The rush of United States commemorative coins that came along in the mid-1990s to honor the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, also ushered in a handful of special silver dollars paying homage to the Paralympics. The 1996 Paralympic Games, held in Atlanta a few weeks after the Summer Olympiad, were the first Paralympics televised in the United States. Emerging from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 before becoming a full-fledged sporting events for individuals with disabilities in 1960, the Paralympics have long since grown into a major international sporting event on par with the Olympics.
There are two distinct different types of Paralympic Dollars spread over four different issues, counting Proofs and Uncirculated issues. They were authorized under Public Law 102-390, which was signed into law in 1992 by President George Herbert Walker Bush. “I am proud that the United States Mint, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and the United States Olympic Committee have worked together to develop a unique coin program that offers the potential of $100 million in profits to be evenly divided between the two Olympic committees,” said President Bush upon signing the bill, which also authorized the other 1995 and 1996 Olympic coinage. “By working together to maximize the sale of these coins we will assist our Olympic athletes. This program will also have a positive economic impact and help create jobs for the people of Georgia.”
The Uncirculated 1995-D and Proof 1995-P Paralympic Dollars were sold with a pre-issue price of $27.95 and $31.95, respectively; regular prices went to $30.95 and $34.95. The 1995 Paralympic Dollar was designed by John Mercanti and William Krawczewics and features the identical obverse of two female Olympians, one blind and tethered to her guide. The inscription “TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT,” “PARALYMPICS,” “LIBERTY,” and the date 1995 encircle the obverse motif, with the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” appearing in the lower center of the coin; the 1995 Paralympic Dollars are notable for their inclusion of the word “SPIRIT” appearing as a series of raised dots known as Braille, which is a universal written language read by those who are blind.
The reverse depicts two hands clasping with the Olympic flame above, with the inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and “ATLANTA” adorning the field. The 1996 Centennial Olympic logo, with the numeral “100,” appears in the upper center of the reverse and the words “ONE DOLLAR” along the bottom rim.
The 1996 Paralympic Dollars were offered in a similar production configuration as the 1995 Dollars, with the Denver Mint striking Uncirculated specimens and Philadelphia producing Proofs. Similar pricing was carried forth from the previous year, with pre-issue prices of $27.95 and $31.95 for the Uncirculated and Proofs and regular prices of $30.95 and $34.95, respectively. The 1996 Paralympic Dollars were designed by James Sharpe and Thomas D. Rogers and feature on their obverse shows the likeness of an Olympic athlete in a wheelchair raising his arms victoriously. The obverse carries the inscription “TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “PARALYMPICS,” “LIBERTY,” and the date “1996.” As with the 1995 Dollar, the word “SPIRIT” appears in Braille on the obverse.
On the reverse the Olympic torch logo bears the number “100” and is surrounded by various inscriptions, including “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “ATLANTA 1996 CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC GAMES,” and “ONE DOLLAR.”
Across the board, the various 1995 Olympic Dollars fared far better in overall sales than their 1996 counterparts – perhaps a function of cost and also some bit of fatigue among collectors trying to keep up with purchasing what worked out to be 16 distinct types of Olympiad coins. The situation worked out similarly for the two Paralympics Dollars, with the 1995 selling far more units in both Uncirculated and Proof formats than the 1996.
Distribution figures for the 1995 Paralympics Dollar were 28,649 Uncirculated issues and 138,337 Proofs, whereas the 1996 Dollar saw just 14,497 Uncirculated pieces sold and 84,280 Proofs. There are some significant pricing differences between the 1995 and 1996 Dollars. According to PCGS CoinFacts, the 1995-D Paralympics Dollar sells for $115 in PCGS MS70 while the 1996-D fetches $275 in the same grade.
The pricing spread is ever greater among the Proofs, in part due to striking issues on the latter issue. While the 1995-P trades for around $275 in PR70DCAM according to market data on PCGS CoinFacts, the 1996-P commands an outstanding $2,650 in that same grade; in fact, this is the only issue of the four with notable rarity statistics in the numerical grade of “70.” Just 16 graded by PCGS at that level. It should also be stated that both the PR69DCAMs sell for the more affordable prices of approximately $45 apiece.