First Ladies Right On The Money

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
Dead Presidents on our money are nothing new. George Washington first appeared on the dollar bill in 1869. And we've been spending Washington quarters since 1932. But now his wife Martha is getting her due.

The U.S. Mint has begun taking orders for the first two in a series of First Lady coins. They bear the images of Martha Washington and Abigail Adams. And as is appropriate, they don't come cheap.

Each coin has a face value of ten dollars. But you won't spend these ladies at the supermarket – because they're each made of a half-ounce of 24-carat gold. That means they're expensive.

(US Mint)
It'll cost you over 400 George Washingtons to buy one Martha from the Mint. $411.95 to be exact. Thats for a regular uncirculated coin in a U.S. Mint presentation box. Add $19.00 if you want the most lustrous Proof version of the coin. The same prices apply to Mrs. Adams.

The Mint plans to issue four of the First Lady coins a year – in the order in which they served in that role. At that rate, it'll take about a decade to honor most – but not all of the First Ladies.

The law authorizing the mintage of the coins specifically states that to appear on one of the coins, each First Lady must have been dead for at least two years.

And the U.S. Mint has adopted a poltically correct approach – referring to its new product as "First Spouse" coins – to accomodate the possibility of a female U.S. President with a husband.

It'll be interesting to see if the coins strike a responsive note with collectors. Some previous coins honoring historic women have not done well. Remember the Susan B. Anthony dollar introduced in 1979? And when was the last time you got a Sacagewea "golden" dollar coin in change anywhere but the Post Office?

Of course, the symbol of Liberty is depicted as a woman on our coins – and appears to this day on the obverse of the American Eagle silver and gold bullion coins.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.