Once upon a time, I responded to this question from the Aug. 16 Numismatic News E-Newsletter:
?Do you plan to purchase a gold Thomas Jefferson First Spouse coin??
I replied that I would if I could, but having to be at work that day I would probably miss the opportunity. My response was published in a subsequent issue of Numismatic News. What I did not say at the time was that this was the only First Spouse coin I was interested in. Instead of portraying a first lady, it was to feature a beautiful rendition of lady liberty, similar to the bust design on our original 18th century silver coins.
Fast forward to Aug. 30 at 11:45 a.m. when I logged on to the Mint?s Web site. My work schedule did not require me on duty until 1:30 p.m., so I figured I?d have time for a quick Internet order, which would begin at noon. As the clock struck 12, I attempted to add the prized coin to my shopping cart, but my screen froze before I could complete the order!
After frantically trying the escape key, I closed the Mint?s Web site, then found I could not get back in due to the heavy traffic! I hastily grabbed the phone and dialed the Mint?s toll-free number. Maybe I could actually speak to someone and place an order that way. No such luck! I kept getting an ?all circuits are busy? recording. I kept hitting redial, and on at least a couple occasions I would succeed in getting a connection, but it would always terminate when I started to navigate through the menu. At the same time I was hitting redial on the phone, my fingers were racing through my computer?s keyboard to see if I could again log in to the Mint?s Web site (I couldn?t.). As much as I hated to admit defeat, at 1 p.m. it was time to leave for work.
During my commute, I kept trying the Mint?s toll-free number on my cell phone. The results after what must have been 30 tries were similar to my experience at home. Sometimes I would connect, only to have the system tease me by only letting me get just so far into the menu. I told myself it just wasn?t to be! At the same time I wondered just how some people ever get their orders in. Depression turned to anger. The Mint knew how things were with the quick sellouts of the first two Spouse coins. Why weren?t they better prepared? As I arrived at work I decided to put it behind me.
At 3 p.m. I took a break at work and decided, just for fun, to try calling the Mint. You guessed it, I got right through. In no time at all I reached Robin in the order department. She, of course, informed me that the coin was a sellout, both in proof and uncirculated, but to my surprise she asked me if I would like to go on the waiting list. I thought, what the heck, and said ?Sure!? I was asked for my credit card number, and Robin assured me it would not be charged unless I was successful. She gave me a confirmation number and said I probably would not hear anything for at least two weeks. I felt like I had just bought a lottery ticket. Odds were against me, but you never know!
On Sept. 10 I was checking my e-mails. There was one from the U.S. Mint! It stated they were contacting me regarding the order I placed for the Jefferson First Spouse (They called it liberty gold.) coin.
My heart began to race, then slowed as I reached the end of the letter. They could not tell me what position I had on the wait list or whether I would be awarded a coin, only that they expected to begin shipping in late September and complete all orders by late October. I would receive a notification if they could not fill my order. I felt like a starving man who just walked through a delicatessen!
Almost a month later, I received another Mint e-mail dated Oct. 10. It simply stated they shipped a 2007 First Spouse gold unc to me that day, along with the full amount charged to my credit card and a somewhat lengthy tracking ID number. I had to read the note about three times before it sunk in. I was actually going to get one of these elusive treasures! Even more amazing, the coin arrived that very day with a packing slip that indicated it actually shipped two days prior!
From the time I first say my lovely prize I knew it was special! I wanted to have it certified. If I ever sold it, I wanted to be sure I would get what it was really worth. Besides, I was on a lucky roll. Maybe this would play out like a movie script! Within a few days, I called Ash Harrison at Ashmore Rare Coins, a local dealer who is authorized to submit coins to PCGS. Our schedules did not mesh until Oct. 19, when I visited with Ash at his home. He studied my coin for several minutes. We were both very optimistic.
On Halloween day I got the following e-mail from Ash. ?I got your grade today and the coin graded MS-70!
I?ll have it Monday. Congratulations.? I was ecstatic! This really was a fairy tale ending! I finally picked the coin up from Ash a week later. It?s now safely in the bank, but I keep pictures of both sides of it at home where I can admire it occasionally. The moral of this story is, persistence pays off! Keep pursuing the coins you want. That?s half the fun. Then you too can live happily ever after!
Bob Klippstein resides in Greensboro, N.C.
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