Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1915-S Panama-Pacific Octagonal Fifty Dollar
    Rarely Seen MS65
    One of the Crowning Achievements of Robert Aitken's Career

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS65 NGC. Unlike Augustus Saint-Gaudens, James Earle Fraser, or Adolph A. Weinman, sculptor Robert Aitken never saw any of his own designs on circulating, regular-issue coinage. However, he firmly established himself during the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century as a rising star and preeminent player in the world of American sculpture.

    When he was just 23 years old, San Franciscan Robert Ingersoll Aitken was tapped to replace his former instructor at what is now the San Francisco Institute of Art. He served in that capacity from 1901 to 1904. By the end of the decade, Aitken had become accustomed to important commissions, successful exhibitions, and numerous awards. In a December 1907 article that speaks to Aitken's celebrity status, the San Francisco Chronicle discussed the artist's wedding to Laure de Ligny, "a Parisian beauty." It described Aitken as "famed for his modelling of famous men and women," and proudly claimed him as a fellow Californian.

    One year later, Aitken would again make California proud as the first recipient of the Mary Foster Barnett prize for best sculpture at the winter exhibition of the National Academy of Art and Design. In response, the Chronicle proclaimed: "California has won fresh artistic triumph in the East."

    Aitken's stellar reputation and West Coast connection made him a natural fit when it came time to select artists to prepare works for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Among the innumerable sculptures on display were Aitken's "Four Elements" in the Court of the Universe and "Fountain of Earth" in the Court of Abundance. According to the National Sculpture Society, who wrote of the latter, "Seldom has more exaltation of thought and intensity of feeling, been infused, without mawkishness or exaggeration, into a work of art."

    Among numismatists, the 1915 Pan-Pac fifty dollar gold pieces inspire the same degree of awe and admiration. As mentioned, Robert Aitken's designs never graced circulating coinage, but his acclaimed commemorative and medallic works undoubtedly place him among the likes of Saint-Gaudens, Fraser, and Weinman. His octagonal fifty dollar is an especially noteworthy achievement. These pieces were struck as mementoes of the octagonal "slugs" from the California Gold Rush. Aitken brought the commemoration forward in time and extended the cause for celebration by placing dolphins in the angles of the octagon, a clear reference to the opening of the Panama Canal. This is a magnificent survivor. The surfaces are virtually free from contact marks. The mint luster is bright and satiny, and each side displays even reddish-gold patina.(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.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  | NGC Coin Grading Guarantee  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2017
    2nd-6th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 14
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 565

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2018 December 6 - 7 HKINF World Coins Signature Auction - Hong Kong.

    Learn about consigning with us

    I want especially to thank you for your courtesy and professionalism. I felt taken care of.
    Stephen M.,
    New York, NY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 July 12 - 15 Summer FUN US Coins Signature Auction - Orlando
    2018 July 12 - 15 Summer FUN US Coins Signature Auction - Orlando
    REALIZED $6,040,322
    2018 June 28 - 29 HKINF World Coins & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    2018 June 28 - 29 HKINF World Coins & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    REALIZED $3,027,497
    2018 June 27 - 29 HKINF World Currency Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    2018 June 27 - 29 HKINF World Currency Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    REALIZED $1,341,736