Panama-Pacific gold coins among the most popular classic U.S. commemoratives

Posted on

The five-coin commemorative series minted in San Francisco for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition remains one of the most beloved and distinctive sets in all of American numismatics.

Blog Image 2

The most-coveted members of the set are the two $50 gold pieces designed by Robert Aitken: one round, the other octagonal. Each depicts the goddess Minerva on the obverse and an erect owl on the reverse. However, the octagonal version takes the design a step further by encircling the both goddess and the owl with eight dolphins, which symbolize the ocean in homage to the opening of the Panama Canal that year.

Both $50 coins are gorgeous, but the eye-catching nature of the eight-sided specimen makes for a sight one cant soon forget.

At a recent sale in Florida, a round and an octagonal version each brought in big money. The round example certified at MS64 by NGC commanded $88,125, while its octagonal counterpart, graded at MS62 by NGC, sold for $58,750.

The higher price paid for the round version is a result of its higher grade as well as its rarity. Although a mintage of 1,500 for each design was ordered, only 645 octagonals were sold, while the round versions sales totaled 483, making it the scarcer coin. The rest were melted. One reason these coins werent more popular at the time was their price tag: $100, or twice the face value.

As of July 14, Blanchard and Company doesnt have $50 Pan-Pac commemoratives in stock, but it does have two of the other gold components of the five-coin set.

The first is the $2.50 piece designed by Charles E. Barber and George T. Morgan, certified at MS64 PCGS with a green CAC sticker. The obverse depicts the goddess Columbia wielding a caduceus and riding the mythological hippocampus, while the reverse shows an alert eagle with raised wings. Only 6,749 of these beauties were minted.

Also available is the gold dollar designed by Charles Keck, with this specimen sporting a high grade of MS66 from NGC. The obverse features the profile of a canal laborer facing left, while two dolphins encircle the ONE DOLLAR denomination on the reverse. Just 15,000 were produced for the exposition.

If youre looking to build a Pan-Pac set or collection of the classic U.S. gold commemoratives, youve got to have these pieces. The fifth member of this storied Pan-Pac set is the half dollar designed by Barber and Morgan. The obverse shows Columbia with outstretched arms scattering flowers supplied by a cherub, while the sun blazes in the background. An eagle with outstretched wings resting on a U.S. shield adorns the reverse. Stay tuned for its potential availability.