1915-S Panama-Pacific Octagonal Fifty, MS62
1915-S $50 Octagonal MS62 NGC. Although the 1915-S
Panama-Pacific round fifty dollar coins ended up with a smaller net
distribution than their octagonal counterparts -- more were melted
of the round pieces, because less were sold -- today, as apparently
at their release, many numismatists and collectors prefer the
unique octagonal design. The two are virtually identical, save for
a slight size difference and the extra 16 dolphins in the eight
corners around each side of the octagonals.
King of the Classic Commemorative Series
The obverse portrays the Roman goddess Minerva (Greek: Athena), who (according to the original publications associated with the Panama-Pacific Exposition) is "The Goddess of Wisdom, Skill, Contemplation, Spinning, Weaving and of Agriculture and Horticulture." Carrying forward the "wisdom" theme, the reverse depicts an owl, "sacred to Minerva, the accepted symbol of wisdom, perched upon a branch of western pine." The dolphins suggested "as they encircle the central field, the uninterrupted water route made possible by the Panama Canal."
The original design of sculptor Robert I. Aitken also included a spider web, a feature to which Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo, among others, objected. Fortunately, Aitken was able to make a few design tweaks, including the removal of the spider web, mollifying McAdoo and clearing the way for production of the coins.
Approval of the designs for the fifty dollar coins was widespread, even if few collectors could afford the outlay to actually buy an example. The August 1915 issue of The Numismatist comments in this regard:
"Numismatics has received a new impetus by the government's issue of the Panama-Pacific coins. Unfortunately these are put out at double face, a handicap which is quite serious in the case of the $50 pieces, and there are two of these, one round the other octagonal in memory of the slugs of the early settlers."
This 1915-S fifty dollar is a pleasing, bright example with lovely mint luster. The only mark of note is located on Minerva's helmet, with a couple of lesser edge marks noted on the obverse. Faint slide marks on the cheek and in the field -- common on these hefty commemoratives -- define the grade.
Coin Ex: The Emil Ross Collection (Heritage, 7/2011), lot 4429; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2013), lot 5984.(Registry values: P7) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7452)
Weight: 83.59 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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