The 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, saw the introduction of
baseball as a competitive sport. The U.S. Mint held an open design
competition for the copper-nickel clad half dollar, silver dollar and
gold $5 half eagle that would be issued in celebration of the Winter
Olympic Games in Albertville, France, and the Summer Olympic Games.
Artist John R. Deecken’s depiction of a baseball pitcher in his windup
pose won. Collectors soon noticed a strong similarity between the
coin’s design and an image of Nolan Ryan on a 1991 Fleer baseball card
Deecken said the final result was a composite of a number of
baseball stars, including Ryan. He told Coin World in 1992, “It
wasn’t intended to be him,” adding, “I looked at a number of pitchers,
including Ryan, Whitey Ford and other people and arrived at what you
see on the coin.”
At the time U.S. Mint officials and a spokesman for Fleer Corp. said
that the similarities between the card and the coin design were just a
coincidence. The Fleer spokesman said: “It wouldn’t be beyond the
imagination especially if you’re concentrating on a particular
pitcher. He’s going to repeat positions.” The spokesman further
explained that the company reviews thousands of sports photos for
possible use on their cards, and that strong similarities of a
particular pose are bound to be repeated.
In a Letter to the Editor in the May 18, 1992, Coin World,
Orlando, Fla., artist Edward A. Pasquella praised Deecken’s design. He
wrote that the face differed in the coin image and on the card,
adding: “In an effort to capture this perfect form why not use the
perfect pitcher like Mr. Ryan? We should realize how difficult it
would be to utilize multiple parts of the body from various sources.
The end result could be a slightly distorted figure.” In concluding
the letter he wrote, “If I were Mr. Ryan, I would be proud to know
that a talented sculptor selected my form for our new Olympic dollar.”
Ryan would have his turn on a coin, but not a U.S. issue. He was the
first professional sports figure to be depicted in a “Greats of
Baseball” series issued for Liberia starting in 1993 by the Pobjoy
Mint in Great Britain.
The Uncirculated 1992 Baseball silver dollar is noteworthy for
another reason — its edge lettering, a device last used in 1933 on the
Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle. In this case, the edge lettering was
applied by a specially adapted machine after the coin was struck.
The Proof version of the 1992 Olympics Baseball silver dollars has a
traditional, reeded edge.