XXXI Olympiad …

2016 Summer Olympic Games

A few days ago on August 5, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games officially opened with the spectacular opening ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Informally known as Rio 2016, the Games will continue through August 21. 

The Olympic Games is the world’s greatest athletic spectacle. The modern event was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games that started in 776 B.C. and was held every four years in Olympia, Greece. Appropriately, the first modern Olympic Games was held in Athens, Greece in 1896, and apart for interruptions for World War I and World War II it has been held every four years since. The United States has hosted the Summer Olympic Games four times: St. Louis in 1904; Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984; and Atlanta in 1996. 

More than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations (plus Refugees and Independent athletes) are taking part in Rio 2016. They will compete in 306 separate events in 28 different sports. As in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, the United States is expected to top the medals table. 

Olympic Silver For the Win!

The return of the Summer Olympic Games to the United States in 1984 coincided with the revival of commemorative coins from the U.S. Mint – and the start of a great tradition of the U.S. Mint producing Silver Dollars marking the Olympic Games. 

In fact, the very first modern commemorative Silver Dollars were struck for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles – a 1983 coin depicting the traditional Greek statue of a discus thrower, and a 1984 coin showing the entrance to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics events were held. The 1984 coin was designed by Robert Graham, who also created the sculptures shown on the coin at the stadium! 

The next Olympic commemorative Silver Dollars were in 1988 for the event in Seoul, South Korea, and in 1992 for the event in Barcelona, Spain. The 1992 coin was notable because it showed a baseball pitcher to mark the first time baseball – “America’s Pastime” – was included as an Olympic sport. It was later discovered that the image was identical to a baseball card showing Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan! 

For the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the U.S. Mint  produced a series of eight different commemorative Silver Dollars in 1995 and 1996. The designs included gymnastics, track and field, cycling, tennis, rowing, and high jump, as well as two for the Paralympics.

1996 marked the last time the U.S. Mint struck commemorative Silver Dollars for the Summer Olympic Games, and over the last 20 years these coins have become harder to find. Like all commemoratives, the Olympic Silver Dollars were struck in limited quantities over just a short period of time. But time is now running out to complete a collection of these Silver Dollars!


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