This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Few series in U.S. coinage history have been greeted with greater disdain by the collecting community than what is currently directed to the First Spouse series of $10 gold. Plagued by high initial cost, designs that don’t appeal to the typical collector and poor series cohesion, the First Spouse issues have seen a continuous deterioration in their sales to the point that their mintages are becoming 100-year anomalies in gold.
It might be time to take a second look at these coins.
1. Series go through what the Mint calls an inaugural sales spike when it first comes out and somewhere after the fourth issue or fourth year, sales have a tendency to bottom out. True to form this $10 gold series mintage numbers spiked the first four issues and then proceeded to crash in dramatic fashion.
2. Our friends at the Mint have to plan their planchet usage very closely these days due to limited supplier capacity and they are striking coins based on “anticipated demand.” The thing is the Mint has been seeing Mint State sales for these coins in the 3,000-4,000 range this year and proof sales in the 5,000-6,000 range. It is possible that the last of the four-coin Liberty short set has been short stuck relative to its sales potential. This set is created because four Presidents were either widowed or single while holding office, so the designs of these First Spouse coins is based on a portrait of Liberty used on coins at the time the individual served as President. These Presidents are Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and James Buchanan.
3. Type coins with beautiful or iconic images tend to pick up an avid collector base quickly. The Hawaiian half is not $3,000 because it has a 10,000 mintage. The Hudson, Old Spanish Trail and many other mintmarked commemoratives populate a similar rarity class, but don’t command anything like the Hawaiian’s price.
A more recent example is the $10 gold Buffalo. The Indian and Buffalo designs are considered outstanding by many and its direct similarities to the Buffalo nickel have helped produce a fourfold price jump in two years.
4. The forth and final Liberty issue coming in September is struck on a half- once gold planchet, has a $10 denomination and a beautiful Coronet Head obverse current in the James Buchanan Administration. If you can’t afford the $10,000 price tag on a cameo rroof $10 gold piece struck in the late 1800s then the Buchanan Liberty may be an affordable alternative.
Don’t be shocked if this coin displays completely different behavior than the other generic First Spouse issues after sales close.
5. In a recent Professional Coin Grading Service online survey, the Liberty subset featuring 1800s obverses with Presidential images on the reverse demonstrated dramatically stronger collector interest than the series in general. The good-looking Liberty short set’s potential is largely divorced from the series it inhabits.
Collector base convergence can be an important sign post of future greatness. Large denomination late 1800s Coronet Head cameo proof gold is often referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of American coinage and has a staggering price tag to go with it. Some classic collectors with a limited budget will want a proof Buchanan Liberty. Four-coin Liberty short set collectors will need one as will complete set First Spouse collectors. The potential convergence of multiple collector bases on one coin is a good sign as is the Mint’s recent tendency to strike to anticipated demand.
If you would like a cameo proof $10 Coronet Head Liberty and can afford it, then it might be a good idea to go buy it when it comes on sale and not play an extended waiting game with the Mint. There can be times in life when unnecessary procrastination proves costly.
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