1915-S Panama-Pacific Octagonal Fifty
1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS65 PCGS. The
1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition was a dual observance, not only of
the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, but also a celebration
of the quadrennial (more or less) of the discovery in 1513 of the
Pacific Ocean by Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa. There was
a not-so-subtle subtext to the exposition, however, one of
paramount importance to San Francisco and the local economy: The
Panama-Pacific Exposition was also San Francisco's opportunity to
exhibit itself as a city reborn after the great earthquake and fire
of 1906, a great phoenix risen from the ashes of calamity.
A Wonderful, Unimpaired MS65
The 1906 earthquake and fire resulted in the loss of more than 3,000 lives according to modern estimates, the greatest natural disaster in California history, one that has been likened to Hurricane Katrina in recent times. San Francisco by the time of the 1915 exhibition was a city that showed virtually no remaining damage -- but the rush to rebuild came at great cost. Although the initial building codes propounded after the earthquake were more stringent, they slowed overall construction and were relaxed after about a year, actually ending up looser than those existing before the earthquake. In the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the largest since the 1906 temblor, damage was particularly heavy in San Francisco's Marina District, where four people died, 11 buildings were destroyed by fire or collapsed, and 63 damaged structures were condemned as unlivable. The damage was attributed both to land that was filled with rubble from the 1906 quake as well as sand and debris put down in preparation for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.
The 1915-S Panama-Pacific round and octagonal fifty dollar gold coins also had their roots in earlier ground, although with far happier outcomes. The design of both types harkens back to classical themes of the Athenians, while the shape of the octagonal coins is a tribute to the "slugs" or "ingots" coined by Augustus Humbert and the U.S. Assay Office of Gold in 1851-52, situated in San Francisco as well. Just as many of the earlier octagonal gold coins were melted to produce early federal gold coinage at the San Francisco Mint starting in 1854, so too were many of the round and octagonal Pan-Pac fifties melted as unsold, due to their high face value and relative unaffordability by most attendees to the 1915 exposition.
The size of these commemorative fifty dollar gold pieces was enormous at 2.5 ounces of gold in each one, and their size was equally large at 45 millimeters. This Gem has lovely, unimpaired mint frost. There are no marks of note, the only "defect" is a hook-shaped strike-through over Liberty's nose.
From The Richard P. Ariagno, M.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.
View all of [The Richard P. Ariagno, M.D. Collection ]
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