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Description

1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar Round, MS64
Impressive, Reddish-Gold Surfaces
Only 11 Pieces Finer at PCGS

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Round MS64 PCGS. One of the most magnificent gold coins ever struck, by any country, emanated from the first-ever world's fair held on the American West Coast: the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco, which opened on February 20, 1915. The fair celebrated dual events: the historic and commercially vital opening of the Panama Canal (linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans) in August 1914, as well as the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa (he claimed it for Spain in 1513).
This mammoth exposition was a showcase for mankind's achievements, including the first-ever use of nighttime lighting at a fair, enjoyed and visited by some 18 million people from all over the world. For 257 days, the PPIE hosted pavilions of exhibits, reproductions of classical buildings, luxurious gardens, carnivals, visits by celebrities, even nighttime fireworks -- all the wonders of the world (the official brochure proclaimed) displayed on the 635 beautifully landscaped acres alongside San Francisco Bay.
The rarest and arguably the most beautiful coins of this world's fair are the two varieties of gold fifties -- called "quintuple eagles" on the printed inserts accompanying the coins, which were sold within copper frames housing the rare sets. Each fifty sold for $100 or double face-value at the time; remembering that approximately $1,250 was the average American's annual income in 1915, it is no wonder that the U.S. Mint's authorized mintage of 1,500 pieces each of these fifty dollar gold pieces was never sold.
The rarer of the two types today is the round version, of which a mere 483 pieces were sold, many of which have never appeared on the numismatic market. The size and shape are said to have been inspired by the Wass, Molitor fifties of the Gold Rush era. Robert Aitken's deft engraving depicts on the obverse the Greek goddess Athena (symbol of wisdom and invention, of the arts and of warfare) wearing a plumed helmet, while the date 1915 appears as MCMXV (with "round stops") in Roman numerals on the top edge of a shield held in front of her torso. The reverse shows yet another allusion to antiquity, the owl of Minerva (the Roman name for Athena), but this is a decidedly modern bird of prey, vigilantly seated upon a branch surrounded by pinecones of the native California Ponderosa tree -- a wise "watch bird" for the Republic. As befits its unveiling at the Panama-Pacific fair, this coin is the very best in Neoclassical art.
This truly exceptional specimen has the usual soft, satiny mint luster that characterizes these coins. The surfaces are reddish-gold with the slightest accent of lilac on each side. The piece seems conservatively graded, as only a couple of tiny marks on each side (which require magnification to see) preclude an even higher grade. Although PCGS has certified several dozen round examples in this grade including resubmissions, there are only 11 finer (2/11).(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7451)

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Auction Info

Auction Dates
Apr-May, 2011
27th-1st
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 9
Members Tracking: N/A
Page Views: 8,236

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