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HomeUS CoinsCommemorative Stories: The 1983-84 LA Olympics Coins - Part III

Commemorative Stories: The 1983-84 LA Olympics Coins – Part III

House Hearing: Session 2

Chairman Annunzio opened the second session of the subcommittee’s hearing on April 21, 1982, by announcing that he and Representative St. Germain had worked into the night the prior day on a compromise bill for Olympic coinage and that he would be shortly introducing the bill in the House.

The bill (HR.6158) called for two silver dollars of traditional specification, with one design to be issued in 1983, a second to be released in 1984. The bill also called for the minting of a $10 gold coin using the traditional specifications of a US gold eagle – 16.718 grams of 0.900 fine gold with a diameter of 1.06 inches (27 millimeters).

The coins would be marketed in the US by the Treasury Department/United States Mint, but a private marketer would be secured to handle the marketing of the coins internationally. This was a critical compromise by Annunzio. It was also a very practical one as the US Mint did not have an established marketing and distribution network outside of the US.

198384olympicsAnnunzio quickly worked with Treasurer Angela “Bay” Buchanan to develop a plan by which the Treasury would provide the Olympic committees with the collected surcharge funds as pre-order payments were received by the Mint. Buchanan estimated that up to $25 million could be sent to the committees over the first four months following enactment of the coinage legislation. St. Germain supported the concept enough to present it to the LAOOC and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

The committees rejected the plan, however, and insisted that it include a $50 million guarantee. Absent such a guarantee, they indicated they would continue to support legislation that provided for the private marketing of the coins in all markets and included a guarantee by the marketers of an advance payment of $30 million (i.e., HR.6058).

Annunzio voiced his disappointment over the decision of the committees and placed the blame for further delay squarely with them:

“It is their demands that are preventing a quick solution to the legislative question. They are the one [sic] responsible for the delay … Had they agreed to the compromise, I would have had a bill on the floor of the House by next week … We could have had a coin program on the President’s desk by the middle of next month.”[5]

He continued:

“Since these two committees are now committed to holding up consideration of this legislation, I will move with utmost speed to protect the interests of the Olympic games and our Olympic athletes. I plan three additional days of hearings.”[6]

St. Germain followed Annunzio and stated that while the Chairman’s willingness to compromise was sincere, his proposed bill still included the key issues “which have separated our approaches from the beginning.”[7] It was because of this that the Olympic committees were forced to reject the proposal. He added that his HR.6058 addresses the needs of the committees, as well as those of the Treasury Department and GAO, St. Germain entered into the record a letter of support for HR.6058 from the Treasury Department.

Before calling the first witnesses of the day, Annunzio placed into the record the results of a then-recent poll conducted by Coin World. The poll revealed that the majority of those responding appeared to be supportive of Annunzio’s position: 97% of respondents were in favor of a commemorative coin program to support the LA Olympics, 83% supported a program calling for a single silver dollar (only 2% supported the 17-coin program), and 92% supported direct sales by the Treasury (vs. 5% that supported a private marketer).

U.S. Track and Field legend Wilma Rudolph

The witness list for the day was comprised of former Olympic athletes and members of the LAOOC. Athletes Wilma Rudolf (track), Bob Richards (pole vault), John Naber (swimming), and Donna DeVarona (swimming) all gave voice to the need for support of US Olympic athletes and amateur athletics in general. Robert Mathias, the former gold medal winner in the decathlon and the current Director of the US Olympic Training Center, followed the athletes. All believed quick approval of an effective coin program was critical to meeting their current and future financial needs; they supported the 17-coin program proposed by St. Germain.

Mathias also entered into the official record a scathing letter from the USOC addressed to Annunzio. In it, the committee expressed its “sense of outrage concerning [Annunzio’s] single-handed effort in preventing passage of the Olympic Coin Act of 1981.”[8] The letter criticized Annunzio for doing “much to damage the spirit of amateur athletics throughout the United States.”[9] It also attacked the Chairman’s public posturing as the “protector of our country’s athletes,”[10] claiming that his actions have consistently run counter to the beliefs and wishes of the Olympic committees, the organizations responsible for the athletes and our Olympic program. The letter concluded by stating the USOC’s “wholehearted support” for St. Germain’s proposed coin bill.

Article Continues on the Following Page(s) ……….

David Provost
David Provost
David Provost is a numismatic writer and commemorative coin specialist. Among other roles, Provost has served as President of the North Carolina Numismatic Association (NCNA) and Editor of the club's quarterly NCNA Journal.

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