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    1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar, MS64
    Stunning Round Example, Rare and Beautiful

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Round MS64 PCGS. The round and octagonal Panama-Pacific 1915-S fifty dollar gold coins were merely the largest and most impressive of the vast panoply of medallic, numismatic, and other commemorations of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The exposition itself was a tripartite observance: of the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914; a celebration of the elevation of San Francisco to the status of world-class city, after a decade of rebuilding following the disastrous earthquake of 1906; and, finally, an observance of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Europeans in 1513.

    Sculptor Robert I. Aitken was not only the designer of the famous 1915-S fifty dollar gold coins; he also crafted the so-called dollars issued as official medals at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, HK-399 to -401 in silver, bronze, and gilt. Aitken again chose to mix ancient Greek mythology and aquatic symbols on the so-called dollars, portraying the god Mercury on the obverse opening the locks of the Panama Canal; the reverse shows two female figures holding cornucopias and intertwining representing the earth's hemispheres, with a seagull representing the Canal.

    Mercury was a major Roman god (Greek: Hermes), the patron of finance, communication, commerce, travelers, and boundaries -- all themes with obvious relevance to the Panama Canal. Contrast Mercury with the Roman goddess Minerva (Greek: Athena) depicted on the fifty dollar gold coins; she represents craft, wisdom, and commerce and is usually accompanied, as on the fifty dollar coins, by her owl familiar. Aitken won a $1,000 prize for his official medal design; the medals were actually struck on the exposition grounds, the silver examples selling for one dollar each, the bronze and gilt for 25 and 50 cents, respectively.

    The large fifty dollar gold coins were originally scheduled to be struck on the exposition grounds as well, but ended up being produced at the San Francisco Mint due to the bulky size of the hydraulic coinage presses required for their manufacture (and the legal requirement that coins be struck in a Mint facility).

    The Panama-Pacific fifty dollar gold coins will always remain the largest and most impressive of the commemorative coins from the "classic era" of American numismatics -- and they are numismatic treasures of consummate artistry, as well.

    The round fifty dollar Pan-Pac is, in spades, the rarest coin from the classic commemorative era of American numismatics. More of the original production was melted than of its octagonal counterpart. Besides its greater rarity, we prefer the design for its slightly larger tondo in which to portray Aitken's gorgeous motifs (but we miss the dolphins). This near-Gem example is fairly bursting with honey-gold luster and ample eye appeal. A few vague marks near Minerva's chin and in the reverse left field appear to account for the grade while being not in the least bothersome. Population: 91 in 64 (3 in 64+), 26 finer (2/16).
    From The Paul Denby Collection of U.S. Gold Commemoratives.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# BYHP, PCGS# 7451)

    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 Paul Denby Collection of U.S. Gold Commemoratives ]

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    Auction Dates
    Apr-May, 2016
    27th-1st Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 16
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