Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Thursday, March 5, 2009

First Spouse Gold Coin Sales Figures

It's been some time since I examined the most recent sales figures and mintages for the First Spouse Gold Coins. For some collectors, this series has moved off the radar, but it might be time to give the series a second look.

The First Spouse Gold Coin series initially started off strong. The first three coins sold out within less than one day and secondary market prices for the coins spiked. Subsequent releases did not generate the same amount of interest and the premiums for the first three coins quickly receded. Starting with the fourth release, the First Spouse Coins have showed a pattern of declining sales figures, which briefly broken by Andrew Jackson's Liberty First Spouse Gold Coin.

The latest sales figures for all releases are presented below. The coins which are still on sale are shown in italics.

Unc Proof
Martha Washington 20,000 20,000
Abigail Adams 20,000 20,000
Jefferson's Liberty 20,000 20,000
Dolley Madison 12,541 18,355
Elizabeth Monroe 4,519 7,933
Louisa Adams 3,215 5,749
Jackson's Liberty 3,519 6,180
Van Buren's Liberty 2,773 5,078

The US Mint has stated that they will produce and sell each First Spouse Gold Coin until the coins have sold out or for approximately one year from the release date. In practice, it seems like the US Mint is removing the oldest coin as new coins are released. Most recently, when the Martin Van Buren's Liberty coin was released, sales of the Dolley Madison coin ended.

Today the US Mint will release the Anna Harrison First Spouse Coin. To coincide with the new release, they will likely stop selling the Elizabeth Monroe coins. The coins initially went on sale February 28, 2008, so it will be just over a year. Baring a sales surge in the closing days, the Elizabeth Monroe Uncirculated Coin seems likely to have mintage of less than 5,000.

I can't recall any modern gold coin with a mintage this low. The closest is the 1997-W Uncirculated Jackie Robinson Gold Commemorative which had a mintage of 5,174. This coin currently sells for a considerable premium. Will the low mintage give collectors a newfound appreciation for the Elizabeth Monroe First Spouse Gold Coin?

It's possible, but I would add the caveat that mintages below 5,000 might actually become commonplace for the First Spouse series. Each of the uncirculated versions of the coins currently for sale remain below this level. Looking ahead, the 2009 releases might end up with even lower mintages. The coins feature relatively lesser known figures, the price of gold remains high, and there seems to be very little collector interest in the series. This will be an interesting situation to watch as the series progresses.

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At March 5, 2009 at 8:25 AM , Blogger limalo said...

The Mint shot itself in the foot with this series with the initial Martha Washington coin. When the Martha Washington was released, there was no per person limit on purchases. This meant that the big dealers and the few insiders who knew when the first day was were the only ones who were able to get the first coin in the series. Once people realized they could not get the first of the series, they lost interest in the whole series because they could never get the complete set at the opening price.

Later coins were offered with a per person limit which limited how many the big dealers and insiders could purchase. This limited sales on coins after the first three.

Had the per person limit been in effect on the Washington coin, many more collectors would have been able to start the series. This would have resulted in more people trying to build the complete collection and would have resulted in more coins being sold as new coins were released.

I am actually an example of this. I was able to purchase the John Adams spouse coin and the Jefferson's liberty coin. When I realized I had lost out on my Martha Washington coin because others were allowed to order larger numbers of them, I decided I would no longer purchase the series. I then used my limited gold purchase funds for bullion coins or other interesting coins rather than the First Spouse series. I believe there may be other people who felt the same way.

Incidentally, I entered an order for the Martha Washington coin as early as the second day it was offered. It was initially showing as backordered but it eventually was cancelled by the Mint as the coin was sold out. Had there been a limit on the number people could order initially, there would have been enough to fill my order. This experience soured me on the series once I realized what had happened.

I think if the Mint wanted to rekindle interest in this series, they should offer an additional number of the Martha Washington coins for sale with a strict per person limit. This would allow people to get the initial coin and spark interest in trying to complete the series.

Of course, this is just a theory of mine based on my own experience. There may be no validity to this theory at all.

At March 5, 2009 at 9:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It may also be that the "First Spouse" is just not a popular topic. It would be helpful to the series if we could attract many more female numismatistas. The average coin collector is male with a primary motive of profit, not commemorative sentiments and emotions.

At March 5, 2009 at 9:07 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been collecting the uncirculated set since the begining. I think at first the flippers are what turned off buyers. I still would like to know the real number of coins that are out there for the Jefferson gold coins. I believe one company melted a bunch of them when gold hit above a $1000. I think the economy has delt this series a blow and the huge mark-up. In the begining the mark-up was less above the spot price of gold.

David T

At March 5, 2009 at 11:05 AM , Blogger limalo said...

The First Spouse series is sort of reminiscent of the Mint's Arts Medallion Gold Bullion series from 1980 to 1984. That series never quite sparked the interest of the public like it looked like it might at the beginning. Many more of the early ones were sold than the later ones. By the end of the series, there were some that sold less than 40,000 coins as opposed to 400,000 or more for the early ones.

As David T. suggests for Jefferson's Liberty, many of the coins (medallions) of the Art Series were melted down as gold reached prices that far exceeded the initial prices of the coins. The remaining numbers of the Arts Medallion series are far less in some cases than the numbers that were sold by the Mint. This could also be the case for some of the First Spouse coins, especially those that were sold early at lower prices. It would be interesting to know what the existing population of each coin is.

At March 5, 2009 at 11:09 AM , Blogger Michael said...

Regarding the melting- in March 2008, CW ran an article that stating SilverTowne melted between 5,000 and 7,000 Martha Washington and Louisa Adams plus an "unspecified" number of Thomas Jefferson.

So potentially a single firm removed perhaps 10% of the mintage. On top of that, there must have been others.

At March 5, 2009 at 11:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>I think if the Mint wanted to rekindle interest in this series, they should offer an additional number of the Martha Washington coins for sale with a strict per person limit. This would allow people to get the initial coin and spark interest in trying to complete the series.<<

Several Martha Washington coins are available on eBay at a considerable discount to what the Mint is charging for current First Spouse coins.

At March 5, 2009 at 11:33 AM , Anonymous Brad said...

As far as what "limalo" said about collectors basically being "shut-out" of getting a collection of the series started by the quick sell-out of the Martha Washington coin to speculators (despite what he said, there WAS a limit of 5 coins each, Proof and Unc, per household), I don't really think that has any bearing on the series' current lack of popularity. While that was likely true to some extent in the beginning, both the Martha Washington and Abigail Adams coins could even recently be had at or near the original U.S. Mint sales price on eBay. Even now, all of the sold out First Spouse coins can be bought on eBay for less than the current U.S. Mint price level for those coins that are still on sale. The fact that a large number of the first three coins were sold mostly to those who had no real interest in them, but rather only wanted to make a quick profit, is the only reason there were 20,000 of each finish sold in the first place.

It's true that several thousand of the early First Spouse designs were melted in the spring of 2008, but no one knows for sure how many of each design no longer exist. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of those coins available on eBay though, so it appears that it hasn't had an impact as yet.

However, the Elizabeth Monroe coin did indeed go off-sale today, locking in the paltry sales figures it has posted over the past year. Because of that, no matter how many of the later designs might be sold, there can only be as many complete sets of the entire series assembled as the Monroe coins will allow. It appears extremely likely that Louisa Adams will post a new mintage low for the series when it goes off sale in around three more months, but my guess is that the two Liberty designs will eventually pass both Monroe and Adams in sales levels.

2009 is shaping up to be a paltry sales year for the First Spouse coins. The high gold spot price (combined with the fact that there are FIVE coins this year instead of the usual four) looks extremely likely to keep sales very low.

While it's true that currently the series is not that popular, one thing to keep in mind is that it tends to be human nature to be a completist. This is a long series of coins, and future collectors will probably like to have the complete set, despite the fact that some of the spouses are virtually unknown. Because of the low supply of some coins (and the fact that the set can't be complete without them), there is bound to be some fighting over the miniscule supply in years to come.

At March 5, 2009 at 12:20 PM , Anonymous Ben said...

I can't believe how easily limalo was discouraged from buying the First Spouse series after being shut out by the hysteria over the Martha Washington issue. I tried to order the first coin on the first day and after being shut out by the Mint's notoriously problematic website, I gave up on it.

So I watched the prices on eBay and after a while, predictably, the prices plunged and I picked up the coins I needed at reasonable prices. If you go to eBay right now and search for “Martha, Spouse” you’ll find over 50 opportunities to order the first coin in the series.

Now that a person can buy the coins from the Mint without the single-coin order limits, I’ve built a pair of complete NGC graded sets, MS70 and PF70.

The Mint would be insane to come out with a new offering of Martha Washington coins. The mintage limit was reached. If they ignore that then they’ll loose what little (if any) public trust they have left. The limit was set, the coins were sold, now the coins are available in the secondary market at not much over melt value.

At March 5, 2009 at 12:28 PM , Anonymous Ben said...

"In practice, it seems like the US Mint is removing the oldest coin as new coins are released."

Looking at the Mint website today, Anna Harrison has been added and Elizabeth Monroe is no longer available.

At March 5, 2009 at 5:21 PM , Anonymous Keith said...

My gut feeling is that these coins will act more like bullion and trade with spot prices rather than true collectible pieces.

I think that very few people are going to have the resources to obtain a complete set. Especially since the Mint charges nearly double what the coin is worth by the time they add the unnecessary "special collectible" wooden box and tag the collector for at least 15% profit on top of all that.

The set might have had a better chance if legislation had called for a 1/4 ounce coin rather than the 1/2 ounce coin. The 1/4 ounce is more affordable and commemorative coin collectors are more familiar with this size of coin.

Lastly, I love this series, because the Mint is mandated to make it, no matter what. In both proof and uncirculated, no matter what. The Mint has had the authority to produce 99.99% pure gold coins for over a decade, but refused to make them. After much prodding by Congress to no avail, Congress finally mandated the $50 Buffalo and the First Spouse series.

At March 5, 2009 at 5:47 PM , Blogger limalo said...

Thanks to Brad, Ben, and Anonymous for the advice about obtaining the early First Spouse coins on eBay. I'll be sure to check it out.

Apparently, I was wrong about the limits on the initial sales. From what I gather, the limit was five originally, then it became one, and now either 10 or no limit depending on who you believe.

Anyway, thanks for the lead on the possibility of getting coins on eBay.

At March 5, 2009 at 6:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

An Uncirculated Elizabeth Monroe gold coin sold for $711.01 on eBay today. It didn't take long after the coin went off-sale at the Mint for it to go for a premium.

If these coins continue to go for a greater premium now, that could spur sales for the remaining 2008 coins. However, if too many more of those sell at the Mint, then the Louisa Adams and Liberty's will be robbed of what made the Monroe more collectible: Low mintage!

At March 5, 2009 at 7:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I was fretting on getting my UHR eagle (which is still in process and I ordered during the 1st 2hrs) I ordered a Jacksons liberty (the next coin I needed)and although it should be available it still hasnt shipped. the bank held the amount for awhile then it dropped off the radar and the Jacksons liberty is still in process. I cancelled when the price reduced then ordered again at the lower price. Guess the Mint is bottle-necked in the packaging and shipping process that results in the delays. they need more manpower or OT.
The spouses will be the forgotten collection that will be avoided by either cost or lost interest, but in the long run...

At March 6, 2009 at 3:04 AM , Anonymous The Yankee said...

I'm thinking that the Mint should have more closely integrated the Spouse Medals with the Presidential coins hence creating a much larger set once completed. Maybe even had some sets where each Prez & his Spouse were presented in some sort of box or something?

For this reason I purchase the "Bronze" editions. In theory it just might be a good addition to the completed Prez series (not to mention I can't afford the Gold versions).

This might be something to consider if you're collecting these medals in any of the mediums offered. It could be one of those "Sleeper" sets. Never know.

~The Yankee~

At March 7, 2009 at 8:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I am wondering if this series is going to end up being the only gold fractionals available from the mint be cause of the high demand and low availability of blanks? I am new to coin collecting and have been reading a fair amount about this and simply wonder of this possibility.
Thanks for all of the good information!

At March 14, 2009 at 8:23 AM , Blogger ctnaz said...

These will be the only fractional gold coins for the immediate future. I wish I could afford both the proof and uncirculated versions, but money has limited me to just one. So I opted for the proofs since I just like their appearance more. That being said, the lower mintages of the uncirculated versions sill will likely make them more valuable down the road.

2009 may result in even lower sales due to the economy, the high price of gold, the fact that there will be five new releases rather than the normal four, and many collectors are spending $1200 or more on the UHR $20 gold piece. My gut feeling is that you can't really go too wrong purchasing these coins. As the economy gets back towards normal, the US will likely see inflation and that along with greater demand for gold in India and China, could push gold towards $1500 per ounce. This is, of coarse, is only speculation, but there are a number of analysts that are forecasting this scenerio.

As for the coins presently available, both the Jackson and Van Buren Liberties are beautiful coins. I will be tracking the LME fix gold prices for future purchases trying to aquire future gold coins at cheaper prices.

At March 20, 2009 at 11:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to a dealer to buy some gold coins for investment only. He had 4 Adams and 1 Washington that he sold me for the current gold price of 1050 ounce. Did I get lucky or is that about the current value.

At March 21, 2009 at 4:13 AM , Blogger Michael said...

That's about what they're going for, but it's a good way to acquire gold.

At March 22, 2009 at 10:22 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep an eye on the gold price. The first spouse gold coins may be "reasonable" if the market gold price continues to climb. With the gov't printing so much money they can only manipulate gold prices for so long before inflation and worldwide demand take over. The spouse coins are not my favorites but its the only collectable gold from the mint for now and possibly the year if the economy continues to go to crap. It wouldn't suprise me if they end up suspending the spouse gold coins in the near future.


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