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First Spouse a sleeper series?

Since their inception in 2007, the First Spouse gold coins have had collectors wondering if they are worth investing in.

As far as dealers are concerned, the First Spouse coins are a mixed bag.

“If I buy, I’d hang on to them in my gold inventory,” said Julian Jarvis, owner of Julian Jarvis Coins, Greencastle, Ind.

But Jarvis hasn’t bought many.

“There’s virtually no demand for them,” he said. “They are hard to sell.”

Obverse of the 2009-W Julia Tyler First Spouse proof gold coin

Obverse of the 2009-W Julia Tyler First Spouse proof gold coin

It’s really a series that collectors care more about than the dealers, said John Brush, vice president of David Lawrence Rare Coins, Virginia Beach, Va.

“It’s not a coin that dealers are interested in,” Brush said.

But the collectors who are interested in the series are really dedicated, Brush said.

“It seems the people who are collecting the series started in the beginning and are focused on completing the set,” Brush said. “Collectors, by their nature, are set collectors.”

And it has a cool history, he said.

“No one really focuses on the role of women in U.S. history,” Brush said.

The series may also see interest in investors and speculators looking to hold onto the series for the long-term potential profit.

“It seems to be underrated as far as the mintages go,” Brush said, “It’s probably good for a place in the long term, especially when they have a reasonable premium.”

“I sell a lot of these,” said Ian Russell, owner of Great Collections, Irvine, Calif. “We’ve sold hundreds and hundreds of them in the past six months.”

But the popularity of the First Spouse coins has been affected by a variety of factors including the subject, designs and release schedule.

“The Mint has been releasing them each year all one top of the other when they should release them one each quarter,” Russell said.

And the larger premiums the Mint charged didn’t help sales, Brush said.

“It would have made sense to make this a circulating coin,” he said. “That would have made it more interesting for many people.”

The most desirable First Spouse coins are typically those with a nice design, feature a popular First Spouse or have a very low mintage.

“Both the Lucretia Garfield and Lucy Hayes in Mint State are the lowest mintage,” Russell said, “The Lucy Hayes First Strike in MS-70 goes for several thousand dollars a coin.”

Brush said the popular ones he sees are Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Jackson.

“I think the Jackson took off and was a popular one because he was such a controversial president,” Brush said.

They are really trading in the Mint State and Proof 70 market, Russell said.

“The MS-69s and those in original government packaging trade for typically the same amount,” Russell said, “The Van Buren First Strike PF-70 trades for around $1,600 right now. It was at $2,000 when gold was higher.”

Brush said he saw a “very minuscule” difference between 69s and 70s.

The long-term potential of the First Spouse coins is reliant upon whether there’ll be much of a demand for a series that, up until now, has had little interest.

“I do like the series as a long-term potential due to the mintage,” Brush said.

Asked about the First Strike First Spouse coins, Russell said that First Strike coins were priced “10 percent to double” over the non-First Strike labels in the same grade.

As bullion, the First Spouse is attractive to buyers.

“If you want to buy gold, this is a really good way to buy gold,” Russell said, “I think that if gold decreases, these coins won’t decrease at the same rate. I do recommend this series to collectors. However, do your pricing research.”

Jarvis said he currently can get the First Spouse coins for just a little over melt value.

“If you can get them around bullion price, I’d recommend them” Brush said, “As a bullion coin, its design is attractive and might have a numismatic value in the long term.”

The First Spouse series could see a boost with the release of First Spouses that collectors will remember.

“I think the series needs the release of the more popular president spouses,” Russell said, “I think Jackie Kennedy will be the most popular one,”

Brush wasn’t so sure.

“I would be surprised to see if it takes off,” he said, referring to the Jackie Kennedy First Spouse coin.