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    1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar Octagonal, MS62
    Robert Aitken's Masterwork

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS62 PCGS. Robert Ingersoll Aitken, the designer of the 1915-S Panama-Pacific fifty dollar coins, put his stamp on the notable West Coast exposition in other ways as well. He was a native of San Francisco, and among his works exhibited at the Panama-Pacific Exposition proper was the Fountain of the Earth, centered in the Court of Abundance, as well as giant figures of the Four Elements. An official brochure from the exposition notes that "these titanic, symbolic figures of the Elements show the sweep, precision and realism that this sculptor can so well combine with poetic imagery."
    Aitken's Fountain of the Earth, full of oversized personifications of various passions and emotions and prototypical human beings such as the Strong Man, the Conqueror, and Youth, is described in part below:

    "Here is a tremendous, serious and magnificent piece of work. It has rare and dramatic depth of meaning, shows a mastery of modeling and composition and is charged with emotion. It has been awarded the gold medal for sculpture of the Architectural League for this year."

    Early in his career, Aitken studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco, teaching there from 1901 to 1904. He also worked in Paris from 1904 to 1907, where he undoubtedly absorbed European artistic influences including Art Nouveau and Neoclassicism.
    In addition to his gold medal for the Fountain of Earth, Aitken also won $1,000 in a contest to design the official Mint medals or so-called dollars (cataloged in Hibler-Kappen as HK-399 to 401) that were struck at the Expo in bronze, silver, and gilt. The official medals depict a winged Mercury opening the locks of the Panama Canal, through which passes Argo, the symbol of navigation, with the sun setting on her sails. The legend reads TO COMMEMORATE THE OPENING OF THE PANAMA CANAL MCMXV (date 1915). On the reverse two females join hands around the Earth, representing the joining of the Eastern and Western hemispheres, with a legend referring to the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
    Although Aitken would go on to design other commemorative silver coins later in his career, the fifty dollar gold round and octagonal pieces are generally acknowledged to be his numismatic masterworks, and numismatists today avidly seek suitable examples. The present MS62 PCGS-certified example offers the bold orange-gold coloration typically found on the issue, with splendid eye appeal. A few minor marks on the high points of Minerva's cheek and in the field nearby seem to account for the grade, but this is a coin that any collector of commemorative gold would be more than proud to own.(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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    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    11th-15th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
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