Stuart and Maureen Levine submitted this article about the 1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollars in the Newman sale. Thanks! Beautiful coins.
We experienced a little nostalgia upon learning that San Francisco's Exploratorium, one of our favorite places, had moved to Pier 15 from the Marina district. Since its inception in 1969, this hands-on science museum had been situated on the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, in the recreated Exhibit Hall of the Palace of Fine Arts. After delving into the world of science with our young son, we would leave the cavernous building and stroll around the grounds. Intended to evoke an ancient ruin, Bernard Maybeck's original wood and plaster structures, created for the fair, decayed and were reconstructed in the 1960s. Although the recreated structures may not be true to the artist's vision, they impart a sense of the enormity and grandeur of the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
This fair was intended both to commemorate the completion of the Panama Canal and to showcase the American spirit demonstrated in the rebuilding and resurgence of San Francisco after the devastating earthquake of 1906. Cornelius Vermeule wrote: "The exposition held at San Francisco in 1915 was the only occasion in the history of the United States where a group of coins were issued in one year in different denominations designed by artists of the Mint and by outside sculptors of established reputation."
Barber's Phrygian capped figure of Liberty, clad in ancient Greek dress and strewing flowers, graces the obverse of the half dollar coin. She is accompanied by a child or putto. Morgan's eagle appears atop a shield on the reverse. Two of these pattern coins, without the S mint mark, one in silver and one in copper, are among the Selections from the Eric P. Newman Collection being offered for sale by Heritage Auctions. The catalog descriptions follow.
1915 No S Panama Pacific Half Dollar, PR65
Judd-1961, Finest Known Silver Specimen
1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1791/1961, Pollock-2029, High R.7, PR65 NGC. CAC.
Design. Both obverse and reverse were coined from the same dies as the regular-issue Panama-Pacific half dollars, but without the S mintmark. Struck in silver, with a reeded edge.
Commentary. The famous 1915 No S Panama-Pacific half dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint before the S mintmark was added to the dies, which were then shipped to San Francisco for the production run. Examples are known in copper, silver, and gold. These experimental issues were probably struck as fantasy pieces. Farran Zerbe, who was in charge of the ambitious program to produce sets of five different coins from various denominations to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal, attributed the rare No S patterns to W.G. McAdoo, the contemporary Secretary of the Treasury. Only a handful of examples were struck in silver. Anthony Swiatek reports six examples were struck, and the envelope accompanying the present coin notes five specimens were known when the coin was purchased. However, we can account for only four specimens today. The present coin is the finest known example in silver.
To read the complete lot description, see:
Lot 4047: 1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1791/1961, Pollock-2029
1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar
PR66+ Red and Brown
Judd-1962, Finest Known Copper Example
1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1792/1962, Pollock-2030, R.8, PR66+ Red and Brown NGC. CAC.
Design. Both obverse and reverse were coined from the same dies as the regular-issue Panama-Pacific half dollars, but without the S mintmark. Struck in copper with a reeded edge.
Commentary. The very rare Panama-Pacific half dollar experimental pieces were struck at the Philadelphia Mint before the mintmark was added to the dies. Examples are known in gold, silver, and copper. It is possible that the copper pieces were die trials, but most numismatists believe they were all struck clandestinely as fantasy pieces. Walter Breen reported a quote from Farran Zerbe stating the coins "may have been struck as trial pieces at the Philadelphia Mint by the instructions of the Secretary of the Treasury (W.G. McAdoo), who was a coin collector." Only three specimens of Judd-1962 are confirmed today, and it has been nearly a decade since any example was offered at public auction. The present coin is the finest known specimen by a wide margin.
Note: A specimen was exhibited by F.C.C. Boyd at the June 11, 1943 meeting of the New York Numismatic Club, per the July 1943 issue of The Numismatist, Page 559. This citation could refer to any of the three coins mentioned above, or might represent a fourth coin. Many of the patterns in the 1979 ANA sale were from the Dr. James Sloss Collection, which David Akers reported as sold privately in 1974. The three Pan-Pac half dollars may have come from this source, but conclusive evidence is not available at this time.
To read the complete lot description, see:
1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1792/1962, Pollock-2030
Wayne Homren, Editor
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