Q. David Bowers
USO Anniversary Commemorated
In 1991 a commemorative silver dollar was produced to observe the 50th anniversary of the United Service Organizations, which provides entertainment and other services to members of the United States armed forces.
Eventually, coins were produced in both Uncirculated (struck in Denver) and Proof (struck in San Francisco) finishes. It was intended that coins be ready by Flag Day on June 14, 1991. Profits from surcharges on the usa dollars were divided evenly between the usa and the United States Treasury.
The enabling legislation, Public Law 101404, was approved on October 2, 1990. The price of each coin included a $7 surcharge of which 50% went toward "the usa to fund programs, including airport centers, fleet centers, family and community centers, and celebrity entertainment," with the remaining 50% to be applied to the national debt.
The legislation stated the following:
The design of the coins shall be emblematic of the services provided by the USA to military service personnel and families [and shall include the date 1991 and the regular statutory inscriptions], The design for the coin shall be selected by the secretary [of the Treasury] after consultation with the president of the usa and the Commission of Fine Arts.
Five artists from the private sector and several artists from the Engraving Department of the Mint were invited to submit sketches. On January 17, 1991, the Commission of Fine Arts approved the designs. Later, the motifs were approved by Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas Brady.
There was much discussion among the Commission members that something be done to improve the design quality of our coins, but no conclusions were reached.
The design of Robert Lamb, an artist and calligrapher of Lincoln, Rhode Island, was selected for the obverse of the USA commemorative dollar. His obverse consisted entirely of lettering, except for a banner on which appears USO. Inscriptions include IN GOD WE TRUST, 50th ANNIVERSARY (in script), USA (on a banner, as noted; with three stars to each side), and LIBERTY 1991.
The reverse design of the USA silver dollar was created by Mint engraver John Mercanti, and in its final form illustrated an eagle, facing right, with a ribbon inscribed USA in its beak, perched atop a world globe. An arc of 11 stars was in the space below the globe. Inscriptions included UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, FIFTY YEARS / SERVICE
(on the left side of the coin), TO SERVICE / PEOPLE (on the tight side of the coin), E PLURIBUS UNUM, and ONE DOLLAR.
In the numismatic world, collectors were not happy with the design, and spared no words of criticism in the letters to the editor pages of popular periodicals.
Mintage and Distribution
The USA 50th Anniversary commemorative silver dollar, as it was officially designated, made its debut on Saturday, June 8, 1991, as part of a victory parade and presidential review of the troops returning from the one-sided Desert Storm conflict in Kuwait and Iraq several months earlier. In the parade a United Service Organizations float depicted "a typical usa performance that could have taken place during Operation Desert Storm andDesert Shield." A 10-foot replica of the obverse of the USO silver dollar occupied center stage. Unfortunately for sales results, few lining the parade route were inspired to write out checks for specimens of the commemorative dollar.
The USO 50th Anniversary dollar was available to the public from Flag Day, June 14, 1991, through April 2, 1992. Mail orders were accepted by the. U.S. Mint through March. 9, 1992. The Uncirculated 1991-D dollar was priced at $.23 through July 26, 1991, and $26 after that date. The Proof 1991-S was available for $28 through July 26, 1991, and cost $31after that time. Each figure included a $7 surcharge; the surcharges eventually totaled $3,123,631.
The Mint announced it sold 124,958 Uncirculated 1991-D and 321,275 Proof 1991-S USO dollars.
When the 1991 United Service Organizations 50th Anniversary Coin Program ended and the results were tallied, the Mint reported a loss of $100,000, according to information given to the House Banking Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage, in response to questioning. 1 Coin World, in a study of modern commemoratives, noted that the Eisenhower Centennial (which lost an even larger amount of money) and 1991 USO silver dollars were thus illegal, as the congressional act approving the coin specifically required that the minting and issuance of coins be done "at no net cost" to the federal government.
The USO coin program generated $12.1 million in total sales revenue, with operating expenses at $8.4 million. A total of $800,000 was shown as the government's profit on the silver acquired for the program from the Defense Logistics Agency. The $3+ million in surcharges raised was divided evenly between the USO and the Treasury's general fund.After figures were juggled, rearranged, and put hither and yon in a manner-that would wake an accountant for a Hollywood movie studio envious, a deficit of $100,000 was the result, and the public was informed.
Commemorating: 50th anniversary of the United Service Organizations.
Obverse motif: Banner.
Reverse motif: Eagle.
Authorization date: October 2, 1990.
Date on coins: 1991.
Date when coins were actually minted: 1991. Mints used: Denver and San Francisco. Maximum quantity authorized: 1,000,000.
Total quantity minted: Information not released by the Mint.
Quantity melted: Information not released by the Mint.
Net number distributed: 124,958 Uncirculated 1991-D and 321,275 Proof 1991-S.
Issued by: U.S. Mint (Customer Service Center, United States Mint, 10001 Aerospace Road, Lanham, MD 20706).
Standard original packaging: Various options.
Official sale prices: Uncirculated Denver Mint coins $23 through July 26, 1991, $26 after that date; Proof San Francisco coins $28 through July 26, 1991, $31 after that date.
Designer of obverse: Robert Lamb (modeled by William C. Cousins).
Designer of reverse: John Mercanti.
Interesting fact: The obverse design consisted almost entirely of lettering.