S. 1230 and its companion bill, H.B. 3958, calling for the U.S.
Mint to strike 29 commemorative coins to honor the 1984 Los Angles
Olympic Games, hit an unforeseen speed bump during the July 14, 1981,
Senate Banking hearing.
Lobbyists working on behalf of the Olympic community and powerful
members of Congress who were backing the 29-coin bill that called for
turning over the marketing to the private sector had not factored into
their plans opposition from the collector community. Hobby leaders
vigorously questioned Olympic officials’ projected sales numbers and
their marketing plan that would steer most of the profits to the
private sector, not the Olympic committees for use in building
facilities in which U.S. athletes could train.
During the fall of 1981, the Olympic lobbyists and private
marketers regrouped and floated the idea of scaling back from 29 coins
to 25. The “idea” materialized in the form of an amendment to S. 1230,
which sought four gold $100 coins, four gold $50 coins, 16 silver $10
coins, and one copper-nickel clad $1 coin.
By early December, Olympic officials were growing anxious. They
needed to know how to plan their budgets for the Olympic Games.
With little fanfare, the Senate Banking Committee gave its stamp
of approval to the amended bill and on Dec. 9 it sailed through the
Before the 97th Congress recessed for the Christmas holidays, the
amended S. 1230 was communicated to the House of Representatives and
was referred to the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs.
Following procedure, the Senate-approved bill was referred to the
subcommittee with jurisdiction over coins, the Subcommittee on
Consumer Affairs and Coinage.
The chairman of the subcommittee was Rep. Frank D. Annunzio,
D-Ill. Annunzio had introduced his own Olympic coin bill on June 11,
1981, that would authorize one Olympic silver dollar that was to be
struck and marketed by the U.S. Mint. Annunzio’s subcommittee had
taken no action on his bill. When the amended Senate bill landed in
his subcommittee, the veteran lawmaker and strategist had things right
where he wanted them — under his control. Before leaving for Christmas
break, Annunzio quietly asked the General Accounting Office, the
investigative arm of Congress, to examine the Senate-approved bill as
well as his bill.
On April 6, 1982, when Annunzio gaveled the House Subcommittee on
Consumer Affairs and Coinage hearing on all Olympic coinage proposals
to order, it suddenly become clear that the most important battle to
determine the scope and marketing of Olympic coins had just begun. And
Annunzio, who would become known as the “Coin Czar,” was prepared with
a formidable arsenal at his command.
beth deisher was editor of Coin World for 27 of the 31 years she
was on the publication’s staff. She may be contacted at Beth@CashInYourCoins-Book.com.