(Tiburon, CA – August 8, 2012) – Last week, legislation was introduced in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives 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. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition and Panama Canal Commemorative Coins Act, S. 3517, was introduced by California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer on August 2. Identical legislation, H.R. 6331, was introduced the same day by Rep. Mike Honda from California.
Seventy-five percent of the 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 exhibition 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 exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts on the grounds of the former Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The other 25 percent will go to the national Parks Foundation to be used for programs, construction, or preservation work at President’s Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay, New York.
The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and the 400th anniversary of the discover of the Pacific Ocean by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa. The fair was held for amongst 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, 2 1/2 dollars, a 50 dollar round coin, and a 50 dollar octagonal coin.
The recently introduced bills call for Congress to authorize a new program for 2015, directing the U.S. Mint to issue replicas of the 50 dollar round and 50 dollar octagonal coin, and the half-dollar, from 1915. Additionally, a silver dollar is authorized under the new legislation that is close likeness of the Roosevelt Medal that was awarded to every American citizen who worked for a continuous two-year period on the construction of the Panama Canal. On the obverse will be the image of Theodore Roosevelt, and the reverse shows the Culebra Cut through the Cordillera Mountains.
“This legislation offers numismatists an exceptional opportunity to enhance a National Historic Landmark and numismatic icon — The Old San Francisco Mint and further the establishment of the American Money and Gold Rush Museum, as well as affording collectors the opportunity to readily acquire the extremely popular and uniquely designed Panama-Pacific coins” said Don Kagin, of the American Money and Gold Rush Museum in San Francisco, California. 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 of Congress in the House and Senate to urge them to immediately cosponsor HR. 6331 and S. 3517.