Five-Piece Panama Pacific Commemorative Set with Original Case of Issue

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Lot 1353
Five-Piece Panama Pacific Commemorative Set with Original Case of Issue

Sold for US$ 142,875 inc. premium

Coins and Medals

4 Sep 2011, 10:00 PDT

Los Angeles

Five-Piece Panama Pacific Commemorative Set with Original Case of Issue
About Uncirculated to Brilliant Uncirculated


  • This highly collectible set includes:

    1915-S 50C
    A high quality specimen commemorating the Panama Canal and its Exposition at San Francisco. Rich, satiny luster and virtually mark-free fields contribute to this coin's overall appeal and a bit of light obverse toning is icing on the cake. Though the second commemorative half dollar issued, it was the first to have the motto IN GOD WE TRUST included in the design. (PCGS 9357)

    1915-S G$1
    A well struck example of this issue features the left-facing bust of a Panama Canal workman; the simple reverse has two dolphins above and below the denomination. A brightly lustrous, light golden example of which just 15,000 pieces were minted. (PCGS 7449)

    1915-S $2.5
    Original hazy golden color with essentially mark-free surfaces. The 1915-S Panama-Pacific Exposition was held at a time in our history when the art world was casting aside the constraints of its previous straight-laced ways. Many new devices were being tested on America's coinage: matte proofing, rims without denticles, artistic lettering, textured fields, and the like. As can be seen, the coins struck for this expo, such as this attractive quarter eagle, incorporate many of these innovations. Instead of a more mundane design, the artist proposed an unusual motif of Columbia seated on a mythological hippocampus, half-horse, half-sea serpent. The eagle, too, was styled in a new way not seen before on an American production coin. It was modeled upon a similar eagle seen on one of the rare pattern issues. (PCGS 7450)

    1915-S $50 Round
    The goddess Minerva or Athena wears the crested helmet found on numerous depictions of her in ancient Greek coinage; it is pushed back off her face, to signify peaceful intentions. According to the Breen-Swiatek history of these important $50 coins, "We have not found the exact Greek coin used as prototype of this head, though the crested helmet is of the Athenian type, and there are numerous silver coins of Velia and Corinth showing her in this type of helmet, sometimes wreathed as here, often with other devices on it. Most such types have a long tailpiece to the crest, which is omitted here." On her shield is MCMXV (1915), only the second use of Roman numerals for date in United States coinage history up to that time (the first was the various types of Saint-Gaudens double eagles of 1907). Why Athena or Minerva? She was the goddess of wisdom, skill, agriculture, horticulture, spinning and weaving, crop rotation, among other things, and she taught her followers to grow and use olives, whose oil was long indispensable in cooking and providing light by night. All these were important in early California.

    A very pleasing example with glowing mint luster. Only the slightest amount of friction is noted on the highpoints; Minerva's cheek and helmet on the obverse and the owl's wings and legs on the reverse. The surfaces and rims are remarkably clean and free from scratches, dings and other impairments. Designed by Charles Aitken and struck in very limited quantities, which were sold at the Exposition. When the Exposition closed, the unsold coins were melted, freezing the mintage at 483 net pieces. (PCGS 7451)

    1915-S $50 Octagonal
    During planning for the Panama-Pacific Exposition's coin striking ceremony, the Philadelphia Mint shipped a 14-ton hydraulic press to the fairgrounds for the specific purpose of minting these large $50 gold pieces. (Research has not been able to ascertain how they managed it: probably the press went disassembled by ship). On June 15, the first octagonal pieces were struck at a ceremony which attracted VIPs from all over. The ceremony had been arranged by Farran Zerbe, then possibly the best known numismatist of his day. Zerbe had the political influence to have himself put in charge of the Exposition's Coin and Medal Department, which was named in the authorizing act as responsible for distributing the commemorative coins. Zerbe set up his own collection (over 20,000 specimens after he included additions) in a trellised display area of the Palace of Liberal Arts on the Exposition grounds labeling it Zerbe's Unique Money of the World. It became one of the more popular displays, and the Panama-Pacific Commemorative coins, each with its own story appended, were probably seen by several million visitors between the Exposition's opening February 20 and its close on December 4, 1915.

    Soft, hazy golden patina on both sides. Elusive and quite costly as so few were distributed at the time of issue, this barely rubbed example is free of noticeable abrasions. The strike, while almost always sharp, shows clear detail in the stylized leafy branch on the helmet as well as Minerva's cascading hair, and both sides reveal splendid surface preservation. On the $50 octagonal only, there are 8 dolphins on each side inserted between the outer edge and inner circular border. (PCGS 7452)

    This five-piece set is currently housed in the original case of issue which is extremely well preserved with no apparent damage and bright gold printing on royal purple satin fabric. Also present is the buff colored card describing each of the five enclosed coins. The purple velvet insert remains fresh with the cutouts for the coins being sharp and well defined. The white outer box is clearly inscribed, PANAMA-PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION COMMEMORATIVE COINS 1915 SAN FRANCISCO, U.S.A.
Five-Piece Panama Pacific Commemorative Set with Original Case of Issue
Five-Piece Panama Pacific Commemorative Set with Original Case of Issue
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