1915-S Panama-Pacific Exposition $50. Round. MS-66 (NGC).
Designed by Robert Aitken, the Panama-Pacific $50 was authorized by Congress for sale at the Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco during 1915. The Congressional act provided for the production of 3,000 examples, 1,500 coins each in Round and Octagonal formats. Although initial sales proved promising, the asking price of $100/coin was too high for most exposition attendees to handle, this despite the fact that the cost also entitled the buyer to a Pan-Pac Half Dollar, Gold Dollar and Quarter Eagle at no additional charge. Even though sales continued through November 1, 1916 (well after the exposition had closed), the majority of Pan-Pac Fifties were eventually returned to the Mint and destroyed as unsold. Net mintages are just 483 Round examples and 645 Octagonal pieces. The Octagonal variety seems to have sold better than its Round counterpart due to the perceived uniqueness of the coins' shape among exposition attendees and contemporary collectors.
As one might expect given the relative net mintages of these two varieties, the Octagonal Pan-Pac $50 is a bit more obtainable in today's market than the Round variant. On the other hand, there are a few more Round examples certified above the MS-65 grade level than there are for the Octagonal variety. Both versions, however, are very rare in the finest Mint State grades when viewed in the wider context of the rare coin market. The large size of these coins acted as a magnet for abrasions, with Minerva's cheek being particularly prone to displaying wispy slidemarks and other signs of mishandling.
Obviously well cared for since the day of sale, this exquisite, premium-quality Gem ranks as one of the finest Pan-Pac $50 Rounds that this writer has handled in recent memory. The surfaces are exceptionally smooth, even Minerva's cheek being free of distracting abrasions. Both sides possess warm orange-gold color and full, billowy, satin-textured luster. A definite highlight of the gold offerings in this sale, this impressive Commem is destined for inclusion in the finest numismatic holding. Beautiful!