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    1915-S Pan-Pac Round Fifty Dollar
    A Significant MS66 Survivor

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Round MS66 NGC. As the finishing touches were being made to the buildings and exhibits of the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, World War II gained momentum in Europe. This is noteworthy as foreign representatives of both sides of the conflict participated in the exposition. Fortunately, it would not be until April 1917 that the United States officially entered the war as an ally of the Entente Powers. And, as such, the 1915 World's Fair enjoyed peace and unity among the 42 foreign countries and the 44 American states and territories who participated in this celebration of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and, more significantly, the completion of the Panama Canal.
    An extensive variety of medals and coins commemorating the Panama-Pacific Exposition were produced. Numismatists today can thank President Theodore Roosevelt's earlier thrust for a renaissance of our nation's coinage, as many unusual and visually spectacular creations were produced as a result of his vision and leadership. Indubitably, the most memorable of the commemorative coins struck for the event are the fifty dollar gold coins--both in round and octagonal form. These pieces were the creation of Robert Ingersoll Aitken, an independent sculptor based in New York City. The outside design influence is unmistakable, as his composition was both original and artistically charged. Cornelius Vermeule, in his Numismatic Art in America, Aesthetics of the United States Coinage, offers beautifully crafted commentary of Aitken's design:

    "Robert Aitken tried to create modern, pseudo-Athenian coins, in an idiom of archaeological classicism popular among many American sculptors trained partly at the American Academy in Rome before and after the First World War. His ideas were laudable. There were a minimum of inscriptions, a classic Greco-Egyptian profile of Athena in full panoply, the date in roman numerals, and a naturalistic owl in a mass of Western pine cones. ... In an overall view, the arresting feature of the giant gold coins is their archaistic treatment of details in relief. Athena's crest, wreath, curls, and aegis imitate the work of an ancient bronze... these coins were a tour de force, dated to be sure, but unusual enough in all respects to be worthy of what American numismatic art could achieve when creativity and mint technique worked in unison."

    Aitken also designed the Panama-Pacific International Exposition commemorative medal, which, according to researcher and author Roger Burdette, was "struck by the Philadelphia Mint and on the exhibition site." The medal is another numismatic masterpiece by this outside sculptor who went on to design the 1921 Missouri commemorative half dollar and many other memorable pieces. Although he called New York City his home, it is interesting to note that Aitken was a native of San Francisco, which is likely coincidental to his commission to design the Panama-Pacific fifty dollar gold pieces. To non-numismatists he is best known for his architectural creations, such as the West Pediment of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
    In terms of technical grade, the specimen offered here resides in the upper echelon of survivors from the original distribution of 483 commemoratives. Only 19 Panama-Pacific fifties in the round format have been graded MS66 by NGC, with just 3 finer pieces certified at the MS67 level (11/08). Lustrous with a pleasing strike, this bold example is a masterpiece that is equally steeped in historical significance and artistic beauty.
    From The Scott Rudolph Collection.
    See: Video Lot Description(Registry values: N14284) (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 Scott Rudolph Collection ]

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2009
    7th-11th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
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