By Louis Golino for CoinWeek….
Jacqueline Kennedy Coin Mintage
On October 16 the U.S. Mint issued a news release to numismatic editors and writers regarding the maximum mintage limits for the 2015 First Spouse $10 gold coins. Next year will mark the ninth and penultimate year for this series, with the final coins to be issued in 2016. The first ladies to be honored in 2015 include Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, and Jacqueline Kennedy. Now that we have entered the modern era in spouse coins the women represented on the coins are far more familiar to most people, which could boost sales.
The Mint announced that based on sales between 2011 and 2014 of about 7,000 coins for each issue (including both proof and uncirculated versions, with the proof coin always garnering higher sales than the uncirculated examples) the 2015 coins will have mintages of up to 10,000 coins each.* However, because demand for the coin honoring Jacqueline Kennedy is widely expected to be much higher than the demand for the other coins, or for any other issue in the series apart from the 2007 coins, the Mint indicated that up to 30,000 Jackie Kennedy coins will be minted.
In particular, the Mint stated that in addition to her being such a well-known person, the release of the 2014 50th anniversary Kennedy gold proof half dollars “may cause a sharp increase in demand from customers seeking to make special Kennedy gold sets” using this coin and the Jackie Kennedy piece. A maximum mintage of 30,000 coins “would allow flexibility to increase production should customer demand exceed forecasted sales volumes for the other designs.” And as always the mintage will be divided between proof and uncirculated coins.
The Mint also noted that it “is not obligated to mint, and will not mint, to the maximum mintage limits unless it is supported by public demand. The production process and maximum mintages give us flexibility should there be a surge in demand over previous years.” The Mint normally produces such coins in batches, tracks sales levels, and later decides if demand warrants issuing more coins up to the maximum authorized level.
The Jackie Kennedy gold coin mintage announcement set off a lively debate among modern coin enthusiasts and collectors and buyers of the gold spouse coins. Some people said the Mint had managed, as usual, to mess things up by planning to produce too many coins, while others said that higher sales levels would be a good sign for the series, indicating it is in better shape than most people think. Others pointed out that nostalgia for the Kennedy era has waned considerably over the decades (a questionable assumption in view of the continuing popularity of books and movies about the period), and that the Mint is unlikely to sell anywhere near 30,000 coins, especially given the fact that the much-hyped JFK gold halves have not even reached sales of 65,000 coins even with all the speculative furor that accompanied them. In fact, though, 65,000 units of a gold commemorative with three-quarters of an ounce of gold is a very respectable sales level, one that no other gold commemorative has reached in recent years, and those are coins with one third as much gold.
Gold Spouse Key Coins
It is worth stepping back from the specifics of the Jackie Kennedy coin mintage and thinking about which coins in this series have emerged as its key coins since the series began in 2007, and why those particular issues are the ones in highest demand.
If some people, such as V. Kurt Bellman, a spirited commenter on many CoinWeek articles, are to be believed, mintages are what really matter in the long-run. Since the future has yet to reveal itself we must confine our analysis to the recent past. The two lowest mintage spouse coins**, which are the uncirculated 2011 Lucretia Garfield and Lucy Hayes coins (with respective mintages based on the latest available data of 2168 and 2196), can be considered series keys for the moment, but depending on final sales of the 2013 coins, one of the Wilson spouse coins (either Edith or Ellen), or another coin from 2013 or later, may overtake the 2011 issues as the lowest in the series.
In addition, secondary market values for those 2011 issues peaked quickly a couple years back and have failed to reach their previous highs. Back when the 2011 coins sold out they quickly rose to about $3,000 for graded 70 coins, but today are worth about half as much. Naturally, if their status as lowest mintage is maintained through the end of the series, those values will likely go higher.
This leads to an important point about first spouse coins specifically, and modern numismatic issues more broadly, which is that the popularity of the design and theme (which shape demand) can be even more important than how many coins were made.
The long-standing six series keys to the spouse coins are the so-called Liberty subset issued for presidents who were unmarried while in office, and which reuse classic coin images of the period when they were president, Jefferson, Van Buren, Jackson, and Buchanan, and the Tyler wives, Julia and Letitia, which are all popular because their designs are viewed as being more attractive than most other issues.
It should also be noted that the Van Buren and Jackson coins and the Julia Tyler coins are the ones from this group with the highest market values, and that has been the case for years apart from the brief period when the Julia Tyler uncirculated coin had the lowest mintage. In fact, even the proof examples of the Jackson and Van Buren coins, which have relatively high mintages for this series of 7,684 and 6,807, continue to garner strong premiums that few coins in the series still do.
I have a strong feeling that whether or not the Jackie Kennedy coin sells 30,000 units it will join this elite group of gold spouse key coins, especially if the Secretary of the Treasury approves the design recently recommended by the CCAC, which is widely liked by collectors too. And as many people who follow this series have noted, the Jackie Kennedy coin may also breathe some welcome new life into the series.
*Back when the series began in 2007 the Mint set a maximum mintage of 40,000 coins, but dwindling sales since then have resulted in a series of reductions of maximum mintages every couple of years. For 2010-2011 the maximum was 15,000, and in 2013 it was further cut to 10,000.
**Tracking the mintages of the gold spouse coins has not been easy partly because the Mint can take years to issue final, audited data on sales, and partly because there are not many reliable and updated sources for this information in the numismatic literature.