Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1915-S Octagonal Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar, MS64+
    A Shape Reminiscent of the Gold Rush 'Slugs'

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Octagonal MS64+ NGC. Ex: The Paramount Collection. Unlike Augustus Saint-Gaudens, James Earle Fraser, or Adolph A. Weinman, sculptor Robert Aitken never saw any of his own designs on circulating, regular-issue coinage. However, he firmly established himself during the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century as a rising star and preeminent player in the world of American sculpture.

    When he was just 23 years old, San Franciscan Robert Ingersoll Aitken was tapped to replace his former instructor at what is now the San Francisco Institute of Art. He served in that capacity from 1901 to 1904. By the end of the decade, Aitken had become accustomed to important commissions, successful exhibitions, and numerous awards. In a December 1907 article that speaks to Aitken's celebrity status, the San Francisco Chronicle discussed the artist's wedding to Laure de Ligny, "a Parisian beauty." It described Aitken as "famed for his modelling of famous men and women," and proudly claimed him as a fellow Californian.

    One year later, Aitken would again make California proud as the first recipient of the Mary Foster Barnett prize for best sculpture at the winter exhibition of the National Academy of Art and Design. In response, the Chronicle proclaimed: "California has won fresh artistic triumph in the East."

    Aitken's stellar reputation and West Coast connection made him a natural fit when it came time to select artists to prepare works for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Among the innumerable sculptures on display were Aitken's "Four Elements" in the Court of the Universe and "Fountain of Earth" in the Court of Abundance. According to the National Sculpture Society, who wrote of the latter, "Seldom has more exaltation of thought and intensity of feeling, been infused, without mawkishness or exaggeration, into a work of art."

    Among numismatists, the 1915 Pan-Pac fifty dollar gold pieces inspire the same degree of awe and admiration. As mentioned, Robert Aitken's designs never graced circulating coinage, but his acclaimed commemorative and medallic works undoubtedly place him among the likes of Saint-Gaudens, Fraser, and Weinman. His octagonal fifty dollar is an especially noteworthy achievement. These pieces were struck as mementoes of the octagonal "slugs" from the California Gold Rush. Aitken brought the commemoration forward in time and extended the cause for celebration by placing dolphins in the angles of the octagon, a clear reference to the opening of the Panama Canal. This is a magnificent survivor. The surfaces are virtually free from contact marks. The mint luster is bright and satiny, and each side displays even yellow-gold color.
    From The Paramount Collection. (Registry values: P7)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# BYLX, 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 Paramount Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2021
    23rd-25th Tuesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 892

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Sold on Feb 25, 2021 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 10 days left to consign to the 2021 April 21 - 26 US Coins Signature Auction !

    Learn about consigning with us

    Had we endeavored to sell it without your support, it would have taken us at least 10 lifetimes, i.e. it would have been impossible.
    Melinda L.,
    Greenville, SC
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search