1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar, MS64
1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS64 NGC. If
San Francisco sculptor Robert Aitken was not widely known outside
of artistic circles before the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, he
certainly was afterward. Aitken was one of the artists chosen to
participate in the fair, and he produced a number of works in
addition to the designs he would create for the Mint's fifty dollar
Iconic Octagonal Form, 645 Pieces Distributed
Designed by Sculptor Robert Aitken
Perhaps Aitken's most prominent contribution was a series of four sculptures called The Four Elements, placed at the top of the main staircase leading to the gardens in front of the Court of the Universe. Alexander Stirling Calder, himself an acclaimed sculptor, described the work: "In spite of their imaginative themes, these massive works have the same gripping reality that characterizes all the later method of this sculptor."
Aitken also created The Fountain of Earth, which was placed at the center of the Court of Abundance. This work was composed of several smaller allegorical figures that symbolized "a conception of life with its sorrows, joys, hopes, and tragedies; its bright and its dark side ... ." When the National Sculpture Society exhibited the fountain in Buffalo, they wrote:
" 'The Fountain of Earth' by Robert Aitken has compelled the attention of the world of art and won the gold medal of honor in sculpture awarded by the Architectural League of New York in 1915. In this fountain, Aitken expresses the idea of man's profound significance. In general it shows the development and growth of love from its lower to higher forms and the upward effect of that spiritualization upon the life of the earth."
In this same vein, Aitken was able to convey the rebirth of the city of San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906, the completion of the Panama Canal, and the industrial and agricultural might of the state California through a form that harkened back to the days of the Gold Rush -- a large Octagonal fifty dollar gold coin. Unlike Aitken's other sculptural works, these "slugs" are available to present-day numismatists, art historians, and other likeminded enthusiasts.
A total of 645 Octagonal coins were distributed in 1915. Many of them survive, although in varying states of preservation. Seldom are examples offered as fine as this near-Gem, and higher-graded representatives are rare. Few marks appear over finely textured yellow-gold surfaces that show original reddish accents. The relief elements are strongly brought-up, and we can see only a few thin lines on Minerva's cheek and a tick near the owl's eye that limit the grade. This is a tremendous example of one of the most popular designs in American coinage.(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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