Q. David Bowers
The 1988 Olympic Games
The Summer Olympic Games held in Seoul, South Korea in 1988 furnished the opportunity for the United States government to create an issue of commemorative coins. Some observers suggested that as the event was not held in the United States it was not an appropriate subject for American coinage.
Rep. Frank Annunzio, who by this time had shepherded through Congress most of the successful commemorative proposals of the decade, introduced a bill, subsequently modified and signed as Public Law 100-141 on October 28, 1987, providing for not more than 10 million silver dollars and not more than one million gold $5 pieces; the dollars to be offered at a price to include a $7 surcharge and the half eagles to bear a surcharge of $35. Coinage standards specified were similar to those used on other commemorative silver and gold coins of the decade. Profits from the coins were earmarked for the United States Olympic Committee.
The Treasury Department invited 10 private sculptors and seven Mint employees to compete to design the two coins. Each artist from the private sector received $1,000 as compensation, whether or not his or her designs were chosen.
At its meeting on January 21, 1988, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed 60 outside designs and 24 from Mint artists. Those in attendance were asked to vote on the sketches presented, which for purposes of anonymity were marked not with artists' names but with designations such as A-4, H-4, J-1, etc. Member Diane Wolf noted that this was a historic moment in commemorative coinage, for it represented only the second time that designs had been selected by competition and the first time that the Commission participated in the choices. It was noted that Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III would review the Commission's ideas and make the final decisions.
The silver dollar obverse design chosen was a sketch by Patricia Lewis Verani, labeled H-1, which was not the obverse design recommended by the Commission (which chose J-2 instead). A Mint news release described Mrs. Verani's work: "The obverse of the silver Olympic coin displays Lady Liberty'storch and the Olympic torch merging into a single symbolic flame. Olive branches, emblems of peace, encircle the torches." The artist came to the Mint and worked with the staff in the production of models, as she had earlier with her designs for the 1987 Constitution Bicentennial dollar.
The design for the reverse by U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Sherl J. Winter (labeled as L-2, the motif recommended by the Commission) featured "the five-ring logo of the U.S. Olympic Committee, framed by a pair of olive branches," the same news release noted.
Price Structures and Schedules
Price structures, discount schedules, and ordering specifications for the 1988 Olympic coins exceeded in complexity anything seen up to this date. Three different price and discount categories were set up for the distribution of the 1988 Olympic coins:
(1) SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICES: Prices at which the coins were to be sold to the general public.
(2) SCHEDULE A PRICES: Schedule A required a mini-mum purchase of $10,000 with each order. Transportation costs were to be paid by the Mint. Coin returns were not al-lowable. Orders could be placed by corporate headquarters only (and could be shipped only to corporate headquarters, not to branch selling locations). Payment was due before shipment. The eight Olympic coin options could be mixed to meet minimum dollar requirements and would not include any other coins (such as regular issue 1988 Proof sets). Schedule A participants were allowed to take advantage of all of the eight Olympic coin options.
(3) SCHEDULE B PRICES: Schedule B was intended for major accounts and required a minimum purchase of $1 million during the life of the program. Transportation costs were to be paid for by the Mint. Coin returns were allowed up to 15% of the total order. Order placement could be by corporate headquarters or selling locations, and shipment could be to' corporate headquarters or selling locations. Payment was due before shipment or by a letter of credit with 90-day terms. Participants under Schedule B could also take advantage of a consignment arrangement whereby one "standard package" had to be purchased as a minimum for each selling location. Qualifying for this consignment option were federally insured institutions (and rare coin dealers having gross coin sales of approximately $100,000). Accompanying the order were to be a letter of credit and an agreement containing "an equal employment opportunity clause." If gross coin sales exceeded$100,000, other conditions would apply, and the Mint would advise on these. The only options allowed Schedule B participants were the Proof Olympic silver dollars, the two-coin Olympic Proof sets, and the regular (no Olympic coins) 1988 Proof sets.