For the first time, the U.S. Mint is dedicating a series of coins to the accomplishments of women — the nation’s first ladies.
Starting with Martha Washington, all of them are scheduled to be honored on a series of commemorative one-half ounce gold coins that will be companions to a new series of circulating $1 coins that the Mint is producing to honor the presidents.
Mint Director Edmund Moy unveiled the designs on the first four commemorative coins at a ceremony Tuesday at the National First Ladies Library in Canton, Ohio.
“Each coin is a half-ounce of pure gold. You might say they are the presidents’ better half,” Moy said in a statement.
Both the presidential one-dollar coins and the series honoring the first ladies were authorized in 2005 by Congress and will start appearing next year.
The first ladies coins for next year are all coming out in May just before Mother’s Day with the Mint hoping to generate sales of the coins, expected to cost more than $300 each, tied to the special day.
There will be a less expensive bronze medal duplicate of each of the coins in the spouse series offered for a more affordable $3 to $4.
Four new designs for both the $1 coin and the golden first ladies coin will be introduced each year in the order the president served. All presidents and their first ladies will be honored; only those who have been dead for at least two years can appear on a coin.
The designs on the first coins show the first ladies were an energetic group.
Martha Washington is depicted mending a soldier’s uniform while Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, is shown in front of the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington that she saved before the British burned the White House in the War of 1812.
Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, the second president, is shown writing a letter to her husband with the inscription, “Remember the ladies.” That was her request in a letter she wrote to Adams when he was a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776.
Thomas Jefferson was one of five presidents who did not have spouses when they served in the White House. Jefferson’s wife had died in 1782 before he became president in 1801.
The gold coin for his administration will feature a symbolic Lady Liberty, an image taken from a half-cent in circulation at the time Jefferson was president. The other side features inscriptions from Jefferson’s grave monument of his significant accomplishments, including writing the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia.
The Mint is hoping that the $1 presidential coins, which will start coming out in February next year, will prove to be as big a hit with the public as the popular 50-state quarter series.
It will be the third time in recent history that the Mint has tried to introduce a $1 coin. The Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979 and the Sacagewea in 2000 both proved to be failures.
Information about the new coins, including how they may be purchased, is available at the Mint’s Web site, or by calling 1-800-USA-MINT.