from 1789 to 1797. She is shown sewing a button on her husband’s military jacket, because of her involvement in the cause of the Revolution. She persuaded the wealthy ladies of Morristown to turn their fine table linens into bandages, and to repair the uniforms of the poorly-equipped soldiers of the Continental Army.

At the other end of the sequence, the last coin, of Nancy Reagan, shows her with her arms around her two children. This may look like an ordinary family portrait, but the children wear t-shirts emblazoned with ‘Just Say No’ – the slogan from Nancy Reagan’s enduring anti-drug program.

All the reverse sides of the coins are inscribed with the nominal value of the coin – $10 – and the words ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’ and ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’. In addition the weight, ‘1/2 OZ.’ and ‘.9999 FINE GOLD’ is inscribed.

Not all the Presidents were married at the time they were in office, so when a President served without a First Spouse, the obverse design is of Lady Liberty, in a design used during the era of that President for a circulating coin. The reverse is an image drawn from the themes of that presidency. For example, Thomas Jefferson served without a First Lady. His coin has the Liberty head used for the ‘Draped Bust’ Half-Cent designed by Robert Scot and minted between 1800 and 1808. The reverse shows Jefferson’s Monument at Monticello, with the epitaph he wrote for himself.

This procedure is followed for other Presidents who had no First Lady, with the exception of the term of President Chester Arthur, from 1881 to 1885. Arthur was a widower, and his ‘First Spouse’ is Alice Paul, who was born in 1885. She was a leading strategist in the suffrage movement, and the reverse of her coin shows a suffragette marching with the American flag, wearing a sash with the words ‘Votes for Women’ on it. Women received the vote in 1920, under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The word ‘SUFFRAGIST’ replaces the number of the issue on the obverse of this unique coin.

These variations make this series of particular interest to collectors who like the historical context of the coins they collect, and all-in-all this is a fascinating series to collect. For those who cannot afford gold, each coin is also available in a bronze, non-circulation medal format.

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