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Momentous 1915-S Panama-Pacific
1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Round MS64 PCGS. CAC. A
handful of U.S. issues hold an instant allure, not only for
numismatists, but even for those who have never thought about
collecting coins. The fifty dollar Panama-Pacific commemorative
varieties are two such issues; while the Panama-Pacific Round does
not benefit from the distinctive shape of the Octagonal issue, it
shares the same broad surfaces and impressive heft, with over two
ounces of pure gold contained in each one. The fifty dollar
denomination is equally eye-catching.
Fifty Dollar Round, MS64
It is worth noting that a non-collector, given the choice of which of two Panama-Pacific fifties, one the Octagonal type and the other a Round, to examine first, that person almost invariably selects the former. The sheer novelty of an octagonal coin is overwhelming, and in strict terms of visual interest, the odd shape triumphs. So it was with the Panama-Pacific fifties at the time of issue, which eventually resulted in a lower net mintage for the Panama-Pacific Round compared to its Octagonal counterpart. Q. David Bowers discusses this at length in his Commemorative Coins of the United States:
"The octagonal $50 pieces were more popular than the round ones at the [Panama-Pacific International] Exposition. More of these were sold singly and in boxed sets (containing the three lower denominations and the buyer's choice of one $50 variety), as it seemed to the typical buyer that the eight-sided coin was more distinctive in shape ... than a round piece.
The reception by numismatists of the Panama-Pacific coins was uniformly favorable, and undoubtedly at least a hundred or so five-piece sets were distributed in such channels, but most of the approximately 300 sets eventually sold seem to have gone to wealthy citizens in the San Francisco area, convention officials, bankers (particularly true of the framed sets sold later), and members of the general public."
It is interesting to note that the figures Bowers provides add up to an estimate of nearly 400 five-coin sets sold; given the official net mintage of just 483 pieces for the Panama-Pacific Round fifty, this leaves very few examples acquired through single purchase (with the three smaller coins included as a bonus). When one additionally considers the official net mintage of 645 pieces for the Octagonal fifties, it becomes clear that while many well-to-do individuals were willing to let the Round coins tag along in sets, those who were interested in purchasing just one Panama-Pacific fifty overwhelmingly rejected the circular variety and pursued its eight-sided cousin instead.
That rejection created the single greatest challenge facing gold commemorative enthusiasts today. It cannot be emphasized enough that only 483 pieces of the Panama-Pacific Round fifty escaped the melting pot, creating a hard cap on the number of complete sets possible, and substantial attrition has further infringed on that figure. Moreover, the collector seeking an unimpaired survivor has even fewer options available, making a Choice coin such as the present piece an undeniable prize. Warm yellow-gold luster greatly enhances the eye appeal, and the well struck central devices are smooth. Aside from a handful of wispy flaws on and near the portrait, the surfaces are minimally marked. An interesting and noteworthy representative that would act well as a cornerstone of a similarly graded commemorative gold set. PCGS has graded just nine finer examples (11/08).
See: Video Lot Description(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7451)
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