The First Spouse Gold Coins have been a notable absence from the United States Mint’s numismatic product line up for this year. Back in April, the US Mint announced the design selections for the 2012 issues featuring Alice Paul Suffragist, Frances Cleveland (First Term), Caroline Harrison, and Frances Cleveland (Second Term). Following the announcement, no further information was provided about the coins, which led to some speculation about the future of the program.
I have recently been able to obtain statements from the United States Mint on the status of this year’s releases. Earlier this week, CoinWorld had published an article citing production problems as the reason for the delay. The statements I received also explained these problems:
Problems striking the Alice Paul and Frances Cleveland (first term) gold coins in the First Spouse Gold Coin Program have delayed release of all four coins in the 2012 series, but all four proof and uncirculated 2012 First Spouse Gold Coins will be struck and issued before the end of the calendar year, though not until production problems are remedied.
Trial strikes for all four of this year’s coins had been conducted at the Philadelphia Mint. Problems were encountered for the first two coins, with difficulty in achieving proper metal flow to fill the design devices and achieve proper surface finish quality. Philadelphia Mint personnel are seeking to address the issues by adjusting striking pressure. Once the problems have been rectified and final trial strikes approved, production will take place at the West Point Mint. The US Mint indicates that the West Point Mint has plenty of capacity to strike all four coins in proof and uncirculated versions once the problems have been cleared.
There are still no release dates established for the 2012 First Spouse Gold Coins. However, based on the statements provided proof and uncirculated versions of all four coins will be struck and issued before the end of the year.
This will clearly make for a more crowded release schedule. For most years of the series, coins had been released with a gap of two or three months between issues. If the 2012 issues can start to be released by September, collectors would be looking at the release of one coin every month.
The US Mint also confirmed that once the problems for the gold coins have been resolved and the coins start to be issued, the bronze medal versions will also be issued. This will include the Presidential $1 Coin & Bronze Medals Sets, as well as the 4 Medal Set.
Each of the four 2012 First Spouse Gold Coins will have a maximum mintage of 13,000 coins across both proof and uncirculated versions. As in the past, the ratio of proof to uncirculated coins will be determined by customer demand.
This represents only a small decline from the 15,0000 maximum mintage level that had been established for the 2011 releases of the series. This maximum mintage had ultimately proved more than double collector demand during the offering period. The Eliza Johnson coin, which has sold out of both the proof and uncirculated versions, recorded total sales of 6,812 across proof and uncirculated versions. The remaining three 2011 releases have combined sales around or below this level, although in each case one version still remains available for sale.