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    1915-S Panama Pacific Fifty Dollar Gold, MS65
    The Scarcer Round Variant

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Round MS65 PCGS. In addition to their extremely low mintages, part of the celebrity of the 1915-S Panama-Pacific fifty dollar coins today stems from the poor reputation of the numismatic promoter and huckster par excellence, Farran Zerbe. Zerbe (1871-1949) joined the ANA in 1900, serving as first vice president from 1904 to 1907 and president from 1907 to 1909. Despite this prestigious resume, Zerbe was responsible for the sour taste in collectors' mouths left by several early commemorative gold dollar issues. Take, for example, the 1903 Louisiana Purchase-McKinley and Jefferson gold dollars. Those first commemorative gold dollars were authorized to the extent of 250,000 pieces, of which 215,000 had to eventually be melted as unsold. Zerbe offered the coins for $3 each -- a price that collectors deemed excessive, at three times face value. Zerbe submitted articles and press releases to The Numismatist, touting the investment potential of the coins. Nonetheless, within a year of their issue, the coins' prices fell to $2 or less. Bowers writes in A Guide Book of United States Commemorative Coins:

    "All of this hoopla did not sit well with many collectors and dealers. In particular, Thomas L. Elder, a dealer whose business was just beginning to become important on the national scene, later wrote a virulent condemnation, stating that Zerbe, contrary to all standards of numismatic professionalism, was simply a huckster who engaged in misleading advertising and promotions."

    The 1904-05 Lewis and Clark Exposition gold dollars were also associated unofficially with Zerbe, and sales were muted at best after the 1903 debacle. More than a decade later, when the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition rolled around, Bowers writes:

    "Zerbe's reputation in the numismatic community was so poor that when the ANA decided to hold its annual numismatic convention in San Francisco in 1915, only a handful of members showed up, fewer than 20 in all -- setting a record for poor attendance unequalled before or since."

    None of Farran Zerbe's hucksterism was needed to sell these large-diameter gold pieces. For those with pockets deep enough, the coins' inherent beauty was enough; yet, it also helped that the Panama-Pacific gold coins also celebrate the Panama Canal completion, a current event of monumental national importance. This Gem is a virtually perfect example of the rarest of all commemorative gold coins, and a fitting testament to the achievement. The surfaces exude bright mint frost and yellow-gold color, with overall exceptional quality.
    From The Pannonia Collection.(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.

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    Auction Dates
    September, 2014
    4th-6th Thursday-Saturday
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