You can hardly put naughty bits on coins and paper money anymore. In
the 19th and early 20th centuries, nudes full and partial appeared
with regularity on numismatic items.
Now, not so much. Except for art medals, you’ll find nary a naked
man or woman in modern numismatics.
The last nudes to appear on a United States coin were the pair of
torsos on the obverse of the 1984 Olympic silver dollar. Even if they
had heads, though, the pair of torsos on the coin would not physically
be able to procreate.
The coin shows a “naked” female torso to the left and a “naked” male
torso to the right above the entrance to the Olympic stadium. You can
study those torsos with a 100-power magnifying glass all day long and
see not much of anything.
The female torso’s nether regions looks mostly like those of a baby
doll — just space between the legs. The male torso has a bit of a
bulge in the pubic area but it has no definition. The torsos are about
as anatomically correct as a Lego man.
How the pair lost their private parts is an interesting tale that Q.
David Bowers exposed in his 1991 book, Commemorative Coins of the
United States: A Complete Encyclopedia.
The pair, Bowers reports, started out as reasonably complete, but
lost definition as the design process proceeded.
Artist Bob Graham, an outside artist picked by the Olympic
committee, provided a plaster model of the coin, which Mint Director
Donna Pope determined showed nudes that “were too explicit for us.”
She asked Graham to tone them down.
“He did something,” Pope told Bowers, “and the 20-year-old (?) torso
of the woman first shown, suddenly looked like a 60-year-old’s top
torso. The male torso got more explicit instead of less explicit. I
was very nervous about having nudes explicit.”
She said she secretly called Bill Smith, Philadelphia Mint head of
production, and “told him in rather specific terms to lower the relief
on a certain portion of the male torso. The coin turned out nowhere
near as explicit as the plaster. The coin we all dreaded didn’t look terrible.”
The coin was one of three Olympic commemoratives — 1983 and 1984
silver dollars and a 1984 gold $10 piece. The 1983 dollar shows a
stylized discus thrower who might be nude, but we’ll never know
because his right leg is strategically placed to evade the issue.
The runners on the gold piece are wearing shorts and shirts.
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