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1915-S Octagonal Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar, MS64
Magnificent Large-Diameter Gold Commemorative

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS64 NGC. CAC. The Panama Canal, arguably the greatest man-made wonder of the modern world, was officially opened in August 1914, and became a landmark event in the history not only of the United States, but of the international trade world in general. To celebrate this milestone, the United States began preparations for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which was to be held in San Francisco the following year. This Exposition, however, was planned to dwarf all previous major fairs held in the United States, even the prestigious 1876 Centennial Exhibition and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The Exposition, taking the general appearance of a miniature city when completed, was situated in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and occupied some 635 acres of ground.

By 1915, it was commonplace to issue a series of commemorative coins in conjunction with major expositions, not only to be used as souvenirs, but also to procure the necessary funding to build the fair. On January 16, 1915, congress authorized the production of not one, but four different commemorative denominations - silver half dollar, gold dollar, gold quarter eagle, and gold fifty dollar. The coins were released by the Treasury at face value, and the Exposition was allowed to charge whatever it wanted to collectors and fair-goers.

Of the four denominations, the fifty dollar gold pieces are by far the rarest and most prestigious, containing nearly two and a half ounces of gold each. Congress authorized the production of 3,000 examples, which were coined in two different types: round, and octagonal (1,500 pieces each). The sale price set by Farran Zerbe, who was placed in charge of public distribution, was $100 per coin, or twice face value (although this purchase included an example of each of the lower denominations at no additional cost); while not unusually high from a percentage viewpoint, the high dollar-count limited sales somewhat, with the result that only 645 examples of the octagonal version and 483 examples of the round variant were ever distributed, and the remainder was melted.

Today, the octagonal version is slightly more available than is the round, though both pieces are collectively known as the rarest and most prestigious gold commemoratives ever issued by the United States. This example of the octagonal variety is a beautifully preserved representative, with satiny, honey-gold luster and remarkably clean surfaces. The advanced commemorative gold specialist will find it challenging to locate a visually finer piece.
From The Pannonia Collection.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7452)

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Auction Dates
September, 2014
4th-6th Thursday-Saturday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
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