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    1915-S Octagonal Pan-Pac Fifty, MS64
    The First of the Two Types Struck
    A Classic Commemorative Rarity

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS64 PCGS. The first Panama-Pacific fifty dollar gold pieces were struck on June 15, 1915, in a special ceremony at the San Francisco Mint. Utilized was a large medal press that had been shipped to the West Coast from the Philadelphia Mint for this very purpose. Existing presses at the San Francisco Mint were inadequate to strike coins much larger than the silver dollar, which had a diameter of 38.1 mm. The Pan-Pac fifties reached 46 mm in diameter and contained nearly two and a half troy ounces of gold. These were the first fifty dollar gold pieces struck by the U.S. Mint for general distribution, and at the time of issue were as much a curiosity for that purpose as they were a memento of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

    The first Pan-Pac fifty struck was awarded to Charles C. Moore, president of the Exposition. Upon viewing the first of what would become the most prestigious commemorative ever issued by the U.S. Mint, Moore famously stated: "Numismatists will seek these coins with zeal." Other officials and guests of the ceremony, including the future distributor of the coins, Farran Zerbe, operated the press for the first 29 strikes, whereafter mint employees took over. All of these early strikes were of the octagonal type. Mint records indicate that 609 octagonal fifties were struck before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

    The act of January 16, 1915, provided for the coinage of 3,000 fifty dollar gold pieces and mandated that half of them be struck in octagonal format reminiscent of the fifty dollar ingots issued by the U.S. Assay Office during the Gold Rush. The angular shape of these coins created voids around the periphery not present on the round variety, which designer Robert Aitken filled with dolphins, "suggesting, as they encircle the central field, the uninterrupted water route made possible by the Panama Canal," according to the official description. As such, the octagonal coins were arguably more true to the spirit of the Exposition, and they artistically meshed with the Pan-Pac gold dollar, which featured a pair of dolphins on the reverse, symbolic of the two oceans being joined. Given these considerations, it is understandable that the octagonal fifty dollar gold piece received greater sales than its round counterpart. In total, 645 octagonal fifties were distributed and 483 round. The round variant is slightly scarcer overall today, but both varieties are rare in comparison to the demand for them. Whether the round or octagonal type, Panama-Pacific fifty dollar gold pieces have a century-long history of being the most sought-after of all classic commemoratives and one of the great gold rarities of the 20th century. Charles C. Moore's words ring true -- numismatists do seek these coins with zeal.

    The near-Gem octagonal piece offered here is sharp and satiny with rich straw-gold luster. Under a loupe, a few minor contact marks are visible on Minerva's cheek and there are a few stray lines in the fields, but the overall eye appeal is exquisite. This piece comes from a complete five-coin Pan-Pac commemorative set, which is offered here in individual lots, including the original leatherette case.
    From The Property of a Lady. (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 Property of a Lady ]

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    Auction Dates
    February, 2018
    22nd-27th Thursday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
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    The pre-sale publicity was more than I imagined, and the actual catalog better than I had expected - and my expectations were high!
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