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Finest PCGS Certified 1915-S Panama-Pacific $50 Round Gold Commemorative to be sold in Baltimore

The highest-denomination Commemorative coins ever struck in the United States Mint, the 1915-S Fifty-Dollar gold pieces were produced for sale at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. Ostensibly held to celebrate the completion and opening of the Panama Canal, the Exposition also provided the city of San Francisco with an opportunity to showcase its revival after the devastating earthquake of 1906.

The Fifty-Dollar gold pieces were authorized by Congress with a specified mintage of 3,000 coins. This figure is further subdivided into 1,500 examples each for the octagonal and round types. Both exhibit essentially the same design, the obverse with a bust of the goddess Athena (Minerva in Roman mythology) wearing a crested helmet pushed back on top of her head. The goddess holds a shield upon which is inscribed the date 1915 in Roman numerals MCMXV. The field above the central device is inscribed with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above and the denomination FIFTY DOLLARS is below. The use of Athena is due to her status as the goddess of wisdom, skill, agriculture, horticulture, spinning and weaving–all of which are critical to the economy of California.

The reverse depicts Athena’s owl–symbol of wisdom–perched atop a branch of ponderosa pine. The Latin motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is present in the field behind the owl, the inscription PANAMA-PACIFIC EXPOSITION is above and the city SAN FRANCISCO is below. The octagonal pieces, but not the round coins, display an extra inner border with a dolphin device that signifies the continuous waterway created through the opening of the Panama Canal. The coin’s designer is Robert Aitken.

The price for Exposition attendees was $100 per Fifty-Dollar gold coin, a sum that also entitled the buyer to an example of the Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Gold Dollar and Quarter Eagle at no extra charge. A complete five-piece set could be had for $200. These asking prices were apparently too high, however, and many examples of both the octagonal and round Fifties were eventually melted as unsold. The net mintage for the octagonal variant is just 645 coins, while that for the round type is a mere 483 pieces.

Due in part to the lower net mintage, the round type is much more challenging to locate in high grades than the octagonal type. You can imagine our delight, therefore, at being able to offer this premium-quality Gem for the consideration of advanced collectors. This is one of the two most blatantly original Pan-Pac Round Fifties that this cataloger has ever seen. This coin is also the single highest-graded 1915-S Pan-Pac $50 Round certifed by PCGS. Satiny luster is full and so rich that it seems to have a life all its own apart from the rest of the coin. It is deeply set among the devices, nonetheless, from where it accents a sharp-to-full strike for both sides.

The level of surface preservation is just as significant as the luster quality, with none of the often-seen hairlines, scuffiness and other disturbances to the obverse over and before Athena’s portrait. Yellow-gold surfaces are so smooth, in fact, that this coin would almost certainly reside in an MS-67 holder were it not for a trivial obverse contact rear at the back of Athena’s mouth. Premium quality in every sense of the term, this beautiful piece is sure to sell for a very strong bid. Among the finest known!

PCGS Population: 1; 0 finer.

Available as Lot #3473 in the Bowers and Merena Baltimore Auction March 5th, 2010. Pre-Bidding Ends: 3/5/2010 3:00:00 PM- Live Floor and Internet Bidding Begins: 3/5/2010 3:00:00 PM

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