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Community Voice Responses (11/22/2011)

From the Oct. 28 Numismatic News E-Newsletter: Should Congress end the First Spouse coin and medal program? Here are some answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor Dave Harper.

Yes, they should be ended, I have not bought one and don’t intend to.

Dick Ammen Spring Hill, Fla.

Yes, end it and redirect resources elsewhere.

Norm Wong Huntington Beach, Calif.

Yes, I think the Mint should discontinue this coin, which is one of the most stupid coins the Mint has ever produced. The cent coin does run it a strong second though in view of the cost of production.

Griff Carnes Kerrville, Texas

No, if you end a program early, it will send a bad message to collectors. How would a collector feel if halfway through a program (America the Beautiful quarters, for instance) the Mint cancelled it? This could destroy any confidence collectors have in the Mint or future programs.
I just wished they would start making the fractional gold and platinum coins they cancelled after 2008. The choice to use a ½ ounce gold coin in the program didn’t help the Mint either. I own only four spouse coins and I’m sure collectors know which ones they are.

Byron Wood Aurora, Colo.

End First Spouse gold coins? Please don’t. It is one of the most beautiful and important sets that the U.S. Mint has ever put out. I used to collect them, but hit a wall and had to sell what I had.
They should continue being issued. Plus, the fact that at least you get something extra with such a wonderful collection: gold.

Julio Nunes High Bridge, N.J.

The First Spouse program might have been a good idea had gold prices retreated rather than advanced, but the price of these coins is way out of line with the budget of the ordinary U.S. citizen.
How can we possibly pay almost $4,000 a year to obtain each issue and also afford any other coins? I collected the mini-set with Liberty as my guide.
Personally, I think we ought to redesign all of our coins with Liberty in mind and not slave to a market created by a Congress with a personal agenda. Lincoln was a great man, Washington and Jefferson too. But how long do we commemorate an individual?
Give us Liberty on our coins as a beautiful symbol, in flowing robes, striding toward the rising sun, arms open and wanting to envelop all free people in her arms.
Jeffrey P. LaPlante Webster, N.Y.
No, I don’t think the program should be stopped. Although I’m not collecting them, there are people who are, and to stop the program in the middle would not be the ethical thing to do. The program is making money, helping to support other endeavors of the Mint.

Emery Harmon Hot Springs Village, Ark.

My response to your question about the First Spouse series is this: Yes, they should stop the series because I can’t afford them any more. No, they should not stop the series because I am halfway to obtaining a complete set. This is my cross that I bear by being a coin collector.
Seriously though, there is absolutely no reason why Congress should stop the series. Those that can afford them will and those that can’t, won’t. Its that simple.

J.A. Ceravone Charleston, W. Va.

This is an awful idea with a few exceptions like Nancy Reagan or Jacky Kennedy Onassis or maybe Eleanor Roosevelt. Most of the first ladies were simply unimportant and in the case of Lincoln’s wife, not close to her husband. Also, we don’t have coins of all the Presidents yet.
I think a good idea for a gold U.S. coin would be Ronald Reagan on his horse with a cowboy hat because he wanted the gold standard and was governor of California, the golden state.

Scott Rayman Address withheld

No doubt, some First Spouses (what a typically awful term) contributed a great deal to the well-being of some Presidents. That is what good spouses do, even in the more common atmosphere that most of us enjoy.
If this U.S. series is being produced, in that sense, it should be deemed acceptable and completed – but the U.S. Mint should be made aware that too much of a good thing may prove to be uncomfortable if the public is overstuffed.
In recent years, we in Australia have seen this growing phenomena of investment coins being churned out in great numbers – and at great expense – to commemorate, acknowledge and honor all sorts of people, animals, iconic places and events.
Not that suitable recognition should be denied the worthiest of those things.
However, the plethora aimed at the collector-market is now creating problems that most small numismatists can understand only too well.
The average collecting public cannot hope to keep up with these investment series that are being produced to take advantage of the seigniorage effect, much like some foreign postage stamps. Those of us who dabble in philately know what happened there.
As a collector for over 50 years, I have had to work hard to accumulate and improve my basic collection.
I have foregone many recent non-circulating legal tender issues from Perth Mint due to cost and the sheer avalanche of designer coins that are of no interest to my personal tastes.
Once, we had just one or two special issues each year. Now it is happening every few months.
I tend to think of them as ‘Yuppie’ pieces, aimed at an emerging market that collects investment artwork and not history.
Things are changing and we have to accept it, even if we don’t like it.
It seems that if I blink, a new limited issue coin series is produced, offered and gone.
The increasing use of precious metals in these issues has also pushed prices of these coins, often beautiful examples, to astronomical levels of late.
The effect of that is that since retirement, I can no longer aspire to have a full collection of my nation’s coinage – circulation issues and non-circulating legal tender.
I have now made my decision and have opted for the basic range. I will continue to cherry-pick the pretty pieces as I can afford them, and try to not feel guilty or deprived.
When coin production soars and changes from commodity to luxury optional - and, collector expectation of the market equates it to that of very expensive Notgeld, it is time to make choices that can be lived with.
Collecting has never been easy. But it is becoming more difficult for the older generation as we are forced into changes based on the Mint’s commercial ‘turn-over.’

Graeme E. Petterwood Australia

It seems fitting to end that program if the government is thinking about halting the presidential dollars as well. While they’re at it, they can quit the America The Beautiful program, both the circulating coins and the “hockey pucks” (5-oz. silver rounds). It’s a waste of both money and labor to create designs, dies and a coin for a limited time (about two months for each coin).
As a matter of fact, the Native American heritage dollar should also be halted. No one, except for a few collectors, is going to (try to) circulate the golden dollar coin as long as its paper counterpart is still circulating. There are billions of dollars being held in hundreds of vaults wanting to circulate in the U.S. and not be “deported” to Central and South America.

Bill Tuttle Cleveland, Ohio

No. The coins and medals will one day be precious collector items because of the lack of interest at the present time. This is why very old scarce coins and medals are bringing such high prices today: the mintages were extremely low and made completing a collection very difficult.
The gold and “golden” first spouse coins need to be continued so future collectors can do what they do best, try to collect an entire series.
Not only that, but the U.S. Mint is making a nice profit in selling these items. That cannot be said for the immense waste in minting cents and nickels at a tremendous monetary loss and cost to the U.S. taxpayers.

Ralph Haines Address withheld

Yes the First Spouse coin should be ended. What next, their kids, aunts and uncles? They were not elected and should not be a part of the history in coin.

Steven C. Swann Address withheld

No. Why would the Mint stop an ongoing program? They must have lost many future sales to those that gave up in frustration over the 2009 American Silver Eagle. Even if they sell less than a couple thousand, they promoted this program to run up to the modern presidents. This may be the only chance for the much pined-for coin with Ronald Reagan on it. The Mint needs to make a commitment to collectors to follow through on continuing series of coins.
With prices as high as they are, the Mint must walk on egg shells to keep modest means customers. They must become customer friendly. If they want to be in the collector market, they need to put the customer first. No surprises like cutting part or all of ongoing programs. Have I missed something? Is the Mint not making enough money on the First Spouse coins? Are costs prohibitive? If not, finish the program. Then never put a politician on another coin. A complete set of First Spouse coins will be a beautiful set, worth a fortune. I bought a Martha Washington matte finish as a type coin. If I had the money, I would have a proof and matte set of these beautiful coins. We need more collector influence in Washington.

Donald Cantrell Address withheld

This series is probably one of the most beautiful series the Mint has released in years, not to mention the acknowledgement it gives to the spouses of our commanders-in-chief.
So I would like to see the series continue at least as long as the presidential dollar series continues. Even though, in my opinion, it is one of the ugliest series ever conceived.

Richard W. Venberg Address withheld

The Mint should get back to minting coins, not the junk that it is selling at very high prices. I’d like to see them put out all the Civil War Officers on coins: that’s real history.

John Colucci Sr. Address withheld

I collect the First Spouse coin and medal sets each year. I say keep them. End it on the First Spouse gold coin uncirculated series and also end it on the First Spouse proof gold coins. People only buy them to melt down anyway.

Chuck Schroeder St. Petersburg, Fla.