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    1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar
    Judd-1962, PR66 Red and Brown
    Only Three Examples Traced

    1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1792/1962, Pollock-2030, R.8, PR66 Red and Brown NGC. An ambitious program of five commemorative coins was authorized for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, which was held in San Francisco to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal and to celebrate the resurgence of San Francisco after the great earthquake of 1906. The denominations included both round and octagonal versions of a fifty dollar gold piece, a gold quarter eagle, a gold dollar, and a silver half dollar. The authorizing legislation specified that the coins would be struck at the San Francisco Mint. In the case of the half dollars, there was a special provision that coins could also be produced on machinery set up in an exhibit by the Mint on the fair grounds of the exhibition at Golden Gate Park. The design of the half dollar was conceived by Chief Engraver Charles Barber, with help from Assistant Engraver George Morgan and the coins were distributed by the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Coin and Medal Department (Farran Zerbe).

    Because it was intended to produce all the coins at the San Francisco Mint, Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Adam Joyce believed placing a mintmark on the coins would be superfluous. As a result, the dies for the gold dollar and half dollar, which were prepared first, were shipped to the San Francisco Mint without a mintmark. The dollar dies were sent on 4/22/1915 and the half dollar dies on 4/30/1915. Mint Director Robert Wooley happened to be in San Francisco when the dies for the gold dollar arrived on 4/27/1915. When he was informed about the missing mintmark, he rightly believed it would be a mistake to issue the coins without the S, as:

    "... numismatists and the public generally, in the absence of this mark, would conclude that they were struck at Philadelphia; also because the people of the far west, who use gold and silver money to the exclusion of paper, are very proud of this Mint and would be justified in regarding the omission of the mark as an intentional slight."

    Joyce was directed to prepare new dies for the dollar and half dollar coins with the mintmark included, and to ensure the mintmark was in place on the quarter eagle and fifty dollar dies, as well. San Francisco officials were instructed to return the sans-mintmark dies to Philadelphia. Luckily, the half dollar dies were still in the Philadelphia express office when Joyce received the order, and he was able to retrieve them before they were sent on. It was a simple matter to add the mintmark before reshipping them to the San Francisco Mint.

    Sometime before the mintmark was added to the dies, they were used to strike the very rare 1915 No S Panama-Pacific half dollars. Experts are divided over the question of whether these coins were legitimately struck as die trials, or if they are all fantasy pieces. Examples are known in gold (Judd-1960), silver (Judd-1961), and copper (Judd-1962). All three Judd varieties have a reeded edge. It would make sense if some copper and silver pieces were struck as die trials, but there is no apparent reason to strike gold trials of an issue meant to be struck in silver. Walter Breen quoted Farran Zerbe as stating the coins "may have been struck as trial pieces at the Philadelphia Mint by the instructions of the Secretary of the Treasury (W.G. MacAdoo) who was a coin collector." Today, we can account for only three examples of the copper Judd-1962, but a fourth coin was long-rumored. Only two examples of the gold Judd-1960 are extant, and four silver Judd-1961 specimens are currently traced.

    Prominent coin dealer and commemorative specialist Anthony Swiatek purchased this coin, and many other commemorative patterns in his collection, from Sol Kaplan at a coin show in Shaker Heights, Ohio in 1971. This delightful Premium Gem exhibits sharply detailed design elements throughout. The impeccably preserved original red surfaces have mellowed to brown in most areas, but vibrant original mint luster shines through the patina. Overall visual appeal is tremendous. This coin possesses an irresistible combination of intense historic interest, absolute rarity, high technical grade, and outstanding eye appeal. Census: 2 in 66 (1 in 66 + ) Red and Brown, 0 finer (11/14).

    Roster of 1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollars, Judd-1962
    1. PR66+ ★ Red and Brown NGC. Possibly Treasury Secretary W.G. McAdoo; unknown intermediaries; Eric P. Newman; Selections From the Eric P. Newman Collection, Part I (Heritage, 4/2013), lot 4048, realized $199,750.
    2. PR66 Red and Brown NGC. Possibly Treasury Secretary W.G. McAdoo; William Woodin; Fred E. Olsen Collection (B. Max Mehl, 11/1944), lot 625, realized $180; Abe Kosoff and Sol Kaplan; purchased by Anthony Swiatek at a Shaker-Heights Coin Show in 1971; the present coin.
    3. PR65 Red and Brown NGC. Possibly Treasury Secretary W.G. McAdoo; unknown intermediaries; Abe Kosoff; Saint Louis ANA (New England Rare Coin Auctions, 7/1979), lot 1363, offered with an example of Judd-1960 and Judd-1961 in separate lots, realized $5,000; Sound Beach Collection (Heritage, 11/2003), lot 11251, offered with the other coins from the 1979 ANA in separate lots, realized $63,250; Southern collection; Simpson Collection.

    Additional Appearances
    A. PR63 Brown PCGS. Denver ANA (Heritage, 8/1996), lot 5193, realized $15,400, possibly the same as number 3 above.
    B. Proof. A specimen exhibited by F.C.C. Boyd at the June 11, 1943 meeting of the New York Numismatic Club, per the July 1943 issue of The Numismatist, Page 559. This citation could represent any of the coins mentioned above.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2AMH, PCGS# 72266)

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2015
    7th-12th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
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