Two Panama-Pacific International Exposition $50 commemorative gold coins, one round and one octagonal, topped the results as Heritage’s July 7-10 Summer FUN auction raised close to $6.6 million for its consignors, with after-auction purchases continuing
The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in 1915 in San Francisco, in what is now known as the Marina District, to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal the year earlier. The San Francisco Mint struck a series of coins to commemorate the occasion – a half dollar, a quarter eagle, a round 50-dollar coin, and an octagonal 50-dollar coin. These were the first US commemorative coins to be struck at a branch mint.
The two 50-dollar coins are the first coins of that denomination to ever be issued by the US Mint, and were the only $50 coins issued until the establishment of the American Eagle bullion coin program in 1986. The octagonal coin is also the only coin of the shape ever to be issued by the US Mint, harkening back to San Francisco’s gold rush era, when a number of privately and semi-officially issued octagonal $50 coins and ingots circulated before the 1854 opening of the San Francisco Mint.
The Panama-Pacific $50s were struck in very small numbers, with only 483 round pieces and 645 octagonal pieces issued. The issue price was $100, a small fortune in 1915. It was one of the factors that led to the small mintages and resulting rarity today.
The Summer FUN auction saw both a round and an octagonal example of the Panama-Pacific offered to bidders. The round coin, graded MS64 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), sold for US$88,125, while the octagonal piece, encapsulated by NGC as MS62, sold for $58,750.
As with all Heritage auctions, there were many outstanding rarities offered for bidding. Two early US Mint issues, an 1805 quarter and a 1797 half dime with 15 stars on the obverse, both boasted MS64+ grades assigned by PCGS. These coins sold for $49,350 and $47,000 respectively.
Additional highlights included, but were not limited to:
- 1878-S 50C AU Details NGC: Realized $39,950
- 1859-O $20 AU50 NGC: Realized $37,600
- 1903 $5 PR66 PCGS: Realized $34,075
- Undated S-Mint Walking Liberty Half Dollar – Double Struck, Second Strike 75% Off Center – MS64 NGC: Realized $32,900
- 1883-CC $20 MS62 PCGS: Realized $30,550
- 1860-O $10 MS62 NGC: Realized $30,550
- 1878-S T$1 MS66 PCGS: Realized $30,550
All prices realized include a 17.5% Buyer’s Premium.
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Our next auction of US coins, scheduled for August 10-15 at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Anaheim, will open for bidding soon at www.HA.com/coins!
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