With the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games just a scant three years
away, virtually everyone — Olympic officials, members of Congress,
U.S. Treasury officials and coin collectors — was excited about the
prospect of the U.S. Mint issuing coins to commemorate the Games.
But, as often happens, the parties were wide apart in their
thinking as to mintages, pricing, marketing and beneficiaries.
When Sen. Jake Garn, Republican chairman of the Senate Banking
Committee, gaveled a packed July 14, 1981, hearing to order, most
Washington handicappers thought approval of companion bills S. 1230
and H.B. 3958, introduced by Sen. Garn and by Rep. Trent Lott,
R-Miss., respectively, would be a slam-dunk.
The companion bills called for the issuance of 29 different
designs that would include denominations of dollar coins in
copper-nickel and 90 percent silver, $50 coins in gold and $100 coins
in gold struck in both Uncirculated and Proof, all bearing 1983 and
Following protocol, Treasurer Angela “Bay” Buchanan was the lead
witness. She expressed support for the concept of Olympic coins, but
“The Department, however, has serious reservations about the
magnitude, scope and nature of S. 1230, and does not consider this
bill, as proposed, to be in the best interest of the public and the
government,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan expressed Treasury’s opposition to the proposed methods
of marketing and distribution, which directed the U.S. Mint to strike
all of the coins and then deliver them to the Los Angeles Olympic
Organizing Committee for distribution and sale through a marketing
entity selected by the LAOOC. With an eye on the clock, the LAOOC had
already signed an agreement with an international consortium to market
the U.S. Olympic coins. The consortium was formed by three firms:
Lazard Freres & Cie, Paris; Lazard Freres & Co., New York; and
Occidental Petroleum Corp., Los Angeles. American industrialist Armand
Hammer, one of the richest men in the world, headed Occidental Petroleum.
Buchanan noted that the proposed bill would interfere with
Treasury’s “obligation to the American people to assure … the proper
and equitable distribution of its products.” She sounded the alarm,
reminding Congress that no commemorative coins had been issued in the
previous 30 years because they “often resulted in the exploitation of
the public for private gain ... improper handling of proceeds from a
coin of the realm, inaccuracy or poor taste in advertising and
inequities to the public in pricing and distribution.”
On that day, two leaders within the numismatic community supported
the Treasury’s position. They were American Numismatic Association
President George D. Hatie, and Chester L. Krause, founder of Krause Publications.
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 email@example.com.