Today at 12:00 Noon ET, the US Mint will begin sales of the Eliza Johnson First Spouse Gold Coins. This release honors the spouse of the 17th President of the United States.
The obverse design features a portrait of Eliza Johnson designed by Joel Iskowitz. The inscriptions include her name, order and dates of the Presidential term, “In God We Trust”, “Liberty”, the date and mint mark.
On the reverse is a scene from a children’s ball organized by Eliza Johnson for her husband’s 60th birthday. The image includes three children dancing and a Marine band fiddler playing. The reverse inscriptions indicate the legal tender face value, weight and fineness of the gold content, “United States of America”, and “E Pluribus Unum”. The reverse was designed by Gary Whitley.
The US Mint has set a maximum mintage of 15,000 coins across both proof and uncirculated versions. This is the same level that was used for last year’s issues, except for the Mary Todd Lincoln coin, which was limited to 20,000. There have been no First Spouse Gold Coins to reach the maximum mintage since the first year of the series in 2007.
Pricing has been set at $929.00 for the proof version and $916.00 for the uncirculated version. This is based on an average gold price within the $1,500 to $1,549.99 range. Pricing may be adjusted weekly based on changes in the gold price. There are no household ordering limits in place for the release.
Along with the 2011-W Uncirculated Gold Eagle being released today, this will be another interesting coin to watch. There are a number of factors that will possibly lead to low sales and low mintages.
The Eliza Johnson First Spouse Gold Coin is being released after a two month delay. Providing a similar delay is not experienced for the first 2012 issue, this should shorten the period of availability for collectors. If an earlier sell out does not occur, the US Mint generally ends sales to coincide with the release of the corresponding issue in following year.
Initial pricing for the coins will be the highest on record, with an increase of $75 from the last release. The escalating cost of the series may cause attrition to the collector base.
Lastly, many collectors have expressed negative opinions about the design. This is the first reverse design for the series that does not include an image of the spouse (with the exception of the Liberty subset coins issued for Presidents who served in office without a spouse). Holding a children’s ball was also less historically significant than some of the other things Eliza Johnson did in her life. The US Mint clearly struggled with the designs for this particular coin and had to create a second set of design candidates, after criticism of the first design set for historical inaccuracies.
In general, the First Spouse Gold Coins that have performed best on the secondary market have had both low mintages and designs which collectors find pleasing. There seems to be a small but dedicated following for the entire series, but additional demand and higher prices for particular issues that meet these criteria.
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