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1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar Octagonal, MS63
Among the Most Enduring Legacies of the Exposition

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS63 PCGS. Driving west on San Francisco's Marina Boulevard or El Camino Real/Richardson Street towards the Golden Gate Bridge, before crossing the bridge into Sausalito, one passes the Palace of Fine Arts, the only building still standing from the massive Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The finely styled Palace of Fine Arts, at 3301 Lyon St., has a distinctive octagonal shape to its Greco-Romanesque rotunda, dual columns descending from each of the eight apices, and the entire rotunda fronts a lovely little lagoon reminiscent similar settings in Europe.

The architect of the Palace of Fine Arts, Bernard R. Maybeck, chose a design intended to reflect a Roman ruin, symbolizing the "mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes." The Palace of Fine Arts, like all the other buildings at the massive Panama-Pacific International Expo, was made for short-term use, built as a wood-framed structure covered with a burlap-fiber mixture known as "staff." Only the original crescent-shaped concrete walls of the museum itself, to protect the valuable artwork displayed, imparted a greater measure of permanence.

Nonetheless, the Palace of Fine Arts did not wear well, and in 1964 the structures were demolished and reconstructed, duplicating the original Maybeck plans. It is ironic that the most "permanent" symbols to arise from the 1915 exposition are the various gold and silver coinage issues that were minted as part of the gigantic exposition, while no original building remains -- the "mortality of grandeur" indeed.

And we cannot but appreciate the further irony of the Palace of Fine Arts rotunda reflecting the design of the 1915 fifty dollar octagonal pieces. The octagonal pieces are prized for their unusual design, and the round pieces have the lowest net distribution of any U.S. commemorative coin.

President Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal only once, in its early stages in 1906, when the project was still in crisis mode, rallying the workers and becoming the first American president to venture overseas while in office. He never revisited the completed Panama Canal, although he is recorded to have attended the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. There is no record of his reaction to the Pan-Pac fifty dollar coins, but we can guess what his reaction might have been: "Bully!"
The present MS63 fifty dollar octagonal coin is housed in a first-generation holder. Bright orange-gold color complements the excellent luster, although a shallow scuff on the cheek of Minerva and another of the right (facing) wing of the owl account for the grade.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7452)

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Auction Dates
February, 2013
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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