By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …….
With the death of Nancy Reagan on March 6, 2016, interest is mounting for the Nancy Reagan First Spouse half-ounce $10 gold coin, currently slated for release in July. Even before the 94-year-old former first lady passed away, many within the numismatic community (and the public at large) eagerly anticipated the release of the coin and the corresponding Ronald Reagan Presidential dollar coin.
Residing in the White House from 1981 through 1989, the Reagans were beloved by millions, many of whom believed Nancy Reagan epitomized class and grace throughout her eight years in the international spotlight. Before stepping onto the world stage, Nancy Reagan – much like her famous husband – was a Hollywood star in the 1940s and ‘50s, and became the first lady of California when Ronald Reagan was elected governor in 1967. Nancy Reagan’s leading initiative in the 1980s was her anti-drug campaign, famous for its eponymous “Just Say No” catchphrase.
Despite her widespread popularity, Nancy Reagan’s presence on a First Spouse coin stoked a bit of controversy in early 2015 when the Reagan coins were formally announced. Some decried honoring a living individual on a coin; Nancy Reagan would have been the first living person depicted on a U.S. coin since the 1995 Special Olympics silver dollar featuring Eunice Kennedy Shriver. According to the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-145), a president cannot appear on a coin unless he has been deceased for at least two years; however, there are no such limitations for the First Spouse coins, which were authorized under the same law.
Called to mind is another controversy concerning the Reagan coins: the four-year chronological gap in the series left by the exclusion of Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn. Save for any unforeseen last-minute circumstances, Congressional or otherwise, neither Jimmy Carter, aged 91, nor his 88-year-old wife Rosalyn will be honored in the corresponding Presidential dollar and First Spouse coin series. While the Reagan coins were not in the original lineup for their respective series, they became viable candidates as Reagan proponents cited the legal vagueness of breaking the sequential order of presidential honorees on the dollar coin.
“The release of the Ronald Reagan Presidential $1 Coin and Nancy Reagan First Spouse Coin will mark the end of the coin programs that have honored the contributions of our nation’s presidents and indelible work of our nation’s first ladies,” said Richard A. Peterson, the United States Mint Deputy Director of Manufacturing and Quality at the event.
The obverse of the Nancy Reagan First Spouse Gold Coin bears a portrait of the former first lady and was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Benjamin Sowards. The reverse features Nancy Reagan enfolding her arms around two children, emblematic of her “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. The reverse was designed by Artistic Infusion Program artist Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart. The half-ounce, 0.9999 fine gold coins will be struck at the West Point Mint and offered in proof and uncirculated finishes.
In addition to the gold coins, a Nancy Reagan bronze medal bearing the same design as its 24-karat counterparts will also be issued.
Mintage limits were originally set at 40,000 for each of the First Spouse coins, but maximums were lowered as sales proved relatively weak. However, Michael White, from the Mint’s Office of Corporate Communications, has confirmed that the mintage limit for the Nancy Reagan First Spouse gold coin has been increased to 15,000 pieces, to be split between the proof and uncirculated versions.