Editor's note: this is the first part of a story by Jeff Starck
about the Rio 2016 Olympic coins. The story originally appears in
the August monthly issue of Coin World.
The Olympic Games give host nations a chance to show off their
cities, people and culture, and oh yeah, to stress the viability of
the economy. When Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, plays host to the Summer
Games from Aug. 5 to 21, the nation will be on full display for
millions of watchers around the globe, for good or ill.
The 2016 Games have been mired in controversy (but then, what Games
of recent memory hasn’t been dogged by various anxieties?). A corrupt
and unstable government has been overshadowed lately by health
concerns surrounding the Zika virus and polluted waters.
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It seems likely that the concerns will disintegrate in a swarm of
feel-good montages about underdog athletes and come-from-behind
victories as the Games get going in early August. The construction
clock will be erased by the medal count, and long after the television
crews and sponsors and athletes leave Brazil for their homelands, the
guts and glory of the athletic performances will come to define the
Games more so than any glitches.
A record number of countries are slated to participate in a record
number of sports, sending some 10,500 athletes from 206 national
Olympic committees, including from first time participants Kosovo and
Rio will become the first South American city to host a Summer
Olympics (though it is actually winter in that hemisphere), and the
event will be only the third Games ever held in the Southern
Hemisphere. The Rio Paralympic Games follow the Olympic Games from
Sept. 7 to 18.
Coining it in for Olympics
The practice of issuing commemorative coins in celebration of and in
conjunction with an Olympic Games began in modern times with two coins
for the 1952 Helsinki Games. In recent years (London’s 2012 Games, for
instance, with more than 120 coins, according to Albert Beck’s book
Olympic Coins Helsinki 1952 to Rio 2016), the number of coins
has tested the stamina of collectors’ desires and pocketbooks.
The Banco Central do Brasil, in comparison, has issued a relatively
modest program of circulating and collector coins for the Rio Olympic
and Paralympic Games.
The commemoration began in 2012 with a Handover 1-real coin, which
has a mintage of 1,952,000 pieces and shows the five Olympic rings
logo and the Rio 2016 logo.
Since then, the bank has issued 16 circulating 1-real coins
accompanying 16 Proof silver 5-real coins and four gold 10-real coins
in the official Olympic program.
The 16 circulating coins, each of which has a mintage of 20 million
pieces (for a population of 200 million Brazilians), celebrate some of
the sporting events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Each is a
The Proof .925 fine silver coins honor the flora, fauna, music and
architecture of the host country, and the Proof .900 fine gold coins
celebrate three competitions and the torch that defines the flame of
competition inside all athletes.
The silver coins each have a mintage limit of 25,000 pieces, with
15,000 designated for individual sale. The gold coins have mintage
limits of 5,000 pieces each, with 4,500 of each design designated for
The central bank has not disclosed how the balance of the mintage of
silver and gold coins may be offered, whether in sets or other products.
The large program has been released in four bursts, with four each
of the 1-real and 5-real coins (one from each of the four thematic
categories) joined by one 10-real coin in each release. One release
occurred late in 2014, two releases in 2015, and one in 2016 in the
lead-up to the Games.
The silver coins share common obverses based on theme, so all Fauna
coins show cyclists at the Fioresta da Tijuca, a tropical rainforest
All Flora coins depict on their obverses rowing at Lagoa (a name
meaning, appropriately, "pond"). Beach volleyball players
cavort on the famed sands of Copacabana on the obverse of the four
Music coins, and runners take strides at Aterro, a park, on the
obverse of four Architecture coins.
Dealer Joel Anderson offers the circulating coins,
starting with the 2012 Handover coin, which is priced individually at
$5. A set of all 16 Sport coins is available from Anderson for $65.