Favorite Everhart medal and coin designs, part 4: The Dolley Madison First Spouse gold coin

Part 4 in a five-part series. Click here to read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 5.

Don Everhart, the United States Mint’s senior sculptor-engraver, retired from his position in Philadelphia last week. This week I’m exploring some of my favorite Everhart medal and coin designs and engravings. On Tuesday I showed the 2006 State quarter for Nevada; on Wednesday, the 2009 Women Airforce Service Pilots medal; on Thursday, the Statue of Liberty reverse of the Presidential dollar series. Today: two First Ladies in gold.

The Dolley Madison First Spouse Gold Coin, 2007

For my book American Gold and Silver: U.S. Mint Collector and Investor Coins and Medals, Bicentennial to Date, I studied every coin of the Mint’s First Spouse gold bullion series. These were coins struck in 24-karat (.9999 fine) gold, weighing one-half ounce each. They honor the nation’s First Ladies as a companion series to the Presidential dollars minted from 2007 to 2016. Each features a portrait on the obverse, and on the reverse a unique design symbolic of the First Lady’s life and work. (In instances where a president held office unmarried or widowed, the coin bears “an obverse image emblematic of Liberty as depicted on a circulating coin of that era and a reverse image emblematic of themes of that president’s life”).

Two coins stand out as examples of Don Everhart’s work in this particular program: the 2007 Dolley Madison, for which he designed the obverse and sculpted the reverse; and the 2013 Ellen Wilson reverse.

In American Gold and Silver, I described the Dolley Madison coin:

The fourth and final First Spouse coin of 2007 returned to real-life portraiture with a gently smiling visage of Dolley Madison on the obverse, and an artful full-body standing portrait on the reverse. The latter captures the First Lady in the midst of saving the executive mansion’s Cabinet papers and the famous Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington from seizure by advancing British troops in August 1814. Collectors remarked on the attractiveness of the reverse tableau.

2007 Dolley Madison First Spouse gold coin. (Hover to zoom.)

As the First Spouse series and other U.S. Mint programs continued, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee increasingly pushed for symbolic rather than pictorial coinage designs. The idea was to move away from “pictures or photographs on coins” and into the realm of artistic allegory. Even though Joel Iskowitz’s reverse design is in the “picture on a coin” category, it succeeds not least of all because of the rich, wonderful texture and sculptural depth imparted in Don Everhart’s engraving. Dolley Madison’s hair, her clothing, the painting of George Washington—Everhart captured every detail. The nuances are particularly visible in the Uncirculated version of the coin.

For the 2013 Ellen Wilson coin, I wrote the following in American Gold and Silver (excerpted):

Ellen Louise Axson was born in Savannah, Georgia, to a Presbyterian pastor and his wife, a teacher. Both of her grandfathers also were Presbyterian ministers. In her infancy she was moved from city to city because of the dangers of living in the Southern battle zone during the Civil War. Her mother died shortly before Ellen’s 23rd birthday, and a young Atlanta lawyer named Thomas Woodrow Wilson (the son of one of her father’s longtime friends) noticed her at the funeral service. They became engaged while she cared for her ailing father and Woodrow continued his postgraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University. They would marry in 1885 and then move to Pennsylvania after he was offered a teaching position at Bryn Mawr College. Ellen assisted her husband in his academic research while raising their three daughters. (For their first two children, Ellen returned to her native Georgia to give birth, lightheartedly insisting that they wouldn’t be born Yankees.)

In 1890 the family entered a new stage in Princeton, New Jersey, as Woodrow began a distinguished professorship and in 1902 was promoted to president of Princeton University. Ellen was active in the academic social scene, formed a local women’s organization, restored the university president’s mansion, and entertained luminaries such as businessman J.P. Morgan, former U.S. president Grover Cleveland, writer Mark Twain, and educator Booker T. Washington. [excerpt continued below]

2013 Ellen Wilson First Spouse gold coin reverse. (Hover to zoom.)

Woodrow Wilson transitioned from academe into public service, ultimately winning the U.S. presidency in the election of 1912. As First Lady, Ellen’s style was simple but welcoming, and she maintained a rigorous schedule of entertaining. The Wilsons did not hold an inaugural ball (an unnecessary and wasteful expense, she felt), but two of their daughters would later be married in the White House. Ellen pursued her longtime hobbies of sketching and painting. She set up a studio on the executive mansion’s third floor and gave many of her creations to charitable organizations. She personally and publically supported the improvement of housing for poor Washingtonians, many of them black, in the capital city’s slums. Closer to the presidential home, Ellen created the first White House Rose Garden—an accomplishment remembered on the reverse of her First Spouse gold coin. Designed and sculpted in fine detail by Don Everhart, the reverse shows a bloom of roses in the foreground with the presidential mansion in the back. The portrait of Ellen Wilson, envisioned by AIP artist Frank Morris and sculpted by Charles Vickers, is stately, dignified, and somewhat homespun. Ellen was not extravagant; as First Lady she spent less than $1,000 per year on clothing. “I am naturally the most unambitious of women and life in the White House has no attractions for me,” she said. She was only 54 years old when she died of kidney disease, not halfway through her husband’s first term as president—the third First Lady to die in the White House, after Letitia Tyler (1842) and Caroline Harrison (1892).

As with the 2007 Dolley Madison gold coin, the reverse of the 2013 Ellen Wilson showcases Don Everhart’s gift for creating exquisitely fine detail on a small canvas. Remember that these coins are only 26.5 mm in diameter—not much bigger than a quarter dollar!

Click here to read part 5, the conclusion to the series.

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  1. Louis Golino says

    Breaking News for Joe!: The RAM is apparently releasing the Northern Sky gold coin next week, according to my deep undercover sources at the ANA in Denver!!

  2. Daveswfl says

    Breaking news – for only $50 extra you, too, can have three NGC stickers applied to a $29.95 clad enhanced set. Now that’s what I call LAZY – they aren’t even cracking them out – all you get is a gem rating. Wow!

  3. Erik H says

    On topic, I do enjoy Don Everhart’s Liberty on the presidential dollar coins. Thanks Dennis for these last few articles.

  4. LurkingTroll says

    OnTopic: congrats to DE on his retirement & thanks to DT for highlighting some of my favorites – the FS & Presidential $ reverses…
    DE has some great work on USM coinage, but the bomb work rests with PH…
    Phoebe Rocks!

    on thread(s) topic: my E_Unc order from Tuesday (ordered with some other low mintage wonders of the clad variety) had shipping label created Wednesday but has yet to be placed in hands of shipper…
    Anyone else in this mired boat?

  5. Dennis Tucker says

    🙂 Enjoy!

    In the fifth and final article (which could easily be extended to another 50 or 100), I’ll show one more medal and one more coin from Don Everhart’s portfolio.

    The ANA show has been great this year. Lots going on in the world of numismatics. (And yes, the Enhanced Uncirculated sets have caused a lot of conversation. . . .)

  6. Joe M. says

    @ Louis Golino
    Which Joe 😉
    I know it wasn’t me, but hey, I love the cosmos/science…and I’m a collector.

  7. VA Bob says

    The enhanced sets have been up for over a half hour. Appears the Mint was hyping its product last Tuesday. I hope the flippers got their flip cash in hand, otherwise you’ve been had by the Mint. Very clever of them to empty their warehouse of this clad junk quickly in this manner. Greed is a great motivator. Looks like the Mint is learning, at least on this offering, exactly who their ‘customer’ is.

  8. VA Bob says

    Enhanced Annual Mint Set still for sale at the Mint for almost an hour now. Some ‘two minute’ sellout we had there last Tuesday. I guess everyone got their almost $50 set from eBay, so why pay the $29.95 + shipping from the Mint? NGC and PCGS should make a special label, “Paid Top Dollar For On Ebay, Then Gouged By Us”. That would be the most honest label they could issue for a modern coin in the last 35 years.

  9. cagcrisp says

    @VA Bob, You must not read comments very often. The 225 EU sets have been available from the Mint for Over 48 hours…

  10. KCSO says

    And still available.., probably thru 2018!

    Time is running out on this one –

    American Eagle 20th Anniversary Platinum Proof Coin

    – 71 Item(s) In Stock

  11. cagcrisp says

    @KCSO, IF there is Truly only 71 Available that means the Mint didn’t produce all 10K..

  12. KCSO says

    QUICK! Let’s run over to buy the last ones before we get stampeded by the herd of ‘new low’ chaser and flippers that are soon to follow! Buy, Buy, Buy!

    Reminds me of an episode of South Park in which Kenny gets ran over, again,

  13. KCSO says

    Jerry & VA Bob – I enjoyed your past posts over the two past threads, it had me nodding my head and chuckling.

    Goat – thanks for the compliment, I do appreciate. I meant to respond though just havne’t had the opportunity, most of what I post anymore is probably perceived as controversial, my my object is to generate some thought/discussion, and help teach a few newbies to learn how to fish (e.g., be smart with their money). Good luck to you Sir! And no, I’ve pulled way back, though do buy some way over priced Ag for my collection and buy Au to maintain two committed series collections that will run a few years.

  14. Larry says

    With the pictures of next years quarters up on the Mint’s website, I find it strange it has not been discussed on this blog (unless I missed something). Seems if you like birds, next year is your year. I like the Pictured Rocks and Apostle Island. Those may be good looking 5ozer’s. At least they look better than this years offerings. This is the first year I will pass on any pucks.

  15. VA Bob says

    cagcrisp you are right I don’t read the comments here much anymore, nor do I have the time or inclination to go back and look at what was previously written. However; it just makes everything I wrote all the more poignant. There are still sellers on eBay claiming these sold out in 10 minutes, and apparently still suckers buying. I happened to see the set on sale this morning and recalled some collectors disappointment on release day. so I thought I’d pass that on. Why get gouged twice. I personally don’t care for the direction the hobby is headed, and most of the current banter here in the last few years, just reinforces that perception for me. Your mileage may vary. My sincere apologizes to anyone that had to suffer through repeated information. There are a lot of good people commenting on the blog that have an interest in coins beyond what they can get for them in paper.

  16. LurkingTroll says

    Correction to prior post:
    Phebe Rocks! …apologies to Ms. Hemphill
    And just to reiterate; thanks to Mr. Everhart for his contributions to some beautiful US coinage and medals!
    Interesting to note that both DE & PH cut their teeth, albeit at different times, at the Franklin Mint.

  17. Old Big Bird says

    Just received my 10 sets of the 225’s. They look really nice especially the reverse of the quarter.
    A little like a reverse proof. Very pleasing to the eye

  18. VA Bob says

    KCSO – Thanks. I check in now and then. I kind of miss the days when the coins were discussed more than they are now. IMO it’s more of a dealer resource now. I really don’t have a problem with folks making money on a coin, but when someone steps on someone else to make a fast buck, it’s a bit of a turn off. Coin dealers, hey that’s their livelihood, but speculation buying for resale distorts the true demand and hurts everyone except the one that took the money and ran. If I were to sell, I’d feel much better about myself sell something that has a relatively known intrinsic value, without leaving the buyer feeling like they were ripped off a month down the road.

    I do have to say that irregular visits here have saved me loads of cash. You guys must be a bad influence 😉 .

  19. VA Bob says

    LurkingTroll – That’s not surprising at all. The Franklin Mint does/did occasionally put out some nice stuff. I believe it’s their pricing and sales tactics that give them a spotty reputation. Their wide range of different ‘collectables’ may put others off. They have had things that appreciate over time and are sought after. Can’t say I own any of it, but I’ve seen some of their medals that blow away the designs the Mint puts out. They do seem to have a capable quality control. Wish I could say the same consistently, for our Mint.

  20. VA Bob says

    Old Big Bird – you did well then. I’m sure now that hype monster on this issue, is back in its cave, the Mint will be getting a lot of returns. Of those, I’m sure, the best were cherry picked. The Mint, for the most part with a few exceptions, does a good job with these multi lens Mint sets.

  21. says

    I see good things happening with this fantastic 😉EU Set. It was a high mintage to start with ( in my humble opinion) . Then it ” sells out ” in 8 minutes 🤔? Funny things happen at the ANA and the other venues as far as large sales. Then it “reappears” online and it’s still on sale after 4 days? Sounds like a scam by a US Government unit, to me.

    Are the good Coin Collecting Citizens of the USA going to accept continued abuse by the US Mint?

    Probably. As a wise man once said, there a sucker born every minute.


  22. Donnie says

    Perhaps the Mint quietly changed its strategy and, in an effort to satisfy collectors and thwart flippers, is now minting these EU sets to demand.

  23. VA Bob says

    Donnie, while I sometimes wish the Mint had some empathy for collectors these days, the truth is they couldn’t care less who buys, as long as they buy. Nor is it their responsibility to care beyond the writing of the coin programs guidance.

    I don’t believe they will increase the mintage. 250K is too many for a product that will be largely forgotten in a year or two. Perhaps those that collect finishes as a variation are excited, but how many collectors fall into this category? If Whitman and other coin folder companies make a hole for the enhanced cent, nickel, and dime, that would be a plus for this sets future. I’m not sure if they did anything special for the six year ‘satin’ finish run or not. A fairly reasonable rule of thumb when it comes to non-circulating, collectable coins is anything over 100k mintage is not rare (some may go lower, some higher). Manufactured rarities and hyped sellouts don’t count IMO.

  24. earthling says

    Hmmm lets see

    CENT – .01
    NICKEL – .05
    DIME – .10
    QUARTERS X 5 – 1.25
    HALF – .50
    DOLLAR – 1.00

    FACE VALUE – $2.91

    Intrinsic metal value – not much – maybe $0.45 ?

    So how soon will we see this $29.95 set at Flea Markets, Yard Sales, etc for $5 or $10 ? Depends on an economic crash I guess – maybe 5 years? If it has become MTD as Donnie suggests above, it could happen in a couple years. Everyone is so into Wall Street and Crytocurrencies lately that Coin ” Collecting ” seems to be on a steady plunge from the sky.

    Crash and Burn. Crash and Burn.

  25. Gary says

    Don Everhart is one of my favorite designer/sculptors. He has made a tremendous contribution with the work he produced for the U.S. Mint

    I wish him well in the future at pursuing new artistic endeavors!

  26. gatortreke says

    First, thanks for these articles Dennis It’s good to highlight the work of an artist we’ve all come to know in some way by his art. It must be some sort of thrill to be such an artist and to get your work back to you in change.

    I received my Enhanced Uncirculated sets today. I ordered five, one which I kept, one bought by my coin buddy and the remaining 3 I sold to a dealer at a coin show today for $35 each. I didn’t have to do much to make the $10 ($15 minus the Mint’s $4.95 shipping). The set is different than I expected, much more reverse proof like than other enhanced coins the Mint has produced. I compared this half to the enhanced silver half made for the 2014 Kennedy set and the two coins are totally different. The enhanced in the 2014 set is very minimally emphasized but not so in this 2017 set.

    I now have a number of coins made by the USM using the enhanced technique and I have to say the one I like the best is still the first one, the enhanced Silver Eagle made for the 2013 West Point set. That said, I do like this set so I’m glad to have one for my collection.

  27. earthling says

    There are only 63 of the 2017 APT ( American Platinum Turkey) Coins left at the US Mint. Of course if do do sell out and anyone weeps publicly, rest assured, they will return for another round of adventure.

    I did put 100 of the 2017 EU Sets into my basket just to see if they are close to a 2nd ” Sellout”. Great News Coin Fans – they are still available for now. By my guesstimate there’s at least 15,000 still available. If I’m wrong and they do sell out…… again…. don’t get all uptight. Chances are excellent they will reappear for a go at their 3rd Sellout of the season.

    Life is good for fans of the US Mint.


  28. A Different Jeff says

    Since the EU set ‘sold out’ in 3 minutes on Tuesday, I resorted to eBay, but the prices were ridiculously high. Thanks to eBay’s AI mechanisms, I got an email to the effect that one of the items I had been looking at had been reduced from truly ridiculous (&69.95) to merely ridiculous ($44.95, plus $5 off for 2 or more purchased). This prompted a visit and I found and ordered a set for “only” $39.95 This was Thursday evening. So I ordered, but wondered why prices had dropped as much as they had. So back to the mint’s site, and lo and behold, they’re back in stock. Remembering back to the first EU NA dollar issue, which popped back in stock, I ordered 2 sets with some other sets and canceled the eBay order. These are now on their way.
    Presuming from the tone of the comments, maybe the mint had a few sets not clear ordering hurdles which is why I was able to order. The current availability may come from sets at the ANA show which were shipped there but not sold. We’ll see on Tuesday whether this is truly a sold out issue ( or close to) or if there have been massive returns or cancelations.
    In any case, I now have mine.

  29. A Different Jeff says

    Looking ahead, to stop this nonsense with the flippers, I think it would make a lot of sense to put a HHL of 1 on any issue for the first 30 days. This would reduce the impact of the flippers and go a long way to get rid of the meaningless First Strike label. Those who want the issue would be able to get them, and the flippers would be left to ponder whether there was sufficient additional market.

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