Q. David Bowers
A New Commemorative Dollar
The 1984 Summer Olympic Games, scheduled to be held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, furnished the opportunity to issue several varieties of silver and gold coins for fund-raising purposes including the first commemorative silver dollar since the 1900 Lafayette issue.
In the beginning the issue became apolitical foot" ball when Lazard Freres, the international banking firm, sought to combine its interests with the Occidental Petroleum Corporation (whose chairman, Armand 'Hammer, was well connected in political circles) arid persuaded certain legislators including Senator Alan Cranston of California to back a bill for 29 different coins to be sold through Occidental Petroleum (which, presumably, would set up a numismatic department).
The stage was being prepared for private profit, reminiscent of the commemorative distribution situation of the 1930s. On May 10, 1981, Cranston's bill called for a 29-piece set consisting of four different $100 gold pieces, four different $50 gold pieces, 16 different $10 silver pieces, and five different coppernickel dollars. The silver and gold pieces were to be made in both Uncirculated and Proof finishes,
Where as the copper-nickel pieces were to be made in Uncirculated finish only, yielding a total' combination possibility of 53 different coin varieties! This made anything that the Oregon Trail or Boone Bicentennial coin people did in the 1930s seem tame by comparison!
As might be expected, this attempt at profiteering caused an unfavorable reaction with coin collectors, the numismatic press, and the Board of Governors of the American Numismatic Association. Steps were taken immediately to cut short what Was seen as a flagrant exploitation of collectors. ANA President Adna Wilde went to Washington to testify before Congress, as did I and numerous others, including spokespeople from the numismatic press.
After a memorable legislative fight, the number of coins in the program was reduced considerably. After suggestions and modifications were considered, the office of Representative Frank Annunzio drafted a bill for three coins, which eventually served as the basis for the Act of July 22, 1982 (Public Law 97-220), which authorized 50 million silver $1 pieces and 2 million gold $10 pieces. It was specified that each $1 piece would include a surcharge of $10 or more and each $10 piece a surcharge of $50 or more. Half the surcharge was earmarked for the U.S. Olympic Committee and the other half for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. Distribution was through the Treasury Department. An advertising agency, D'Arcy MacManus and Masius, Inc., and a subsidiary, Poppe-Tyson, Inc., created a market blitz to help sales.
Chief Engraver Elizabeth Jones designed the 1983 Olympic silver dollar, which featured on the obverse several conjoined outlines in three layers of a discus thrower as if in stroboscopic motion. The reverse, which showed the head and shoulders of an eagle, was designed by Elizabeth Jones and modeled by Mint engraver John Mercanti.
Production of the Dollars
1983-dated Olympic silver dollars were subse-quently produced in an alloy of .900 fine silver and .100 copper, the standard last used for circulating coinage of this denomination with the Peace dollar in 1935. The first Philadelphia Mint Olympic silver dollars (bearing a P mintmark which was to be used on later commemoratives produced at the Philadel-phia Mint as well) were sold at Independence Hall on January 28, 1983.294,543 pieces were eventually distributed plus an unspecified number reflecting possible further sales from "U.S. Postal Service philatelic outlets and credit card chargebacks" ac-cording to a statement later distributed by the Bureau of the Mint.
Of the 1983-D silver dollar coins, 174,014 were produced at the Denver Mint and were first offered in the autumn of 1983.
The San Francisco Mint conducted a ceremonial striking of the first Proof coins on February 10, 1983. Subsequently 174,014 Uncirculated pieces and 1,577,015 Proofs were made. Proofs made during the first few days of coinage at the San Francisco Mint required three blows of the press in order to strike up properly; within a week adjustments were made so that just two blows were needed.