Their names are Lucy and Lucretia and they are certainly two "hot numbers". And now a number of the country's top coin dealers, as well as numerous dedicated collectors of the gold spouse series, are seriously pursuing them. And, to be clear, we are not talking about two "ordinary" First ladies here. We are referring to what may be a pair of the lowest mintage regular issue coins that have ever been struck by the US Mint in over 95 years! These two coins are none other than the 2011-W Lucretia Garfield and Lucy Hayes Mint State $10 Spouse Gold coins. Let's look a little closer at these two coins.
First, the Lucretia Garfield Mint State Spouse coins were put on sale for the first time on December 01, 2011 and the Mint unexpectedly removed them from their available products page and listed them as being "No Longer Available" for sale on August 09, 2012 (prior to the Mint State Julia Grant spouse coins which went on sale ahead of both the Garfield and Hayes coins). While the last sales figure from the Mint purportedly showed that 2,498 of the Garfield coins were ordered, because collectors and dealers had the better part of a week to order these coins once the Mint pulled the Lucy Hayes pieces (see below), our research suggests that while a whopping nearly (500) units were actually ordered in that approximately one week time span only a fraction of those coin orders were actually consummated by the Mint. Consider that in the nearly eight months the coin was on sale at the Mint, the Mint had sold less than 2,000 pieces in all of that time combined. Yet, nearly (500) units showed as ordered and appear to have been included in the Mint's final sales report issued on this coin before showing it in the weekly sales reports as "no long available."
Merely placing these orders totaling (500) coins and actually getting those orders approved and fulfilled by the Mint are two entirely different things. Many collectors and dealers have reported their orders cancelled on these Garfield coins even though the orders were placed at a time the Mint was still offering the coins (on backorder) and these customers were provided with tracking numbers and confirmations that the orders were properly placed. For example, one collector confirmed with us that he had ordered (70) Garfield coins before the Mint shut off the sales, but all three of his separate Mint orders totaling (70) Mint State Garfield units were recently cancelled by the Mint. It is not likely that the Mint will report final audited mintage figures for this coin until around Thanksgiving, 2013, but these authors would not be surprised if the final mintage figure came in around 2,250 or so after the Mint takes into account the cancelled orders and any product returns. Again, the Mint shows the unaudited mintage figure currently at 2,498.
The Lucy Hayes Mint State Spouse coins first became available on September 01, 2011. The Mint also unexpectedly removed them from their available status on August 06, 2012 ahead of the termination of sales of the Lucy Grant Mint State coins, despite Lucy Grant having been a prior released spouse coin for the 2011 year. Following an eleven month offering period, the last sales figure provided by the Mint showed that 2,260 coins were ordered. The Mint had roughly just a day or so between "backordering" the coin and shutting off sales entirely and, as such, these authors do not expect that unaudited mintage figure to drop all that dramatically in the future.
The Mint sold close to 3,000 of the Eliza Johnson and Julia Grant Mint State 2011 Spouse coins before those coins were officially "sold out" by the Mint. These were the first and second spouse coins of the 2011 four-coin series. Logically, it would make sense that if the Mint determined demand had softened on this series and elected to only produce about 2,300 or so Mint State Hayes coins (the 3rd coin in the 2011 series), that it would, likewise, produce roughly 2,300 of the Mint State Garfield coins that followed it as the fourth coin in the series. As such, these authors believe it would probably be logical that the Mint produced a roughly equal amount of the Mint State Hayes and Garfield coins. Which coin ends up the lower mintage in the end may likely depend upon which one saw the most returns from the buying public over the course of the 8-11 months each coin was on sale.
Obviously, if these authors' hypothesis is correct and each of these coins ends up at a final official mintage of roughly 2,250 about a year from now, it would result in both of these coins being the two lowest mintage regular issue struck coins by the U.S. Mint from 1915 to date. In the "top three" would also be the 2008-W $50 Burnished Platinum Eagle, which has an official mintage of 2,253 making it (currently) the lowest mintage coin since 1915. There again, we recall that the official mintage of 2,253 was a significant drop from the previously unaudited order figure the Mint released about a year before finalizing the figures on that Platinum coin.
A word of caution. This is not the first time a U.S. Spouse Gold coin has potentially been crowned the "Queen of the series." Back in 2009, the Julia Tyler Mint State Gold Spouse coin ended up with an official mintage of 3,143 (finalized in late-2010 by the Mint). For nearly two years, that coin was the lowest mintage Gold Spouse coin and, to this day, the coin sells for roughly a $400 - $500 premium to many other spouse coins with higher mintages. That Julia Tyler mintage has now been "blown away" by both the Lucy Hayes and Lucretia Garfield Mint State coins (yet, interestingly, these authors have seen little erosion of the premium being paid for Julia Tyler coins to this point). Likewise, it is certainly not out of the question that a 2012 or 2013 gold spouse mintage comes in even lower than Hayes or Garfield. There are a number of coins in the series coming up in 2012 and 2013 that are by no means "household names" (did we even learn about Alice Paul in our History classes in Jr. High School as I surely needed a refresher on why she is appearing as Chester Arthur's rendition of Liberty this year). And speaking of the four coin "Liberty subset" in both Mint State and Proof – while these (8) total coins are certainly not the lowest mintage pieces in the entire spouse series, they are surely the most popular to date in our view.
Indeed, many spouse coins now have a combination of scarcity and demand, especially where particular examples also carry a very low mintage, such as the Lucy Hayes and Lucretia Garfield coins. Additionally, the eight coins in the Liberty (spouse) subset are now extremely popular among collectors and also have relatively low mintages overall. It appears to these authors that the Spouse series is beginning to take on a sort of contrarian following when one considers that these low mintages were the result of very few collectors and dealers buying the coins from the Mint in the first place over the past four years.
While we wait for the Mint's final audited report on the Hayes and Garfield Mint State coins, these two "hot numbers" may get collectors even more heated up for the spouse series.