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    Description

    1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, PR64
    Extremely Rare Judd-1961
    Possibly Second-Finest Known

    1915 50C Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1961/1791, Pollock-2029, PR64 NGC. The 1915-S Panama-Pacific half dollars were struck as part of an ambitious program of five different coins in four different denominations produced to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. Some very rare and mysterious patterns were struck from the regular-issue dies before the S mintmark was added, including examples in gold (Judd-1960), silver (Judd-1961), and copper (Judd-1962). The commemorative program was overseen by Farran Zerbe, who attributed the No S patterns to W.G. McAdoo, contemporary Secretary of the Treasury. Traditionally, these patterns have been considered fantasy pieces, but research by Roger W. Burdette suggests that the copper and silver coins may have been struck as die trials.

    In his remarkable work Renaissance of American Coinage 1909-1915, Burdette notes that the working dies for all five commemorative coins initially omitted the S mintmark. Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Adam Joyce believed the mintmark was not necessary, because the authorizing legislation specified that the coins were to be produced only at the San Francisco Mint. Mint Director Robert Wooley was on hand when the gold dollar dies arrived in San Francisco without the mintmark and, realizing that the general public would automatically assume the coins were struck at Philadelphia, ordered the dies returned and corrected to include the mintmark on April 29, 1915. Dies for the half dollar coins had been shipped, but were recovered from the shipping office before they left Philadelphia. The mintmark was added and the dies were reshipped on May 3, 1915. Superintendent Joyce requested and received permission to strike a few specimens of the commemorative coins as trial pieces and for inclusion in the Mint Cabinet before shipping the dies to San Francisco. Burdette speculates:

    "Two specimens of the half dollar struck in gold (J-1960) were made on cut down double eagle coins and were probably prepared solely for private gain. The two other half dollar pattern varieties, J-1961 in silver and J-1962 in copper, could have been made as legitimate trial strikes as mentioned by Adam Joyce above."



    Only a handful of specimens were struck in silver. Anthony Swiatek believes six examples were originally struck. Remarkably, Eric P. Newman once owned two examples of this rare issue, and one of the elusive copper patterns as well. When Heritage offered the other Newman example of Judd-1961 in our Central States Signature Auction last April (lot 4047, realized $176,250), we noted that the envelope that accompanied the coin indicated five pieces were known at the time the coin was purchased. We can account for only four examples today, as listed in our roster below.

    Roster and Provenance for Judd-1961.
    1. PR65 NGC. From B.G. Johnson's St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co. inventory, probably from the Armin Brand holdings; purchased by Eric P. Newman; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2013), lot 4047, realized $176,250.
    2. PR64 NGC. Eric P. Newman; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society, the present coin.
    3. PR64 NGC. Abe Kosoff; Saint Louis ANA (New England Rare Coin Auctions, 7/1979), lot 1364, offered with a specimen of Judd-1960 and Judd-1962 in separate lots, realized $15,000; Sound Beach Collection (Heritage, 11/2003), lot 11250, offered with the other coins from the 1979 ANA in separate lots, realized $92,000; Southern collection, Simpson Collection.
    4. A specimen recovered in the 1950s as a regular-issue Panama-Pacific half dollar, per Anthony Swiatek. Possibly the coin in lot 1300 of Mail Bid Sale 267 (Hollinbeck-Kagin, 11/1966), under commemorative half dollars: "1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, brilliant bluish unc. SCARCE. Cat. 100.00"
    Note: Anthony Swiatek reports as many as six examples of Judd-1961 were struck, but other specimens remain unconfirmed. Many of the patterns in the 1979 ANA sale were from the Dr. James Sloss Collection, which David Akers reported as sold privately in 1974. The three Pan-Pac half dollars in the sale may have come from this source, but conclusive evidence is not available at this time.


    The present coin is probably the second-finest known example of this extremely elusive issue. The design elements are sharply detailed and the well-preserved surfaces radiate vibrant mint luster. Both sides are toned in shades of champagne-gold and lavender, with spots of amber. A small planchet flaw is evident in the obverse field, below Liberty's upraised arm, but no mentionable post-strike blemishes are noted. Before the other coin from this collection was auctioned last Spring it had been a full decade since any example of Judd-1961 was publicly offered. It may be many years before another specimen comes on the market.
    Ex: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2AMG, PCGS# 62265)


    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2013
    15th-16th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,519

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman (softcover)
    A powerful and intimidating dealer of the 1960s, backed by important colleagues, was accused of selling fraudulent gold coins and ingots to unsuspecting numismatists. Who would go up against a man like that and, over the course of decades, prove the fraud? Who would expose a widely respected scholar as a thief, then doggedly pursue recovery of coins that the scholar had stolen from an embarrassed numismatic organization, all over the objections of influential collectors who had bought coins with clouded titles? Eric P. Newman would - and did. Reserve your copy today.
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