1915-S Panama-Pacific
    Fifty Dollar Octagonal, MS61

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS61 PCGS. Between their sheer size and overall scarcity, the fifty dollar Panama-Pacific commemoratives of both shapes have been collectors' favorites for decades. Swiatek-Breen (1981) described the two types as "the caviar and truffles of numismatics," though one needs not be the coin world's version of a gourmet to appreciate their majesty. The heaviest non-territorial federal issues ever struck, they also had the highest face value for a U.S. coin until the Mint's platinum American Eagle series began in 1997. The symbolic portraits of Minerva and her owl, stamped in gold, have a timeless appeal.

    The distinctive shape of the octagonal variant gives it even more cachet, and it is unsurprising that the eight-sided version outsold its round counterpart. Purchasers acquired 645 representatives of the octagonal form, compared to just 483 examples of the round type. Though a slight difference appears between them, the two Panama-Pacific fifties remain first and second in the pantheon of classic American commemoratives and doubtless will remain so in the future.

    Not every purchaser of these distinctive pieces was a collector. Bowers (1991) writes that "most of the approximately 300 sets [of Panama-Pacific pieces] eventually sold seem to have gone to wealthy citizens of the San Francisco area, convention officials, bankers ... and members of the general public." The overall survival rate is high (Bowers gives a figure of 80%, as do other scholars), though a number of the coins are impaired. While not pristine, the example offered here is unworn and has strong visual appeal. Well-defined and lustrous, its surfaces are amber-gold with strong orange overtones. Two small copper spots are present on the obverse and a number of wispy marks account for the grade, but the piece's general appearance is pleasing. A strong candidate that would make an impressive addition to one's commemorative collection.(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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    April, 2014
    23rd-27th Wednesday-Sunday
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