Octagonal 1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar, MS64
    A Tangible Reminder of the Exposition

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS64 NGC. Almost a century after its opening, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition has few tangible reminders left in San Francisco. The Palace of Fine Arts is the most visible survivor today of the dozens of palaces, structures, courts, gardens, and fountains that occupied the 625 acres of the original exposition.
    Fortunately for collectors, some numismatic commemorations in precious metal tend to be preserved for decades -- even centuries -- after the subjects they depict are long gone to posterity. The fifty dollar Panama-Pacific octagonal coins were both commemorations of the exposition and its remarkable confluence of art, architecture, cultural and scientific innovation, as well as subtle homage to the quaint, quasiofficial fifty dollar octagonal Augustus Humbert/U.S. Assay coins of 1851 and 1852, also struck in San Francisco.
    The U.S. Mint had no idea how many of the round and octagonal fifty dollar coins they would actually sell, originally manufacturing 1,509 octagonal and 1,510 round specimens. Even though the fifty dollar coins and accompanying commemorative denominations were offered in a variety of options and packaging choices, in the end only 645 of the octagonal and 483 of the round pieces were sold to the public, with the remaining coins melted.
    As is the case with the older Humbert/Assay Office fifties, the Pan-Pac fifties are subject to surface marks on their broad faces, along with the occasional bump and bruise that can keep many examples out of Gem territory. Nice pieces are available for a price, nonetheless. "Their fame precedes them," as the saying goes, and many examples both in high circulated grades and lower Mint State grades, where most pieces tend to cluster, still offer remarkable aesthetic appeal.
    Perfection is rarely achieved on these massive fifty dollar gold pieces. This Choice Mint State piece is close, with satiny orange-gold luster and only faint blemishes that include a small mark below the A in STATES. A single splash of dark toning below the S in SAN may serve to identify the past or future provenance of this example. NGC has certified 53 finer examples of this variety, including resubmissions (2/11).
    From The B & D 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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    Apr-May, 2011
    27th-1st Wednesday-Sunday
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