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Coins / USA, PCGS Commemorative Five Piece Panama-Pacific Exposition Set, 1915-S, in Box of Issue

Lot 81
USA, PCGS Commemorative Five Piece Panama-Pacific Exposition Set, 1915-S, in Box of Issue
27 June 2022, 13:00 PDT
Los Angeles

Sold for US$426,000 inc. premium

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USA, PCGS Commemorative Five Piece Panama-Pacific Exposition Set, 1915-S, in Box of Issue

Including 50C MS66+ PCGS; G$1 MS65 PCGS; $2.50 MS65+; $50 Round MS66; $50 Octagonal MS64. All together with original box and insert of issue.

A grand opportunity for an advanced specialist to obtain this greatly prized set, easily the most famous set of any of the commemoratives issued. Indeed, the only other more famous "set" that comes immediately to mind is the King of Siam set that contained an 1804 dollar and other minor coins of the time, and which has absolutely nothing to do with commemorative issues. The coins and box are as follows for quality: * 1915-S half dollar. Designer: Charles Barber, obverse; George Morgan, reverse. Distribution: 27,134 pieces. MS66+. This is a wonderfully original example of a key date classic commemorative type. Moderately toned an original silver-gray color with some deeper sea-blue and old-gold accents here and there; boldly impressed and virtually mark and abrasion-free overall.

The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 represented both a technical and political milestone. In honor of this achievement, and to celebrate San Francisco's rebirth after the earthquake of 1906, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in 1915 on 635 acres of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Exhibits by 44 states and 36 foreign countries showcased the arts and sciences, producing one of the largest expositions of its kind. Just over one month before the Exposition was to open, Congress signed into law the Act of January 16, 1915, enabling the production of silver half dollars and gold coins of assorted denominations in support of the event. These silver half dollars were the first commemorative half dollars to be struck at a branch mint, with 60,000 being produced over the course of the Exposition. Like many commemorative issues of the early 20th century, numismatist Farran Zerbe managed the distribution, setting up his Money of the World exhibit at the event as promotion. Though declared a "very successful distribution" by Zerbe, just over half of the half dollars were returned to the Mint for melting, leaving a net distribution of 27,134 pieces.

While all of the commemorative coins issued for this event have gained popularity over time, the half dollar perfectly balances aesthetic beauty with relative affordability. Gem MS-65 examples are more difficult to locate, and some are hindered by insufficient strike and luster. Premium quality Gems like the present offering are very scarce. * 1915-S gold dollar. Designer: Charles Keck. Distribution: 15,000 pieces. MS65. Frosty honey-gold with intense luster and satiny, matte-like surfaces that are defect-free overall; an exceptional example * 1915-S quarter eagle. Designer: Charles Barber obverse; George Morgan, reverse. Distribution: 6,749 pieces. MS65+. Frosty yellow-gold and presenting an appearance as if it had just been struck; unusually bold impression of the dies * 1915-S $50 gold. Octagonal. Designer: Robert Aitken. Distribution: 645 pieces. MS64. The octagonal Panama-Pacific $50 bore the same design by Robert Aitken as its round cousin, but with a few minor modifications. Most notably in the spaces surrounding the central design are swimming dolphins, reminiscent of the huge dekadrachms of Syracuse and symbolizing the unbroken waterway created by the Panama Canal, as explained by Aitken. The mintmark appears to the right of the pine cone on the owl's right side. The Panama-Pacific commemorative coins hold the distinction of being not only the first commemoratives struck at a branch mint, but also the first to employ the motto, In God We Trust. The same year as the exposition, Zerbe along with several local businessmen established the Pacific Coast Numismatic Society, the first such organization west of the Mississippi River. The society helped supervise the United States Mint's exhibit at the exposition, and later served as host for the ANA Convention that same year.

Farran Zerbe's tireless promotion left today's collectors a bounty of items from the Exposition. Zerbe also helped to create a number of medals, to include the official exhibit award medal and the official Mint medal, and even bezels to allow the smaller coins to be worn as jewelry. In addition, there were dozens of unofficial souvenir medals offered by other participants. Despite Zerbe's best efforts, sales were slow for the large denomination coins and the expensive multiple coin sets. Sales were moderately better for this issue than the round version, possibly due in part to the historic appeal of the octagonal shape so frequently associated to the United States Assay Office of Gold slugs from six decades prior. Some 645 examples were ultimately sold individually and in sets, still far below the 1,500 struck. The remaining coins ended up in the Mint's crucibles.

Like the round $50 coins, while they did not circulate, the octagonal pieces suffered from mishandling, as a result choice examples are quite difficult to locate. A few more are known as Gem specimens than there are of the round coins, but are by no means common. This is an exceptional near-Gem specimen with frosty straw-gold color and exceptionally smooth surfaces for the assigned grade. 1915-S $50 gold. Round. Designer: Robert Aitken. Distribution: 483 pieces. MS66. Due in part to the lower net mintage (483 pieces), the round type is much more challenging to locate in high grades than the octagonal type. This is one of the two most blatantly original Pan-Pac Round Fifties that this cataloger has ever seen. This coin is also tied with just three others as the highest-graded 1915-S Pan-Pac $50 Round certified by PCGS. The 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. The yellow-gold surfaces are so smooth, in fact, that this coin would almost certainly reside in an MS67 holder were it not for a microscopic obverse contact mark at the back of Athena's mouth. Premium quality in every sense of the term, this beautiful set is sure to sell for a very strong bid. Among the finest known! * Original box of issue. This is the original leather case with royal-purple interior available to house the five previously mentioned coins commemorating the Panama-Pacific Exposition. The inside of the case exhibits minimal signs of handling and the outside shows only minor rubbing to the edges and several shallow scuffs to the top and bottom. The clasp is fully functional, and the overall appearance of the case is very pleasing. Also present is the original certificate of issue that was included with the set. An excellent item to include as part of this advanced collection of Panama-Pacific Exposition silver and gold coins.

If you are a specialist in the commemorative series then you are aware that an opportunity such as this presents itself only rarely in the numismatic marketplace, and that the shrewdest of all collectors are those who take advantage of this important event.

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