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1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar Octagonal Gold Piece
An Upper-End MS64 Example

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS64 PCGS. CAC. The Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa is remembered today chiefly for his epic crossing of the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to discover that mighty body of water. The idea of building a massive canal through Panama, joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, originated not long after. France became the first nation to make a serious attempt at constructing such a sea passage in the 1880s but would abandon the effort after nearly 22,000 workers died, chiefly of malaria and yellow fever.
Following the assassination of President McKinley, his successor Teddy Roosevelt pushed for completion of the canal, a move he viewed as vital to U.S. international naval supremacy and control of both of the nation's coastal oceans. The earlier sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor in 1898 had reinforced public support for a canal through Central America: The battleship Oregon, stationed in San Francisco, was required make a 12,000-mile, 67-day journey around South America's Cape Horn in order to arrive off the Florida coast, fortunately still in time to participate in the successful combat at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, resulting in the defeat of Spain and the end of the Spanish-American War.
While Nicaragua was initially favored as the site for an interocean canal, the presence of active volcanos there and political maneuverings eventually tipped the scales in favor of Panama--then still a province of Colombia. With political and military support from Roosevelt--and a flotilla of U.S. battleships on both sides of the Isthmus of Panama--the province declared its independence from Colombia in 1903.
The United States paid $10 million to Panama in 1904, receiving sovereign right to the U.S. Canal Zone in return. Construction on the canal began in May that same year and was completed in 1914, at the expense of another 5,600 lives. The lesser loss of life compared to the French attempt, while still significant, was largely the result of better infectious-disease control. (Panama assumed control of the Canal Zone at the end of 1999.)
After eleven years of construction, the Panama-Pacific Exposition was held in San Francisco to commemorate completion of the canal, and also to commemorate the rebuilding of the city after the devastating earthquake in 1906. The octagonal fifty dollar gold pieces demonstrate the free flow of the waterway connecting the two oceans by the placement of dolphins in the eight angles on both obverse and reverse. The matte-like surfaces on this piece display the usual soft, satiny mint luster. The only grade-limiting marks are actually Mint-created, a couple of small planchet flakes that are located behind the nose of Minerva. This is a splendid example of this beautifully designed commemorative gold piece.
From The R.K. Banister Collection.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7452)

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Auction Dates
August, 2010
11th-15th Wednesday-Sunday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
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