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    Amazing Gem 1915-S Round Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar

    1915-S Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar Round MS65 NGC. Ex: Prinzi Collection. Public celebrations are an age-old phenomenon. Two thousand years ago, in ancient Rome, contests of strength and gladiator combat at the Colosseum (then known as the Flavian Amphitheater) and chariot races at the Circus Maximus served not merely as entertainment, but typically occurred as part of a period of celebration declared by the emperor to mark special events. The reason might be the successful conclusion of a war, an unusually fine harvest, or especially the beginning of the reign of a new Caesar. Centuries earlier, the Greeks called the public to contests of physical abilities at various sports, of which the games at Olympia are the best remembered but were not unique at the time. No doubt there were gatherings to celebrate events even before history recorded them.
    It took a modern humanity, however, to create festivals called "world's fairs"--huge expositions of mankind's achievements intended to draw public attention to a particular site but celebrating works and staging entertainments, contributed by countries far and wide.
    Energy was gathering across the American nation at the turn of the 19th century to hold another gigantic fair. Within memory of most adults living at the time, there had been world's fairs. Philadelphia had hosted the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, marking our first century as the United States and held where patriots first declared their liberty. Chicago had mounted an even grander World's Columbian Exposition in 1892-93, a celebration of the 400th discovery of America which, in its physical dimensions, became a colossal complex of streets and canals and buildings that simulated a city. In 1889 and again in 1900 there had been the Paris Exposition. St Louis, Missouri, put on its own world's fair in 1904, to celebrate the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase. Largest in scope of all fairs to date, it had featured a complex of grand, neo-classical exhibition palaces, as had the Columbian Exposition. Its formal name was The Louisiana Purchase Exposition; among its numerous attractions it hosted the 1904 Summer Olympic Games, the first Olympics ever held in the United States (the ancient sporting games were revived in Athens as the modern Olympics in 1896). All of these fairs had been largely commercial enterprises, generating capital for the host cities and for the organizing committees, but proceeds were commonly used for some public good. The idea for a new world's fair was taking root.
    The U.S. mint was also involved in this new world's fair. Four new designs were spread over five coins. The most impressive were undoubtedly the round and octagonal fifty dollar gold pieces designed by Robert Aitken. A helmeted Greek goddess Athena (symbol of wisdom and of warfare, as well as of the practical arts) occupies the obverse of each. Her helmet is that seen on a number of classical coins, but this time it is plumed, with the date 1915 in Roman numerals on the top edge of a shield held in front of her torso. She could easily also be seen as an image of Liberty. On the reverse is another allusion to antiquity, the owl of Minerva seen on other classical Greek coins, but this owl is decidedly modern, seemingly alive and patiently seated upon a branch supposedly surrounded by Ponderosa pine cones, native to California. Here indeed is Neo-Classical art at its finest! These two coins were so massive that a medals press was needed to coin them. They are medallion-like. Their beauty is undeniable. So is their symbolism. The 483 round fifties that exist today comprise the lowest mintage of any U.S. commemorative coin. At the fair, they were sold either individually or framed as a set with the other commemoratives. So few of these sets, in copper frames, were sold that the exact number of sets in existence is not known.
    This is a magnificent Gem that is a perfect companion piece to the Gem octagonal also from the Prinzi Collection. The surfaces are essentially flawless and suggestive of an even higher grade. The bright, satiny luster shows even orange-gold color. An amazingly well-preserved example of this rare 20th century gold coin.
    From The Prinzi Trust 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.

    View all of [The Prinzi Trust Collection ]

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    January, 2007
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