2011 First Spouse Gold Coins

The United States Mint has announced the design selections for the 2011 First Spouse Gold Coins. The coins will feature Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, and Lucretia Garfield, the wives of the 17th to 20th Presidents.

These designs are announced somewhat later than usual, perhaps as a result of a longer design candidate review phase. When the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) had reviewed the designs for the 2011 First Spouse Coins and 2012 Presidential Dollars, they only supported two out of the 55 candidates provided by the United States Mint.

They had voiced concerns that many of the obverse portraits seemed to be copies of portraits done by other artists. Of even greater concern were the glaring historical innacurracies present on some of the reverse design candidates, such as a scene which contained a sewing machine years before its invention.

As a result of the meeting, the CCAC formed a subcommittee on design excellence. Their task was to produce a visual definition of design excellence and develop specific recommendations for addressing the design quality for future coins. (The recommendations included in this report will be discussed in a future Coin Update article.)

The United States Mint also responded by providing newly prepared design candidates for two of the 2011 First Spouse Gold Coins. These were discussed by the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the CCAC at meetings held in late November.

Due to a delay in obtaining information, articles covering theCCAC’s discussion and recommendations for the follow up design candidates were just published today. You can read the separate articles covering Eliza Johnson and Lucy Hayes coins.

The final design selections which were made by the Secretary of the Treasury, after weighing the input of the CCAC, CFA, and United States Mint, are shown below.


The Eliza Johnson First Spouse Gold Coin features her portrait on the obverse and a scene from the children’s ball held for President Andrew Johnson’s 60th birthday. Three children are shown dancing, with a fiddler in the background. The obverse was designed by Joel Iskowitz, and the reverse was designed by Gary Whitley.

The CFA had supported the chosen obverse, while the CCAC had selected a different portrait. For the reverse, the final selection matched the CCAC’s recommendation, while the CFA had chosen an alternate scene from the children’s ball which included the First Lady.


The 2011 Julia Grant First Spouse Gold Coin features her portrait on the obverse, designed by Donna Weaver. The reverse of the coin features a scene of Julia Dent and Ulysses S. Grant riding on horseback at her family’s plantation. This was designed by Richard Masters.

The CFA had supported the chosen obverse design, but was not satisfied with any of the reverse design candidates and made no recommendation. The CCAC did not make a recommendation for any of the provided obverse or reverse designs at their first meeting. In this case, the US Mint did not provide a second batch of candidates for the November meeting.


The Lucy Hayes First Spouse Gold Coin includes the First Lady’s portrait on the obverse and a scene of the first White House Easter Egg Roll on the reverse. The obverse is designed by Susan Gamble, while the reverse is designed by Barbara Fox.

Both the CCAC and CFA had recommended the selected obverse and reverse designs. The reverse design was one of those included within the second batch of candidates reviewed in November.


The 2011 Lucretia Garfield First Spouse Gold Coin will be the last release of the series for the year. Her portrait appears on the obverse, designed by Barbara Fox, with a scene of her painting on the reverse, designed by Michael Gaudioso.

Both the CFA and CCAC had recommended a different obverse design, although both had supported the selected reverse design. The CFA did make a recommendation that the reverse design should be simplified by removing some background elements. The US Mint did act on this recommendation by eliminating the windows, drapery, and furniture that were originally present in the design.

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