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Time's up for First Spouse?

It is two weeks until the third First Spouse gold coin becomes available. Because President Thomas Jefferson was a widower while in office, the place will be taken by a design that shows the image of Liberty as she appeared on the half cents of 1800-1808. The reverse shows the memorial obelisk to Jefferson that he himself designed with an inscription that he wrote that stands at the Monticello estate that was his home.

It is a pleasing design. Collectors who enjoyed the return of the Buffalo nickel on a commemorative, Saint-Gaudens’ Liberty on the American Eagle gold bullion coins and A.A. Weinman’s Liberty on silver American Eagles should also be pleased with the return of this design.

None of this will probably be on the minds of would-be buyers. Crowding out thoughts of design and history will be the memory that the First Spouse coins for Martha Washington and Abigail Adams sold out their 40,000 mintages in two hours. This will assure that there will be a large audience agonizing whether to buy or not buy.

There is something compelling about sellouts. However, they end. This offering might stay on the market a little longer as order limits get reduced.

When I checked the action on eBay for the sold-out First Spouse coins I found a relative abundance of coins and a fairly dull market.

Slabbed coins, MS-69 or Proof-69 one and all, seem to be trading for about 50 percent more than issue price. This is a nice profit for someone who bought the coins from the Mint and had them slabbed, but not a barn burner.

We don’t even know what the issue price will be yet. Will it be higher? Probably. Will it be a lot higher? Probably not.

The other consideration is that the excitement of a first issue is gone. Despite what some have e-mailed to me, I find it hard to believe that there are 20,000 collectors who will consistently spend almost $900 to get the proof and uncirculated versions of the coins and assemble the set that will number around 40. That’s $36,000 just at issue price. I don’t see it happening. It is simply a question of when the sellouts cease.

Certainly if the Mint raises the mintage totals in 2008, that too will be a contributing factor.

Will the Jefferson First Spouse coin sell out? It is possible, but I would rather plan an exit strategy with these coins than an entry strategy.