By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……
First Spouse $10 Gold coins, issued alongside the Presidential $1 coin series from 2007 through 2016, are well respected as worthy collectibles. And with their half-ounce of .9999-fine gold, they are wonderful additions to bullion portfolios. However, the relatively high price point at which these coins were issued during their release by the United States Mint years ago made them financially unapproachable for many, and thus their mintages remained quite low throughout most of the series.
A simple gander at the mintage figures for many of these Proof and business-strike issues reveals just how scarce some of these coins are. This was certainly the case with examples sold during periods of higher gold prices, as well as issues featuring first ladies who may be lesser known among the masses in this day and age.
Proofs tended to perform better in sales, at least as compared to the business strikes, and all stayed above 2,000 pieces struck. Meanwhile, business strikes saw substantially lower mintages, with several being south of 2,000 made. These include:
- 2013-W Helen Taft $10 – 1,993 minted
- 2013-W Ellen Wilson $10 – 1,980 minted
- 2013-W Edith Wilson $10 – 1,974 minted
- 2014-W Florence Harding $10 – 1,944 minted
- 2014-W Grace Coolidge $10 – 1,949 minted
- 2014-W Lou Hoover $10 – 1,936 minted
- 2014-W Eleanor Roosevelt $10 – 1,886 minted
- 2015-W Elizabeth “Bess” Truman $10 – 1,946 minted
- 2015-W Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson $10 – 1,927 minted
- 2016-W Pat Nixon $10 – 1,839 minted
- 2016-W Betty Ford $10 – 1,824 minted
Relatively few typical Americans today may carry much working knowledge about First Ladies Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson, Edith Wilson, Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, or Lou Hoover. All were remarkable figures who were common public faces in their day. However, today’s collector may not make the same connections with them as they might with more recent first spouses.
This was certainly the case with the Jacqueline Kennedy $10 gold coin, which saw a mintage of 11,222 Proofs and 6,771 business strikes. First Lady Nancy Reagan’s coin also performed better than many other First Spouse gold coins, selling 3,548 Proofs and 2,009 business strikes.
On the surface, it’s a little harder to understand the paltry sales for the piece featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, who remains widely recognized by many today despite the fact her last year as a resident of the White House was 1945; she was, after all, an ardent social justice figure and close friends with many celebrities of her day, including the famous pilot Amelia Earhart. Interestingly, demand for her coin has seemingly increased since its release in 2014, fetching some of the highest prices of any First Spouse coin. Its popularity in the secondary market is helping it emerge as a key date, especially considering its growing demand versus the fixed low mintage — a published figure that may be higher than the actual number of survivors given how many of these coins have likely hit the smelter.
Other pieces listed above with mintages of fewer than 2,000 remain available for prices close to spot. How long will the rarest First Spouse $10 business strikes remain affordable, given their low mintages? If demand continues growing and more and more PCGS Set Registry collectors pursue them — as they are — prices may perform well down the line.
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The virtually non-existent collector preference for the First Spouse series is very easy to understand. Actual collectors (as opposed to bullion buyers speculating on the metal price and an increasing premium) don;t find the series interesting because it isn’t interesting.
There are virtually no actual collectors who buy a coin (especially in this price range) just because of or primarily due to the mintage. What exactly is so interesting about these coins where a much cheaper alternative isn’t available? Certainly not the history of the personalities, as no one needs to spend hundreds or thousands to appreciate that. They can read about it for free.
The low mintages don’t make these coins scarce either. Sure, the mintages are low but we’re talking about a non-circulating coin where the relevant comparison isn’t the absolute mintage but the number of survivors in a comparable quality. Thousands (or near) of ultrahigh quality survivors isn’t a low number, it’s common.
The more likely reality is that there are more speculator buyers of this series buying it for the low mintage as a metal substitute or in the hope of making a windfall than actual collectors buying it as a collectible.
I am buying the First Spouse Gold as a collector. I enjoy the history aspect. It may or may not go up in value in the future but I never buy unles it’s under $1100. Anything more and you are paying too much.