House Hearing: Session 4

Chairman Annunzio called the fourth session of the House’s hearings on Olympic Coinage to order on May 11, 1982. It was primarily given over to witnesses from the numismatic field, with dealer and ANA Vice President Q. David Bowers, dealer Neil Berman, ANA President Adna Wilde, Coin World editor Margo Russell and Chester Krause, publisher of Numismatic News, in attendance.

Mary Brooks, the former Director of the US Mint, was also present and the first to speak. She had overseen the Mint during the large Bicentennial coin and medal programs, as well as during the Eisenhower silver dollar program, and came before the Subcommittee to offer her perspective on the proposed Olympic coins based on that experience.

Brooks offered that the Occidental Petroleum-Lazard Freres “Coin Group” and the two Olympic committees together made up “probably the most high-powered group ever unleashed upon Congress.” A bit of hyperbole, no doubt, but she was there to oppose the large coin programs they desired and to give support to Annunzio’s more conservative plan. She continued, “The spectacle of the greatest Nation in the world with the strongest currency allowing its money to be consigned to a private group for sale and profit is outrageous.”

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Mint Director Mary Brooks

Brooks supported Annunzio’s proposal for two silver dollars and a gold half eagle, believing that the Mint had the capabilities to produce and market the coins to meet their projected demand. She also believed the 17-coin program favored by the Olympic committees would be “confusing” and that the number of collectors or investors willing and able to purchase the entire set “might be very few.”

She also commented on the testimony previously offered at the hearings regarding Canada’s privately-marketed 1976 Olympics coin program. She disagreed with those that presented it as a “paragon of virtue and success” noting that it netted less than $24 million for the Olympics on gross sales of $388 million. She opined that it was a program “run by so-called experts who didn’t do it well.” Though she didn’t mention them by name, her comments were clearly aimed at discrediting the Coin Group and its touting of current team members who had previously worked on the Canadian coin program.

Brooks then countered the critics of the Mint’s handling of the Eisenhower and Bicentennial coinage program by reviewing their actual sales data. She noted that the Mint successfully struck and delivered more than 20 million 40% silver Eisenhower dollars. Regarding the Bicentennial program, she reviewed how the Mint delivered more than 8.3 million proof and uncirculated Bicentennial sets in addition to six million of the regular annual proof and uncirculated sets. She also noted how the Mint successfully delivered over eight million pewter, bronze, silver and gold medals for the benefit of the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission. Brooks made it clear she believed the Mint could successfully deliver a large Olympic coin program for Los Angeles.

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