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The Presidential Dollar Coins may be getting a lot of attention, but there is another series of coins which honor the special women “behind” the presidents: the first spouses.
The First Spouse coin series, which began in 2007, produces a new coin to commemorate the women of the White House in concurrence with the presidents on the dollar.
What Are First Spouse Coins?
First Spouse coins are 1/2-ounce gold coins with a $10 face value.
Unlike the Presidential $1 coins, First Spouse gold coins are not cheap. In fact, the U.S. Mint currently charges $791 for an uncirculated version and $804 for a proof specimen. However, prices may rise or fall, depending on the current price of gold.
Interestingly, not all First Spouse coins feature a “first spouse.” While most of our nation’s presidents were married during their time in office, some were not. But we will discuss that more in a minute.
First, let’s take a look at the more “conventional” First Spouse coins…
Who Is Featured On First Spouse Coins?
A First Spouse coin features the spouse (in all cases wives, thus far) to whom a president was married while serving in the White House. On the obverse (“heads side”) is an image of the first spouse. On the reverse (“tails side”) is an image emblematic of that first spouse’s role in the White House, society, or life.
For example, the Martha Washington First Spouse coin (which was the initial First Spouse coin released, in concurrence with the George Washington Presidential $1 coin in January 2007) has an image of the “first” first spouse on the obverse. The reverse shows Mrs. Washington sewing a button onto the military uniform of her husband — George Washington. Martha Washington was well known for her role during the Revolutionary War helping wounded and ailing soldiers.
Dolley Madison is another first spouse who was honored in 2007 when her husband, President James Madison, was featured on his own coin. Dolley Madison is pictured on the obverse of her $10 First Spouse coin. On the reverse, she is seen standing in the White House holding the Cabinet papers while standing in front of the famous portrait of George Washington as painted by Gilbert Stuart. She saved both the portrait and the documents when she and fled the White House just before British troops set the landmark on fire in August 1814.
What If There Was No First Spouse?
As it goes, there have been cases when a president either never married, or was not married during presidency.
As the U.S. Mint maintains the continuity of the First Spouse coin program, for the period during which there is no first spouse to include in the series, it is producing a coin which honors the president and, on the obverse, includes a picture of Liberty as seen on U.S. coins at the time that president served.
For example, when the Thomas Jefferson dollar coin was released, a First Spouse coin was released bearing an image of a “Liberty Bust” (as seen on U.S. coins of the late 1790s and early 1800s) on the obverse. On the reverse is an image of a memorial monument which was erected on Jefferson’s Monticello property after his death.
For Martin Van Buren, who was also unmarried at the time of his presidency, the First Spouse coin has an obverse image depicting the famous Seated Liberty design seen on many of our nation’s coins from the late 1830s through the early 1890s. On the reverse of the coin is a young Martin Van Buren studying under a tree in his hometown of Kinderhook, New York.
You can buy First Spouse coins from the U.S. Mint.
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!