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1915-S Panama-Pacific Round Fifty, MS65
Magnificent Overall Surfaces

1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Round MS65 NGC. Ron Guth writes of the Panama-Pacific round fifty dollar gold piece that it "ranks as one of the great numismatic rarities" of the 20th century. Up until the time of the release of the round and octagonal fifty dollar gold coins to celebrate the momentous 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the United States had never struck an official fifty dollar commemorative.
For artistic inspiration, designer Robert Aitken hearkened back to the days of ancient Greece and Rome for a neoclassical portrait of Athena (Minerva) on the obverse of the coin. The Romans considered Minerva the goddess of war and wisdom, protector of cities, and divine patroness of arts and crafts. (The incredible array of scientific, artistic, and technological achievement that was on display at the Panama-Pacific Exposition made the theme of Minerva doubly appropriate. Also an undoubted factor in the design choice of this "all-around mythological person," as Bowers calls her in his commemorative coins Guide Book, is her appearance as well on the arms of the State of California.) The owl, sacred to Minerva, is the central device on the reverse of the Pan-Pac fifties.
Huckster-entrepreneur Farran Zerbe roundly condemned the Aitken design in a contemporary editorial in The Numismatist, complaining that all of the final designs had been "chosen by the Treasury Department without consulting the Exposition." But many subsequent generations have nonetheless praised both the artistry and execution of the Panama-Pacific fifties, and they are far and away the rarest and most desirable U.S. commemorative coins of the classic era.
It is sometimes forgotten, but decades later, sculptor Aitken again turned to the figure of Minerva for artistic inspiration (or to the State Seal of California on which she is depicted), for the 1935-S and 1936-D California-Pacific Exposition commemorative silver half dollars, more commonly called San Diego halves for their reverse design.
The overall preservation of this coin's surfaces are simply extraordinary. The only mark that keeps this magnificent coin from an even higher grade is a thin, shallow abrasion on Minerva's helmet; otherwise there are no noticeable contact marks on either side. The mint luster is bright and satiny with a slight, even reddish tinge. Rarely encountered in strict Gem condition. Census: 43 in 65, 28 finer (9/11).(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7451)

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Auction Dates
October, 2011
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 10
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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