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For the first time in the modern era the date, mintmark, and mottos “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” struck into (incuse) the edge of the coin. The last time edge lettering was used on circulating U.S. coinage was in the 1830s.When the Presidential dollar was struck by the U.S. Mint, the coin went through the normal striking process. To add the edge lettering, the coins were sent to a press that would add the edge lettering before sending the coins to be bagged. With the edge lettering being a new process for the U.S. Mint, it was no surprised that coins left the Mint without the mottos stamped in the edge. Dubbed the “godless dollar” the error caused an uproar over some people suggesting that the government was conspiring against religion by leaving the motto off of the coin. This was described as either a willful omission or a way to attack religion. There was no narrative that accepted that the U.S. Mint said this was just a mistake. Reacting to the outrage, congress passed a law to move the motto from the edge to the obverse of the coin. “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” the date and mintmark was left on the edge.
If you are going to buy Presidential dollars with missing edge lettering, it is advisable to buy them encapsulated by a third-party grading service. After the error was discovered, unscrupulous people began to file the edges of the coin in an attempt to fool collectors. The third-party grading services know how distinguish the legitimate error versus the fake.
Other collectible edge errors include the doubling of the lettering. When encapsulated by the grading services, it is called either “DOUBLE EDGE LETTERING” or “OVERLAPPED LETTERING” depending on the service. Doubled lettering is a rarer mistake than missing edge lettering. Similar to the missing edge lettering error, there has been attempts to alter coins to make it look like they have these errors which it is advisable to buy these coins encapsulated by a third-party grading service.
If you are looking for different ways of collecting Presidential Dollars, the U.S. Mint offered First Day Covers for each of the presidents. Each colorful cover includes the stamp of the day postmarked from the capital or city the president was from on the first day that the coins were issued. They also include one uncirculated Presidential dollar struck on the first day of production. These first day covers are the only way to guarantee that you own coins that were struck on the first day of their production. With information about each president, it makes for an attractive set.
Another option to collecting Presidential Dollars is to collect the coin and medal set. Each specially produced card includes an uncirculated dollar for each president and a 1.5-inch bronze medal of the corresponding first spouse coin. The only difference in design between the medal in this set and the first spouse coin is the medal does not have a denomination. If the president was widowed or not married at the time of his presidency, a special Liberty gold coin was produced. The coin and medal set contains a medal similar to the gold coin. Remember, John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson became widows and then remarried during their term. There are two cards for each president with different first spouse medals.
- George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
- James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren
- William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor
- Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln
- Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield
- Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland
- William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson
- Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson
- Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan
First Spouse Gold $10 Coins
- Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty,† Dolley Madison
- Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Andrew Jackson’s Liberty,† Martin Van Buren’s Liberty†
- Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler,‡ Julia Tyler,†† Sarah Polk, Margaret Taylor
- Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, James Buchanan’s Liberty,* Mary Lincoln
- Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield
- Alice Paul,¶ Frances Cleveland (first term), Caroline Harrison,‡ Frances Cleveland (second term)
- Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson,‡ Edith Wilson††
- Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
- Elizabeth Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson
- Patricia Ryan “Pat” Nixon, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan
- President was widowed prior to inauguration
- First Spouse died during the president’s term
- Married the president during the president’s term
- James Buchanan was the only bachelor president
- President Chester Arthur was widowed prior to inauguration. However, the authorizing law gives the coin honor to Alice Paul, a suffragette who was born during Arthur’s administration
The Presidential Dollar series covered 39 presidents representing 40 terms were issued.
Along side of the presidents, there have been 35 first spouses were honored (Frances Cleveland appeared twice), four different Liberty coins were issued, and one First Spouse coin was issued to honor suffragette Alice Paul.
- Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
- Image of altered edge dollar courtesy of Numismatic Guarantee Corporation.