Q. David Bowers
Another Olympic Dollar Issue
Robert Graham, who created the bronze sculptures placed at the gateway to the Los Angeles Coliseum, designed the 1984 Olympic silver dollar coin made of the same fineness as the 1983 issues. His obverse depicted two headless figures on a lintel supported by two columns with an Olympic flame between the figures and an outline of the Coliseum below. The reverse illustrated a perched eagle with its head turned over its left shoulder, an attractive and quite bold representation of the national bird, with an olive branch but lacking the customary arrows (for War or defense).
The obverse of the 1984 Olympic silver dollar received criticisms from viewers, and the Fine Arts Commission stated the design was without question a "loser," hut the coin became a reality and was included as part of the Olympic Games marketing program.
Recollections of Mint Director Pope
In an interview with the author. (February 11, 1991, with follow-up commentary on March 14, 1991.) Mint Director Donna Pope told of the design:
The torsos gave us fits. The artist was an outside artist used at the insistence of the Olympic Committee. The Mint staff had to work with Bob Graham, who submitted his design in plaster, not in the usual sketch form. So, when we asked him to redo something, he would have to work on the plasters instead of sketches, taking a lot more time. At one time there were arms on his torsos, and the next time there were none. The nudes were too explicit for us, and we asked Bob Graham to tone them down, He did something, and the 20-year-old (?) torso of the woman first shown, suddenly looked like a 60- year-old's top torso. The male torso got more explicit instead of less explicit. I was very nervous about having nudes explicit.
We finally got the lady's upper torso correct, but I was still concerned about the male's lower torso. I called Bill Smith [head of production at the Philadelphia Mint, where dies are made] one day, secretly, and said if anybody asks about it say it was an order by the director, but only say this if asked, don't offer it. I told him in rather specific terms "to lower the relief on a certain portion of the male torso." The coin turned out nowhere near as explicit as the piaster. The coin we all dreaded didn't look that terrible. This coin sold better than the 1983 silver dollar. We were all afraid it would be a big bomb. Bob Graham was interested in doing the coin design because he was the sculptor for the sculpture actually used at the main Olympic stadium.
Mrs. Pope went on to relate that she was having difficulty obtaining a wide spectrum of designs from the Mint Engraving Department and decided to enlist the services of outside artists. Further:
We have an arrangement whereby we ask various art organizations and societies and ask for their recommendations of artists who they feel would be able to do what is required. We take six to eight of their recommendations and ask those artists to submit an obverse and reverse design. We pay them $500 (for each the obverse and reverse), for a total of $1,000. This is paid for all designs whether or not they are accepted. The artists know that this doesn't really compensate for their time, but they know if their designs are chosen their initials will appear on a coin that the public will keep and put in their collections. It is a matter of prestige and a bit of immortality.
Production and Distribution
Olympic silver dollars bearing the 1984 date were produced at three mints under the package options given in the present text under 1983 Olympic dollars and also with new options (refer to earlier listing for Options 1 through 10, of which Options 1 and 4 through 7, repeated below, included 1984-S dollars):
(1) Three-piece Uncirculated sets consisted of a 1983-P dollar, 1984-P dollar, and 1984-W $10 gold coin, offered for $395 until August 15, 1983, and available only to the early orderers of Option 5 described below. (The dates given in these options are the times during which orders were accepted at the prices listed.) 29,975 three-piece sets were eventually distributed. The coins were mounted in plastic capsules and housed in a maroon velvet presentation case with a hinged lid and a plaque of the Great Seal on the lid. The case and descriptive certificates were housed in a maroon cardboard box imprinted with the Great Seal and "United States Silver & Gold."
(4) Cased six-coin sets consisted of 1983-P and S dollars, 1984-P and S dollars, each in Uncirculated finish, plus 1984- W Uncirculated and 1984-P Proof $10 pieces. The six coins were offered for $850. Somewhat over 8,926 sets were sold. Coins in plastic capsules were housed in a cherry wood box lined with maroon velvet (the underside of the lid was lined with maroon satin). The lid was imprinted with the Great Seal. The cherry wood box and descriptive literature were contained in a black cardboard box lined inside with maroon velvet and imprinted on the lid with the Treasury Seal and "United States Mint."
(5) Three-piece Proof sets consisted of the 1983-S dollar, 1984-S dollar, and 1984-W $10, and were offered at $352 from October 15,1982 to January 25, 1983, and at $416 to those who ordered from January 26, 1983, through June 5, 1983. 260,083 of these sets were sold. Coins in plastic capsules were housed in a maroon velvet presentation case with a hinged lid. The case and descriptive literature were contained in a maroon cardboard box imprinted with the Great Seal and "United States Silver & Gold."
(6) Coliseum three-piece Proof sets consisted of the 1983-S dollar, 1984-S dollar, and 1984-S $10, all Proofs. At the Olympic Games in the summer of 1984, 4,000 sets were dis-tributed this way. The packaging was identical to Option 5.