Making Moderns column from Nov. 14, 2016, issue of
Today it may seem a curious thing that the 1983 Olympics dollar was
offered in a three-coin “P-D-S set.” The set consists of a coin struck
at three Mints: Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. Of all the
modern commemoratives, only the 1983 and 1984 Olympics coins were
offered in this way. Why?
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The answer is a little complicated. Legislation that authorized
commemorative coins for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was exactly as
numismatist Q. David Bowers described it: “a political football.”
At one side were those in favor of a massive 50-plus coin program
that sought to offset the expenditures of the host city and U.S.
Olympic Committee through the sale of coins. In this scenario, private
companies were to market and sell the coins. Part of the proceeds
would go to the host city and USOC. Private companies, supporters
argued, would sell the most coins and raise the most money.
At the opposite end were many (but not all) prominent numismatists
and Treasury officials who favored more modest programs of two or
three coins sold by the U.S. Mint. The sales price would include a
surcharge for the host city and USOC. Debate lasted a year. The Olympic Games
neared. A bill for a three-coin program passed the house.
Wanting to raise money and move forward, the sponsors of the larger
coinage bill in the Senate relented. The Mint would be the sales agent
of the new commemorative issue.
Now, the Mint had to prove itself by inducing collectors to buy more
coins. They did so with the three-piece set that contained Denver and
San Francisco Mint coins available only in the set. The set was
offered initially for $89, increasing to $100 by the end of 1983. This
figure included $30 surcharges for the Olympic committees.
The coins didn’t fair well in the aftermarket and even today can
generally be bought for less than their issue price.
They are, however, very scarce in the highest Mint State 70 grade,
where they trade for more than $1,000 each graded by Numismatic Guaranty
Corp. or Professional Coin Grading Service.
In total, the Mint collected more than $70 million for the Los
Angeles and U.S. Olympic committees, less than what was hoped for, but
a figure routinely touted as plans were drawn for future Olympic
coinage issues, including the ill-fated 1996 Atlanta Centennial
Olympic Games coins.