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    1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar Octagonal
    Richly Patinated MS64

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS64 NGC. In Numismatic Art in America, Cornelius Vermeule writes, "The numismatic sensations of the [International] Panama-Pacific Exposition were the two fifty-dollar gold coins, one round and the other octagonal." Robert Ingersoll Aitken created the designs for these stunning, classically-inspired coins commemorating the completion of the Panama Canal. Vermeule goes on to say: "These coins were a tour de force, dated to be sure, but unusual enough in all respects to be worthy of what American numismatic art could achieve when creativity and mint technique worked in unison."

    The artist's talent, work ethic, and dedication are outlined in the sixth volume of the 1937 WPA publication, California Research Project:

    "Aitken is a man who leaves nothing to chance. His research on anatomy and authentic costume is almost beyond criticism. His sense of drapery over the human figure is amazing as he rarely uses a model except for unusual poses. He never loses sight of nature, and takes no account of time when once engaged in his work until he arrives to the point of perfection he desires."

    It was with that sense of perfectionism that Aitken approached the task of designing the Panama-Pacific fifty-dollar gold commemoratives. In Renaissance of American Coinage, 1909-1915, Roger Burdette notes that most artists replied to commission offers to design various commemorative coins for the PPIE in short acceptance letters; Robert Aitken accompanied his response with detailed sketches and thorough explanations.

    Aitken discussed his imagery as follows:

    "By way of an explanation of my design, permit me to state that in order to express in my design the fact that this coin is struck to commemorate the Panama-Pacific Exposition, and as the exposition stands for all that wisdom and industry have produced, I have used as the central motive of the obverse, the head of the virgin goddess Minerva."

    Aitken's own wisdom and industry are abundantly evident on the fifty dollar coins. The Octagonal pieces also show the novelty (in 1915) of that eight-sided design, a tribute to the "slugs" that circulated in Gold Rush California. This example displays rich, even reddish-gold surfaces with bright underlying satiny mint luster. Examination with a loupe shows a few inconsequential abrasions in the center of the obverse. Here is a wonderful opportunity to acquire a Choice Mint State example of Robert Ingersoll Aitken's impressive and well thought out design.
    From The Barry F. Smith 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.

    View all of [The Barry F. Smith Collection ]

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    April, 2018
    25th-29th Wednesday-Sunday
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