To mark the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro this summer, the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum, operated by the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and located adjacent to Colorado College, is unveiling its newest exhibit, “Olympic Games—History & Numismatics.”
Opening on February 12, the exhibit showcases the wide range of numismatic objects and memorabilia honoring the Olympic Games from their ancient beginnings to the modern revival. The exhibit runs through March 2017.
Notable artifacts on display include rare Syracusan dekadrachms (Greek coins) from the sixth century BCE designed by two of the most celebrated engravers of the ancient world; a 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics bronze medallion designed by the famed Karl Goetz; a complete set of award medals from the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee; plus participation medals, torches and even a few mascots.
History of the Games
The first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BCE in ancient Olympia to honor Zeus, Greek god and father of the pantheon. The Olympics were held every four years (as they are today), an interval known as an Olympiad.
The ancient Games differ from their modern incarnation, but they encouraged a spirit of peaceful competition that became the core of the modern Olympic ideal. A truce was announced before and during each of the festivals to allow visitors to travel safely to Olympia. Wars were suspended, armies were prohibited from entering the area or threatening the Games, and legal disputes and carrying out death penalties was forbidden.
The first coins related to the Olympic Games were struck around 500 BCE by Greek city-states and continued to be issued until 146 BCE, when Greek cities lost their independence to the growing Roman Empire. The ancient Games were discontinued in 393 CE by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius, who viewed them as pagan observances.
The Olympic Games were revived in 1896 and have become the world’s largest celebration of athletic skill and competitive spirit. Since the modern revival, medals have been struck by host and participant nations in remembrance of the Games and competitions. Commemorative coins have been struck beginning in 1951.
Money Museum Background
The Money Museum includes an extensive and ever-growing collection of historical numismatic treasures. This one-of-a-kind facility showcases some of the most valuable and significant numismatic items the public cannot see anywhere else. Rarities include a 1913 Liberty Head nickel valued at $2 million and two of the 15 known 1804 dollars valued together at $6 million.
The Money Museum is located at 818 N. Cascade Ave, adjacent to the campus of Colorado College and next door to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Museum hours of operation are Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30 am-5 pm. Admission is $5 ($4 for seniors, military and students). Kids 12 and under are free. For more information, call (719) 632-2646 or visit www.money.org/money-museum.