The United States experienced a deep recession between 1980 and 1982.
Rather than build new athletic venues, the United States Olympic
Committee and the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee opted to
rely mostly on existing venues and to seek corporate funding and
surcharges from sales of commemorative coins to finance hosting the
Games of the XXIII Olympiad.
The opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics were to be held
in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which had been built for the
The LAOOC decided it wanted something special for the opening
ceremony and commissioned California sculptor Robert Graham in 1981 to
create a public sculpture to stand in front of the stadium entrance.
The numismatic community was focused on the commemorative coins.
After an exhaustive legislative battle over the number of coins to be
issued and private versus government control, a three-coin program
prevailed, with the U.S. Mint in charge.
Chief Sculptor-Engraver Elizabeth Jones’ Olympic Discus Thrower
design for the 1983 silver dollar underwent some minor tinkering after
the initial design was made public. But collectors greeted it with enthusiasm.
However, the collecting public was shocked to find headless nude
male and female athletic torsos as the principal design element for
the obverse of the 1984 Olympic silver dollar. Collectors fiercely
questioned the headless aspect. But the designer, Robert Graham,
countered that it was his way of honoring athletes in general rather
than feature specific athletes.
Despite criticism, the coin design was used. The design and the
choice of designer was fait accompli, apparently in closed-door
discussions between the LAOOC and Treasury officials.
The noncollecting public seemed oblivious to the coin design
controversy until June 1, 1984, when Graham’s Olympic Gateway
sculpture was unveiled.
The 25-foot sculpture features the bronze headless nude male and
female athletic torsos separated by an Olympic flame on a beam
supported by two columns.
The sculpture’s unveiling brought quick criticism: Some proffered
that the headless figures were suggestive of violence but most
comments centered on other anatomical detail as being too realistic.
Treasury officials’ decision to invite a non-Mint engraver to design
a U.S. commemorative coin would prove pivotal in later years.
More from CoinWorld.com:
one group is putting $100,000 in dollar and half dollar coins into circulation
G. Partrick Collection auctions postponed at consignor's request
discovers new variety for 1896 Indian Head cents
Bowers Galleries announces coins to be offered in Pogue II sale in September
Stones concert surprise source of half dollars in change
Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by
up for our free eNewsletters,
liking us on Facebook
us on Twitter
. We're also on