As time passes, the Los Angeles Olympics silver dollar commemorative of 1983 receives less and less attention. That may be a natural consequence, but this is one coin that should not be forgotten. Its success helped to pave the way for present-day commemorative silver dollars.
Modern U.S. commemorative coins began with a 1982 half dollar marking the 250th Anniversary of George Washington’s birth. You will not find a more carefully controlled program or a more simple one, comprising simply a half dollar in either brilliant uncirculated or proof condition.
The Washington program was so basic because lawmakers would have it no other way. Commemorative coins, while interesting, had a long history of problems. A return to issuing commemoratives was not universally supported. In order to get approval for new commemorative coins, safeguards were needed to ensure that problems from the past were not repeated.
In all probability, the half dollar was used for the Washington coin because it had been the denomination most often associated with commemorative coins. That bit of history did not influence those proposing commemoratives to help with costs of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, however. They were focused on revenue generation and logically concluded that silver dollars would make more money. Adding a gold $10 would make even more, and striking lots of both denominations would create the most revenue, so that is what was proposed.
Creating BU and proof issues of many designs from the different mints could have meant more than 100 different potential coins for the Los Angeles Olympics program. This was exactly the sort of thing that had worried officials, so a compromise was required.
That compromise resulted in two different Olympic silver dollars, as well as a gold $10. The former would be issued one each in 1983 and 1984, the latter in 1984 alone. The 1983 silver dollar design was prepared by Elizabeth Jones.
There would have been much more interest in the 1983 Olympic silver dollar had it not been for the $10 gold coin. Since no gold coin had been struck in the United States since 1933, it naturally received the lion’s share of attention.
The ordering process for the Los Angeles Olympics commemorative program was somewhat complicated. The proof 1983-S was available for a pre-issue price of $24.95, while the regular ordering period price was $32. There were also uncirculated dollars from Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco at lower prices but sometimes available only as part of a PDS set for $89.
Total mintage for the Philadelphia BU coin was 294,543, with Denver and San Francisco BUs at 174,014 each. While those numbers may seem small for any individual coin, they are much larger when added together, making a type coin readily available. (The 1983-S proof had an even higher mintage of 1,577,025, although this was not as high as other proofs of the time.)
Today, all 1983 Olympic silver dollars are valued lower than their issue prices, with the “S” proof at $25 and BU Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco coins all at $23. The problem is that relatively few collectors want all four 1983 Los Angeles Olympics dollars; a single type coins is enough. If more did want all four, prices would rise for at least the BU San Francisco and Denver coins.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2017 North American Coins & Prices guide.
• When it comes to specialized world paper money issues, nothing can top the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues .