The U.S. Mint has encountered a number of issues that have prevented it from issuing all four of the four poof and uncirculated 2012 First Spouse half-ounce gold coins that were supposed to have been struck and issued this year. The Mint promises to remedy these problems by the end of this calendar year.
In a normal year the Mint would expect that three of the four designs for that year would have been available to the public by the time Summer would be coming to an end. However, 2012 has not been a “normal” year. This year the Mint encountered some problems that has delayed the issues of the Alice Paul and Frances Cleveland gold coins and the release of all four coins of the 2012 series.
One of the problems the Mint encountered was getting the metal to flow properly in the first two designs when the coins are being struck. To say the least, this has delayed the program significantly. Trial strikes have been conducted at the Philadelphia Mint for all four of the 2012 First Spouse .9999 fine gold coins.
Once this issue is resolved, the Mint plans some trial strikes of the First Spouse coins at the West Point Mint. the coins will bear the “W” mintmark. The Mint’s ultimate goal is to achieve the “proper” metal flow to fill design devices and achieve the proper surface finish quality.
Production personnel at the Philadelphia Mint have been adjusting the striking pressure on the coinage presses to rectify the fill issues and to avoid creating a “halo effect” around the devices. Even though it seems that time is quickly running out, the Mint is trying to assure collectors that the West Point Mint has more than enough production capacity to strike all four First Spouse coins in both proof and uncirculated versions once the production issues have been resolved.
Maximum mintages are estimated to be around 13,000 pieces for each design, counting both proof and uncirculated coins together. Unfortunately the 2011 mintages die not even come close to this volume. Once the gold coins are issued, the Mint says the 2012-dated Presidential $1 Coin and First Spouse Medal Sets and the First Spouse Bronze Medal sets will be released.
The four 2012 coins will feature designs for Alice Paul, Frances Cleveland (first and second terms) and Caroline Harrison. Only time will tell if the Mint can deliver on its overly optimistic promises. Customer service isn’t usually one of the virtues of a bureaucracy, no matter what which one it is.