Bubba’s flip side? Mint hedges bets with ‘First Spouse’ coins

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen Haberkorn

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.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Mint, Dol­ley Madi­son was a first spouse, not a first lady.

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