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Outstanding 1915-S Panama-Pacific
Fifty Dollar Octagonal, MS63

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS63 NGC. At the time of their production the 1915-S Panama-Pacific round and octagonal issues were undoubtedly considered expensive gold commemorative type coins--but they must also have been considered high-dollar bullion coins, given their high precious metal content. Even though they commemorated the rebuilding of San Francisco after the horrible Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 as well as the completion of the Panama Canal, their precious-metal content of more than 2.4 ounces of net pure gold likely played a role in many purchase decisions. The high asking price of $100 per coin, however, put most of the survivors in the hands of well-heeled collectors who could afford to keep them--even during the trying times of the Great Depression and Gold Recall of the 1930s, a decade when many less-meritorious gold coins were turned in for remelting.
The net distribution of the octagonal Pan-Pacs was 645 pieces, with its round sibling having an even-lower net distribution of 483 coins. The Panama-Pacific coins show interesting parallels (as well as differences) with some of the modern U.S. Mint products, which also have a high precious-metal content, high nominal (face) value, and low mintage figures. Chief among those modern series are the proof platinum American Eagle coins, containing one troy ounce of pure platinum, with a face value of $100, most struck to the extent of a couple of thousand pieces annually. While those low-mintage bullion coins have no commemorative connection, they do have differing reverse designs and show the potential for being collected as type or date issues.
Another series with some similarities and differences is the First Spouse series of $10 gold pieces, smaller in size and containing a net half-ounce of gold, but with the potential for some three-digit mintage figures among the issues if present trends continue.
Regardless of how the marketplace ultimately receives those modern issues, the 1915-S Panama-Pacifics are assured of their numismatic legacy as the rarest and lowest-mintage type coins produced in the last century. Of them "Mr. Commemorative" Anthony Swiatek wrote in his 2001 commemorative coin reference:

"Both well-distributed issues are extremely popular, fully enjoyed and treasured by most who own them. I compare them to the rare fancy diamonds naturally colored pink, red, blue or green. They are the truffles and Beluga caviar of commemorative coinage, and outstanding celebrities in our coin world."

This piece appears much finer at arm's length than its technical grade, but close inspection reveals a few light, grade-consistent distractions. The only marks of note are a squiggly scrape on Minerva's cheek and a couple of slide marks across the owl on the reverse. The luster is full and bright, and the coloration throughout is a glorious deep, mellow orange-gold.
Ex: FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2004), lot 3002, which realized $47,150. (Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7452)

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Auction Dates
Apr-May, 2010
28th-2nd Wednesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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