In this fifth installment of the road to the Summer Olympics, we move to the 1972 Games in Munich, Germany. The last Olympic Games held there was in 1936, under the Third Reich. So, hosting the 1972 Olympiad was a way for Germany to show the world it had reestablished itself as a successful country, no longer under a racist authoritative regime, but rather looking toward an optimistic future – unified as German people even if split politically. Yet, the 1972 Munich Olympics will sadly always be known for a tragic terrorist attack.
The Munich Olympics marked the first appearance for Albania, Dahomey, Gabon, North Korea, Lesotho, Malawi, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Swaziland, Togo, and Upper Volta. Rhodesia was banned from competing. The Soviet Union dominated the Olympics by winning 50 gold medals and a total of 99 medals. The United States came in second with 33 gold medals and 94 medals total. The Games were controversial – especially men’s basketball, with the United States and Soviet Union facing each other and the US winning 50-49; the last three seconds of the game were replayed three times until the Soviet Union scored and won the gold with 51-50, making it the most controversial game in basketball history. American runners Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett, who won gold and silver in the 400 meters event, staged a protest by failing to stand during the national anthem; both were booed by the crowds and banned from the Olympic Games.
And, as touched on earlier, tragedy also struck the 1972 Munich Games. A terrorist attack to become known as the Munich Massacre started when a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September, an offshoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization (or PLO), took 11 Israeli athletes and coaches as hostages. Black September had been known before the Games for the assassination of Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi Tai but became infamous for the actions at the Olympics. After the 18-hour standoff and botched rescue attempt by the Germans, 11 had been murdered. The Games were halted but continued after a 34-hour stoppage. As a result of this terrorist attack, security at all future Olympic Games was increased.
Despite all of the sadness and drama, the 1972 Olympic Games were memorialized on special coinage. As for coins, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) issued six different Olympic commemorative coins. All six coins were issued in 10 Marks denomination and in .625-fine silver.
KM-130 features an obverse of the German eagle looking left with the legend “BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND 10 DEUTSCHE MARK.” The obverse also features one of four mint marks – D for Munich, F for Stuttgart, G for Karlsruhe, and J for Hamburg. The reverse features a geometric spiral design formed by rays and blocks with “SPIELE DER XX. OLYMPIADE 1972 IN DEUTSCHLAND,” meaning “The 20th Olympic Games 1972 in Germany.” The edge is plain with incuse lettering “CITIUS ALTIUS FORTIUS” or “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Each mint produced 2,375,000 of each coin as business strikes and 125,000 proofs.
KM-134 features the same design as KM-130 but with one difference; the reverse says “SPIELE DER XX OLYMPIADE 1972 IN MUNCHEN” meaning “The 20th Olympic Games 1972 in Munich.” The coin has the same four mint marks as KM-130. A big difference is that the KM-134 has some rare varieties. The edges on some of the proofs have the lettering separated by arabesques instead of periods. Of these from the D, F, and G mints, only a few coins are known, and about 600 were made of the J mint. Other proofs have a mintage of 150,000 pieces and business strikes of 2,350,000 coins of each mint.
KM-131 features an obverse of a different-style German eagle looking left with the legend “BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND 10 DEUTSCHE MARK.” The reverse features intertwining circular lines forming a bow with “SPIELE DER XX OLYMPIADE 1972 IN MUNCHEN” meaning “The 20th Olympic Games 1972 in Munich.” The coin features the same edge as KM-130. The mintages for each mint is 4,875,000 in business strike and 125,000 for proof.
KM-132 features an obverse with another style of German eagle looking left with legend “BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND 10 DEUTSCHE MARK.” The reverse features two nude athletes, one with a disc and the other with a staff bearing the words “SPIELE DER XX OLYMPIADE 1972 IN MUNCHEN,” meaning “The 20th Olympic Games 1972 in Munich.” These are also from the four mints D, F, G, and J, with a business-strike mintage of 4,850,000 and 150,000 in proof.
KM-133 features an obverse with yet another style of German eagle looking left with legend “BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND 10 DEUTSCHE MARK.” The reverse features the Munich Olympic Stadium from an aerial view with “OLYMPISCHE SPIELE MUNCHEN 26.8-10.9 1972,” meaning “Olympic Games Munch 8-26 - 9-10 1972.” The coin features the same edge and mint marks as the others with a mintage of 4,850,000 business strikes and 150,000 proofs.
KM-135 features an obverse with yet another style of German eagle looking left with legend “BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND 10 DEUTSCHE MARK.” The reverse features a stylized sun above a stylized flame above the Olympic rings with “SPIELE DER XX OLYMPIADE MUNCHEN 1972,” meaning “Games of the XX Olympics Munich.” The coin also comes from all four mints and has a mintage of 4,850,000 business strikes and 150,000 proofs from each.
For the first time, other countries looked to profit from collectors of Olympic coinage and minted their own commemorative coinage. These nations and coins include the following:
Central African Republic issued a gold 5,000 Francs coin in 1970 that jointly commemorated their 10th anniversary of independence and the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
Guinea issued silver 500 Francs and gold 5,000 Francs coins dated 1969 and 1970 commemorating the Olympic games in Munich in 1972.
Paraguay issued silver 150 Guaranies and gold 1,500, 3,000, and 4,500 Guaranies commemorating the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 dated 1972 and 1973 with 24 different coins.
Fujairah (later part of the United Arab Emirates) issued a silver 5 Riyals and a gold 50 Riyals in both 1969 and 1970 to commemorate the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
Ras al-Khaimah (later part of the United Arab Emirates) issued a gold 150 Riyals with no date in 1970 for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
While the 1972 Munich Olympics were to be a hopeful event uniting the world in sport, it saw a terrorist attack leaving 11 murdered – a devastating tragedy for which these Games unfortunately seem to be remembered most. The numismatic legacy is that it became the first Olympics for multiple coins being issued in the same denomination and the first for other countries besides the hosting country to issue commemoratives for the Games.