By mid-April 1982, Olympic officials and private marketers believed
they had gained the upper hand in the battle over the number of
commemorative coins to be produced to honor and financially support
the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
They had enlisted House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee
Chairman Fernand J. St. Germain, D-R.I., to introduce legislation to
set the number of coins at 17, rather than 25 (approved earlier by the
Senate). Having St. Germain as chief sponsor was a strong-arm tactic
to force Subcommittee Chairman Frank D. Annunzio, D-Ill., to
compromise from his insistence that the U.S. Treasury have control of
both production and marketing and to accept the 17-coin number.
Annunzio countered by holding yet another Subcommittee on Consumer
Affairs and Coinage hearing on May 11, during which Coin World
Editor Margo Russell reported the result of a poll conducted by the publication.
The poll showed 95.5 percent of the collector respondents against
St. Germain’s 17-coin plan and 92.6 percent favoring Annunzio’s
proposal for a single silver dollar.
The collectors also weighed in on the marketing issue: 90 percent
opposed the idea of private-sector marketing and 92.6 percent said
they would prefer to buy Olympic coins directly from the government
(U.S. Treasury Department).
Armed with the poll results, additional subcommittee testimony from
hobby leaders, and more than 3,000 letters from the collector “Living
Room Lobby” pledging to purchase Olympic coins, Annunzio drafted a
compromise authorizing the striking of six Olympic coins — two silver
dollars and one gold $10 coin, each in Proof and Uncirculated
versions — and offered it as a substitute for the Senate-approved S.
1230, which would have authorized 25 designs. His compromise also put
the U.S. Treasury in control of marketing.
During more than five hours of debate on the floor of the House of
Representatives May 20, Annunzio vigorously defended his plan and
gradually convinced both Democrats and Republicans that it would not
only result in more funds to support U.S. Olympians but that it would
be the best approach to take to ensure the integrity of future
When the House presiding officer gaveled an end to debate and called
for the vote, it wasn’t even close. Annunzio’s compromise won 302 to 84!
When the amended S. 1230 containing Annunzio’s six-coin plan
returned to the Senate for approval, Sen. Banking Committee Chairman
Jake Garn, R-Utah, was furious. He had personally shepherded the
25-coin plan though committee and the full Senate.
Garn convened another hearing on June 10. While S. 1230’s chief
sponsor, Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., was not pleased by the House
action, he was civil during the hearing. Garn, at times, was outright hostile.
Strategically, the hearing proved important. Treasurer Angela “Bay”
Buchanan, during testimony, dropped Treasury’s official support for
the 17-coin plan and endorsed the six-coin plan. And Olympic officials
embraced Treasury marketing.
For weeks, it appeared the amended S. 1230 would die in the Senate
and all was lost. But suddenly, without fan-fare, Garn allowed the
bill to move to the Senate floor, and it was approved on July 1.
President Reagan signed it into law on July 22, 1982.
Beth Deisher may be contacted at Beth@CashInYourCoins-Book.com.