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Now I have met one

Up until the Chicago International Coin Fair this past weekend, I had never met any hobbyist who said he was collecting a complete set of First Spouse gold coins.

When all is said and done, there will be 40 uncirculated pieces and 40 proofs.

The total of 80 coins, each containing one-half troy ounce of gold, puts a set out of reach of the average collector.

Melt value alone now is $625 each if we use the round number of the current price of gold as $1,250. A full set therefore has a melt value of $50,000.

If you picked just the uncirculated pieces or just the proof versions, melt value would be $25,000.

Nancy Reagan has yet to be released, but I will include the coin in the set for the sake of completeness.

If you value the coins at current issue price, the gross number is far higher.

The proof Betty Ford coin is $815 on the U.S. Mint website while the uncirculated is $795. If we apply those prices to the full set, we get a total value of $64,400.

Of course, gold has been cheaper and it has been more expensive than today's $1,250 an ounce since the series commenced in 2007.

Mintages, which began at 20,000 for each version in 2007 have been getting progressively lower as the burden of the cost has pushed out more and more collectors.

Recent issues have been running at a tenth of the beginning sales numbers – and it is precisely this fact that has kept the collector I met at CICF on track to finish his set.

Will collectors of the future consider the First Spouse set as so much gold bullion, or will an uncirculated piece with a mintage of 1,800 or so be considered scarce enough to command a significant premium? That is the key question.

I know what the collector thinks.

It is the appeal of numismatics that no one can know all things. Individuals act on their own judgment and instincts.

Would you rather have a Lou Hoover uncirculated First Spouse coin with a mintage of 1,858, or a gold Mercury dime with a mintage of 125,000?

A good collector can argue the case for both of these affirmatively or negatively based solely on those mintage numbers.

The ultimate point of it all is to be as happy about your collecting decisions as the collector I talked to at CICF. He was clearly pleased with the First Spouse set.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."