HomeModern CommemorativesCommemorative Stories: The 1983-84 LA Olympics Coins - Part IV

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

The next day, Annunzio was back before the House deploring the recent tactics used by the US Ski Association in their effort to gather support for HR.6058. He presented a letter the group had mailed to those living in Annunzio’s district, imploring them to contact Annunzio and urge him to change his course and lend his support to St. Germain’s bill. He was quick to point out the inaccuracy of statements in the letter, which alleged his bill would cost the Government money while St. Germain’s bill would use only private funds. He reminded his colleagues of the Government Accounting Office’s (GAO) report outlining how HR.6058 could lead to $210 in lost revenue for the Government while his bill had no such issue.

He further commented:

“Perhaps the US Ski Association thought its slick lobbying efforts would dazzle my constituents into a case of snow blindness and get them to ignore the facts, but it has not worked.” He then presented a letter of support he had received from a self-professed avid skier and US Ski Association member who found it “amazing that a private interest group is so worried about supplying money to see what country has the best ski team in the Olympics.”

Annunzio fired one more salvo in the battle on May 5, by recalling for the House the “fraud and scandals that seems to go hand in hand with the private marketing of [classic era] commemorative coins.” To illustrate his history lesson, he chose to review the case of the 1936 Rhode Island Tercentenary Commemorative half dollar – “coincidentally” a classic US commemorative coin from the state St. Germain represented.

He summarized the controversy regarding the sale and distribution of the coins, noting the apparent funneling of coins by the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Tercentenary Committee to local coin dealer Horace Grant to the detriment of collectors who had placed their orders directly with the Committee. Many collectors who had ordered the coins in good faith had their money refunded and were forced to seek the coins on the secondary market at quickly inflated prices.

Representative Frank Annunzio

Annunzio further noted how the abuses seen with the Rhode Island coin were not unique among the early issues and how, as a group, they led Congress to take action to stop them. He recalled the efforts of Representative John J. Cochran (D-MI) who introduced legislation to prohibit the issuing of commemorative coins in 1937.

After discussing the Rhode Island coins, Cochran remarked:

“[T]here are many more cases that can be cited showing beyond question where the coins were issued and distributed, not for the purpose of really commemorating an event, but for the purpose, not only the cost of the celebrations, but to enable coin distributors to practically fleece the public … When coins are gathered up by dealers and offered at such absurd premiums, the profits do not go to the organizations but to the individual merchants.”

In concluding his remarks for the day, Annunzio tightly linked the abuses of the past to the potential for more of the same if St. Germain’s bill were to be passed:

“Given the fact that scandals, like the one in Rhode Island, seem to erupt whenever private marketers are involved, I see no reason to approve this approach. Yet, for some reason, the proponents of HR.6058 seem bent on courting disaster by ignoring the lessons of history. In my mind, one mistake is too many.”

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