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1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific Octagonal NGC MS64 Description:
The Panama Canal, which remains one of the engineering marvels of the modern age, was completed in August of 1914. To celebrate this achievement, Congress authorized the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. This Expo, held in San Francisco, was also a celebration of the city’s recovery from the devastating earthquake of 1906. In addition to the expo, Congress authorized a series of commemorative coins honoring the exposition. These were to include a half dollar, gold dollar, $2.5 gold piece, and two different $50 gold pieces; one round, and one octagonal. The bill authorizing these issues was signed into law on January 16, 1915. Charles Keck, a well-known New York sculptor, was tapped to design the gold dollar. While his initial design depicted the Greek God of the Sea Poseidon, this was rejected as too detailed for the obverse of such a small coin. In the end, Keck went with the left-facing profile view of a typical Panama Canal laborer. The man is facing the two line inscription UNITED STATES OF / AMERICA, and the date is placed below his chin. As for the reverse, the statement of value ONE DOLLAR is the central device, with dolphins above and below. This was meant to symbolize the joining of two oceans by the canal. This is encircled around the rim by the words PANAMA PACIFIC EXPOSITION–SAN FRANCISCO. The dollars were struck (as were all the Panama-Pacific Exposition coins) at the San Francisco Mint in 1915. The entire 25,000 maximum mintage was struck, but not all were sold. Even though the design was well-received, fair-goers balked at the $2 price, and 10,000 of the pieces ended up in melting pots. This left a net mintage of 15,000 coins for the issue.