Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday to create an exciting new commemorative coins program to celebrate the centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and the engineering feat that created the Panama Canal a century earlier. Joining Ms. Pelosi in supporting the Panama Canal and Pan-Pacific Exhibition Centennial Celebration Act, H.R. 2760 are 11 co-sponsors.
The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa. The fair was held for almost the full year, and was a significant factor in the economic recovery of San Francisco, which had been nearly destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent fire in 1906. Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to issue five different coins dated 1915 to be issued in connection with the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which represent a high water mark for American commemorative coins. Produced at the San Francisco Mint, these were the first U.S. commemorative coins to bear the motto “In God We Trust,” and included the silver Panama-Pacific half dollar and four gold coins in denominations of 1 dollar, 2½ dollars, a 50 dollar round coin, and a 50 dollar octagonal coin.
The recently introduced bill authorizes a new program directing the U.S. Mint to issue coins closely resembling those of 1915 including for the first time, an octagonal $5 gold piece. Collected surcharges from the sale of the program’s coins will go to the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society for the design and construction of appropriate exhibitions in the San Francisco Museum, including the necessary adaptive reuse of the Old Mint, commemorating the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, as well as the development of appropriate exhibitions at the Palace of Fine Arts on the grounds of the former Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
”This legislation offers numismatists an exceptional opportunity to enhance a National Historic Landmark and numismatic icon — The Old San Francisco Mint — while giving collectors the opportunity to readily acquire the extremely popular and uniquely designed Panama-Pacific coins” said Dr. Donald Kagin, co-chairman of the American Money and Gold Rush Museum in San Francisco and board member of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society. He further noted that the numismatic community is excited about this legislation and pledges to work to ensure it is enacted. To that end, he urges numismatists to contact their respective members in the U.S. House to urge them to immediately cosponsor H.R. 2760.