A coin does not have to be rare to be important. You will find no better examples of that fact than the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics $10 gold. There is little doubt that, in terms of importance, it will ultimately be considered one of the most important coins of the last half of the past century.
There is no doubt that had you asked anyone involved in the hobby in the mid 1970s if there would be a gold commemorative in 1984, the answer would have that it was out of the question. Commemoratives were not being issued, as past abuses and problems had convinced officials that commemoratives were simply not worth the effort.
The chance of getting a gold coin was even less. Because of the Gold Recall Order of 1933, Americans could not own gold coins dated after that year. It was ironic that a country with such a great history of gold rushes would treat the metal like it was a way to transmit avian flu, but that is how things were for decades.
No one even dared mention gold until suddenly a proposal for commemoratives for the Los Angeles Olympics games was introduced. Being held in California, it was only appropriate that the proposal called for gold coins.
The problem was that the Los Angeles Olympics program proposal went too far. If you added up all the proofs and brilliant uncirculated coins from every facility, you topped 100 potential coins. Commemoratives were still on probation and no one was going to authorize such a program.
That said, everyone wanted to do something to help the Olympics. That meant a compromise had to be reached. As a gold coin would produce more revenue than a silver, it was likely that some gold coin would be approved and that was the case, as a $10 gold was authorized, along with two silver dollars.
Some were stunned as the law was passed and work began on the first U.S. gold coin since 1933. That it was a commemorative was far less important than the fact that it was gold.
The coin was designed by John Mercanti from a concept by James Peed. It was not universally praised, but the idea of a gold coin was and the orders poured in, despite the fact that a proof was $352 and a BU $339.
There were a lot of options, as the Los Angeles $10 was made at every facility. At West Point, the proof sold 381,085 coins, while the BU sold 75,886. The other three facilities would produce only proofs, with Philadelphia sales at 33,309, Denver at 34,533 and San Francisco, 48,551.
When you total it all up, you find that the $10 Los Angeles Olympics gold coin had sales well over 550,000. That meant substantial sums for the Olympics activities in the form of surcharges. It also meant that the idea of gold commemoratives could not be ignored, as they simply made too much money.
The only ones who did not make money were the buyers, as right now, only the 1984-W BU is above its issue price and that is only by $11. All the others are still around their issue price, with the West Point proof being the least expensive.
Profits, however, are secondary. The sales would open the door for other gold commemoratives, as well as gold American Eagles. Had the Los Angeles Olympics $10 not worked, there would have been no other gold coins, and that makes it extremely important.