By Jill Westeyn
January 29, 2018
Between 1983 and 2002, the United States Mint issued commemorative Half Dollars, Silver Dollars, and $5 and $10 Gold Coins, representative of the Olympic Games (including the Paralympics and Special Olympics) under what is commonly referred to as the Modern Commemorative Coin Program.
Coins representing the Olympic Games were offered in uncirculated (business strike) and proof finishes, with up to four different mint marks available depending on the product year and finish. The authorizing legislation for these commemorative coins was granted by specific public laws spanning 1982-2000, and signed by three U.S. presidents during the 18-year period.1 To date, 27 different coins were made (24 Olympic Games, two Paralympics, one Special Olympics), featuring the work of 18 designers with 44 unique designs.2
The initial coin, Los Angeles Olympiad Discus Thrower Silver Dollar, is dated 1983. This was the second coin in the modern commemorative coin program and the first commemorative silver dollar issued by the Mint for more than 80 years. It was also the first modern commemorative coin permitted to include a surcharge that benefited a congressionally approved, recipient organization (in this case, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee).
Gold coins featuring the Olympics have a $5 denomination and were solely minted at West Point, with one exception. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympiad $10 Gold Coin was the 1st gold coin minted for the U.S. Government in more than 50 years. A proof version of this coin was struck at four mint facilities (Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point).
Generally speaking, the Olympic coin designs feature athletes, events, facilities and emblematic symbols of the Olympic Games. The XXV Olympic Games Half Dollar clearly features the likeness of a female athlete—a gymnast. Also unique, the coins from 1995 and 1996 feature a unifying reverse design by year per denomination.
In 2002, for the first time since the Seoul Olympiad coins from 1988, only a silver dollar and $5 gold coin were offered for purchase—a significant drawback in quantity. On May 30, 2002, the Mint was presented with an honorary Winter Olympic torch in recognition of its contribution to the Winter Games that were held in Salt Lake City. This was the last year the Mint offered an Olympic-related coin.
1 Authorizing Public Laws signed by (now) former Presidents: Ronald Reagan; George H.W. Bush; William J. Clinton.
2 Coins represent Olympic Games held in: Los Angeles (1984–S); Seoul, Republic of Korea (1988–S); Albertville, France (1992–W); Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain (1995–S); Atlanta (1996–S); Salt Lake City (2002–W); [S–Summer; W–Winter].
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