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    Exceptional Panama-Pacific Fifty Dollar Round, MS64

    1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific 50 Dollar Round MS64 PCGS. One of the most magnificent gold coins ever struck, by any country, emanated from the first-ever world's fair held on the American west coast, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco, which opened on February 20, 1915. The fair celebrated dual events: the historic and commercially vital opening of the Panama Canal (linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) in August 1914, as well as the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa (he claimed it for Spain in 1513). This mammoth exposition was a showcase for mankind's achievements, including the first-ever use of nighttime lighting at a fair, enjoyed and visited by some 18 million people from all over the world. For 257 days, the PPIE hosted pavilions of exhibits, reproductions of classical buildings, luxurious gardens, carnivals, visits by celebrities, even nighttime fireworks--all the wonders of the world (the official brochure proclaimed) displayed on the 635 beautifully landscaped acres alongside San Francisco Bay. In many ways it commemorated the best of the new and the old--not just the canal and Balboa's discovery, but also man's greatest ideas and inventions, both classical and modern. As such, the expo promoted itself as a festival that linked the 19th and 20th centuries. And numerous mementoes came from it, most of them ephemeral (ribbons that frayed, badges that rusted, paper products that aged).
    Among the mementoes that will always survive are the silver and gold commemorative coins. The Art Deco styled half dollar coin (jointly engraved by Barber and Morgan) saw the largest mintage, but many were spoiled in fair-goers' pockets. The gold dollar (by Charles Keck) is starkly simple but shares its dolphins with the huge octagonal gold fifty dollar piece; the little gold dollar is the least rare of the PPIE coins. The elegant quarter eagle (again by Barber and Morgan) is very scarce, and once again a sea-theme is depicted on its obverse. As lovely as those coins are, the rarities and the most beautiful coins of this world's fair are the two varieties of gold fifties--which were called "quintuple eagles" on the printed inserts that accompanied the coins that were sold within the copper frames that housed the rare sets. Each fifty sold for $100 or double face-value at the time; remembering that approximately $1,250 was the average American's annual income in 1915, it is no wonder that the U.S. Mint's authorized mintage of 1,500 piece each of these fifty dollar gold pieces was never sold. But what a captivating memento each of these was! The rarer of the two types today is the round version, of which a mere 483 pieces were sold, many of which have never appeared on the numismatic market. The size and shape are said to have been inspired by the Wass, Molitor fifties of the Gold Rush era. Robert Aitken's deft engraving depicts on the obverse the Greek goddess Athena (symbol of wisdom and invention, of the arts and of warfare) wearing a plumed helmet, while the date 1915 appears as MCMXV (with "round stops") in Roman numerals on the top edge of a shield held in front of her torso. This could so easily be seen as an image of Liberty! The reverse shows yet another allusion to antiquity, the owl of Minerva (the Roman name for Athena), but this is a decidedly modern bird of prey, vigilantly seated upon a branch surrounded by pinecones of the native California Ponderosa tree--a wise "watch bird" for the Republic. As befits its unveiling at the Panama-Pacific fair, this coin is the very best in Neo-Classical art.
    This is a truly exceptional specimen that has the usual soft, satiny mint luster. The surfaces are reddish-gold with the slightest accent of lilac on each side. Conservatively graded, only a couple of tiny marks on each side (magnification required) preclude an even higher grade.
    From The Freedom Collection.(Registry values: N10218)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# BYLU, PCGS# 7451)

    Weight: 83.59 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    View all of [The Freedom Collection ]

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2007
    3rd-6th Wednesday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,237

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