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[ Coins ] [ Commemorative Gold ] 1915-S Panama-Pacific Set NGC
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[ Coins ] [ Commemorative Gold ] 1915-S Panama-Pacific Set NGC. This is the most famous set of these coins, and the present auction appearance is the first time this set has ever been offered for public competition. Each of the first coins struck from the dies of the half dollar, gold dollar, gold quarter eagle, the round and octagonal fifty dollar coins were gathered together and presented to Charles C. Moore, the president of the Exposition. The first octagonal gold coin was struck by Mint Superintendent T. W. H. Shanahan himself. All of the #1 or first strike specimens were placed in a special gold presentation case by Shreve & Co. This set is photographed in Silver & Gold Commemorative Coins 1892 to 1954 by Anthony Swiatek and Walter Breen. Without a doubt, this set is one of the most historic and important of all commemorative issues and will certainly become the highlight of any advanced collection. "The 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914. In addition, the celebration commemorated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Balboa. Competition to host the fair was intense among cities, with President Taft announcing that San Francisco was selected in 1911. San Francisco was still recovering from the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906, and this international event helped provide employment and restore much civic pride to a city, which had literally been knocked to its knees. The site chosen for the Exposition is the current Marina District, which in 1911 was a mud flat. In all, 635 acres of mud were reclaimed for building sites, and construction of numerous buildings consumed over one hundred million feet of lumber and employed a small army of construction workers for three years. Landscape architect John McLaren, (also the designer of Golden Gate Park) was in charge of the exposition's landscaping, and worked closely with the many different architects involved in the project to ensure a harmonious appearance. "General Electric was in charge of lighting the fair, and numerous hidden colored spotlights were employed to give the buildings an ethereal glow in the evenings. The magical effect changed the way fairs were illuminated from that point forward. The Exposition proved so popular that many people returned again and again to enjoy the many exhibits and enjoy the world cuisine that was offered by the many countries represented. "Congress authorized the coinage for the convention on January 16, 1915, which included up to 3,000 gold coins of the $50 denomination, 10,000 gold coins of $2.50 denomination, 25, 000 gold coins of $1 denomination and 200,000 silver coins of the 50 cent denomination. It is interesting to note that the authorizing act also included a provision to allow the Secretary of the Treasury at his discretion, to actually coin the silver half dollars at the Exposition itself as part of the educational exhibit from the Mint. However, popular lore to the contrary, the coins were actually struck in the San Francisco mint on a 14-ton hydraulic press shipped from the Philadelphia Mint expressly for the striking of the $50 coins. The smaller denominations sold fairly well to attendees, but the $50 gold coins were well beyond the means of most of the population at that time. All unsold coins were to be melted after the Exhibition closed. Congress authorized $5,000 to pay for the coinage, providing this sum was repaid after the Exhibition closed. Hence, the premium required above face value for these commemorative coins, as the costs of producing them would obviously exceed the cost of striking regular issue coins at the various mints. "The half dollar was designed by Charles E. Barber, designer of the Barber silver coinage, Liberty nickel, the Hawaiian coinage of 1883, Cuban coinage starting in 1915, the Isabella and Lafayette coinage and numerous other coins, medals and commemoratives of the period. Barber's choice for the Panama- Pacific Exposition half dollar depicts Liberty scattering flowers from her cornucopia held by a cherub, with the setting sun seen behind, while the reverse shows an eagle perched on a shield with wings outstretched and flanked by an oak (strength) and olive (peace) branch beneath the wings. Current research suggests that George Morgan may have been involved in the reverse of this issue. "The gold dollar was designed by Charles Keck, who also designed the Vermont and Lynchburg Sesquicentennial Half Dollars. The obverse depicts a laborer symbolizing the canal workers who built the Panama Canal coupled with the reverse which shows two dolphins, a reference to the meeting of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canal. "The quarter eagle was also designed by Charles E. Barber, in collaboration with George Morgan, and this design employs rich allegorical engraving. Liberty or Columbia rides sidesaddle on a hippocampus while holding a caduceus. In can be assumed that the horse-fish combination suggests the labor saved by shipping goods through the new canal instead of moving them across country with the labor of horses. Perhaps the caduceus symbolizes Col. Gorgas's medical triumph in developing a vaccine, which greatly reduced malaria and yellow fever epidemics. These epidemics had decimated the canal workers and helped cause the previous canal project to end in failure in the early 1880s. The reverse shows a stylized eagle perched on a standard, with the denomination below. "Robert Aitken designed the fifty dollar gold pieces, one in octagonal format, the other round. The obverse shows Liberty as Athena, with an Athenian helmet with the date below, and surrounded by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and FIFTY DOLLARS. Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom, agriculture and such things as spinning and weaving and was often paired with the owl on the reverse. On the octagonal coins, small dolphins were tucked into the corners of the obverse and reverse. A majestic owl resides on the reverse perched on a pine branch. Owls have always been respected for wisdom and watchfulness, characteristics needed with a war unfolding through much of Europe. Aitken is also credited with designs of the Missouri and San Diego Half Dollars. "These were struck beginning on June 15, 1915 at a ceremony using the large medal coining press required to bring up the design elements. Few of the fifty dollar gold coins were sold, as the issue price of $100 per coin was far more than most people could afford. The attendees to the Exposition could stay in local hotels for about $1 a day, and eat for another $1 a day. With incidentals such as tickets and fees, a single person could attend the Exposition for about $20 a week. "Collectors should note that when these coins were designed and struck, much of the Western hemisphere was embroiled in World War I. America had carefully avoided the conflict at the time these were coined, but that would change i
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*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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