Bubba’s flip side? Mint hedges bets with ‘First Spouse’ coins
Is America ready for a first spouse? Voters will decide next year, but the U.S. Mint isn’t taking any chances.
The Mint on Nov. 19, with help from first lady Laura Bush, released the fourth coin in its new First Spouses series.
Mrs. Bush referred to the coin collection as the “First Lady” series in her prepared remarks. But the U.S. Mint named the series the “First Spouse” collection when it was announced last year.
Could the gender-neutral name be the Mint dropping its two cents on whether a man will take on the role?
“We’re not predictors of the future,” said Greg Hernandez, a spokesman for the U.S. Mint. “But as the program was being developed, we thought somewhere down in American history, there is going to be a first spouse that may be a man.”
“So we just figured this was the best way to approach this correctly,” he said.
What to call a male “first spouse” could be a hot topic if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, is elected president next year.
But a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, home to the popular First Ladies exhibit, pointed out that former President Bill Clinton would still have his title of “Mr. President.”
“I don’t know that it’s been pub- licly decided what the male spouse of a female president would be called,” said museum spokeswoman Valeska Hilbig.
In the event there is a male first spouse in the White House and the museum has to change the name of the exhibit, it will likely follow what- ever name the White House chooses, she said.
“We would have to wait to see what happens, when it happens,” Ms. Hilbig said.
The Dolley Madison coin is the fourth in the series. The 24-karatgold coin series accompanies the presidential $1 coin series, the first four of which were released this year.
The $10 First Spouse coins are made with one-half ounce of 0.9999 percent pure gold. They feature a likeness of the first lady on one side and depict an image of public life on the other side. Dolley Madison’s coin features an image of her saving Gilbert Stuart’s painting of George Washington before British soldiers set the White House ablaze in 1814.
The Mint will produce four spouse coins per year through 2016. The Mint is releasing 40,000 copies of each coin, which cost $529.95 each.
It is difficult to tell how valuable the coins will be among collectors until at least three years after the first in the series is released, said Barry Stuppler, president of the American Numismatic Association. The secondary market won’t set a price until then.
“The first [three] issued sold out, so that tells you that demand is there,” Mr. Stuppler said. “It’s a lovely series with incredible design.”
According to the U.S. Mint, Dolley Madison was a first spouse, not a first lady.