Coin Specifications

Category: Silver Commemoratives (1892-1954)
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 27,134
Obverse Designer: Charles Barber
Reverse Designer: George T. Morgan
Composition: Silver
Fineness: 0.9000
Weight: 12.5000g
ASW: 0.3617oz
Melt Value: $5.49 (4/19/2019)
Diameter: 30.6mm
Edge: Reeded
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1915 S PANAMA-PACIFIC 50C MS obverse 1915 S PANAMA-PACIFIC 50C MS reverse
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Description & Analysis

The Panama Canal, which remains one of the engineering marvels of the modern age, was completed in August of 1914. To celebrate this achievement, Congress authorized the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. This Expo, held in San Francisco, was also a celebration of the city’s recovery from the devastating earthquake of 1906. In addition to the expo, Congress authorized a series of commemorative coins honoring the exposition. These were to include a half dollar, gold dollar, $2.5 gold piece, and 2 different $50 gold pieces. The bill authorizing these issues was signed into law on January 16, 1915.

The half dollar’s obverse was designed by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber. Whereas most of his designs were usually old fashioned and static, he actually produced a very aesthetically pleasing and artistic obverse. It depicts the figure of Columbia scattering flowers from a cornucopia held by a cherub. Encircling the periphery is the inscription PANAMA-PACIFIC EXPOSITION. The San Francisco mintmark (S) is located to the left of the date.

Barber’s assistant George T. Morgan was selected to design the reverse. Unfortunately, Morgan did little more than modify the eagle reverse he used on the silver dollar first struck in 1878. The bird is perched on top of the Union shield. To its left is an oak branch, symbolizing stability, and to the right is an olive branch, symbolizing peace. The legends UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR surround the border, while the motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears above the eagle. The olive branch of peace is particularly ironic on a coin struck the year after World War I broke out.

Distribution of the coins was handled by Farran Zerbe, a past American Numismatic Association President and well-known promoter of numismatics. Before the coins were even struck, tens of thousands of the half dollars were already pre-sold at $1 a piece. While the authorized mintage was 200,000, the San Francisco Mint struck a total of 60,000 pieces over the course of the Exposition. Of those, 32,866 remained unsold and were melted. This leaves a net mintage of 27,134 coins for this now scarce and popular commemorative half dollar.

GRADE SUMMARY

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Price Guide

Last Updated: 2/15/2019

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1915 S PANAMA-PACIFIC 50C MS
  GVGFVFXF505355586061626364656667686970
Base $ - - 140 165 228 390 435 460 500 520 569 602 812 1100 2075 3550 8500 52500 - -
$ 245 - - - - - - 615 940 1385 2400 4200 17750 -

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Census

 
NGC GRADE SUMMARY

Total Graded: 2737
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 63
High Grade: 68

The chart showing PrAg series, G series, VG series, F series, VF series, 40 series, 45 series, 50 series, 53 series, 55 series, 58 series, 60 series, 61 series, 62 series, 63 series, 64 series, 65 series, 66 series, 67 series, 68 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 4/16/2019 1915 S PANAMA-PACIFIC 50C MS
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970Total
Base1-11610881141118134271457992492235491--2737
---------------21711---21
---------------7155----27
------------------3---3
Total1-116108811411181342714571001508247631--2788
 0 %-0 %0 %0 %0 %0 %0 %0 %1 %4 %0 %1 %10 %16 %36 %18 %9 %2 %0 %-- 

Upcoming Auctions

A random selection of NGC coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
4/24/2019 MS 64   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(2), 131917/Lot# 27808


Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Images
Date
Service
Grade
Auction House
Sale / Lot
Price
1/27/1999 PCGS AU 55   Teletrade Auction 1127, 1127/Lot# 1598 $228.90
4/29/2003 NGC MS 64   Heritage Auctions Exclusively Internet Auction #23051, 23051/Lot# 13682 $862.50
1/31/2010 PCGS MS 64   Goldberg January 31 - February 3, 2010 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 57/Lot# 1596 $920.00
4/11/2011 NGC MS 66   David Lawrence Rare Coins Monday - Internet Auction # 574, 581/Lot# 1530 $2,875.00
9/23/2012 NGC Details UNC Details  GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 09/23/2012, 41/Lot# 52803 $287.10
8/30/2013 NGC MS 64   Stack's Bowers The September 2013 Philadelphia Auction, 195/Lot# 5080 $851.88
8/5/2014 PCGS MS 67   Heritage Auctions 2014 August 5, 7 & 9 ANA US Coins Signature Auction - Chicago Session(3), 1208/Lot# 4952 $7,050.00
9/9/2016 NGC MS 65   Heritage Auctions 2016 September 9 - 12 The Twelve Oaks Collection Signature Auction Session(1), 1244/Lot# 13169 $2,115.00


NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1915 50C MS S PANAMA-PACIFIC
 PrAgGVGFVF4045505355586061626364656667686970
Base3724044394775396537159901044108111381166118612391477179925103260521297561703030021
38341645249857767480710081056110011471173120413181584203627603911672712181213600
0000008071008105611001147117312041318158420362760391167271218100
0000008981026106911191157117912211398169222733010456182411460500
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 67
Points: 6727
Owner: Gregg Bingham
 
Grade: MS 67
Points: 5212
Owner: Chippewa
 
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3/1/2006 — The finest known set of 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition commemorative coins will return to the Bay Area for the first time in 91 years to be exhibited during the Santa Clara Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo.
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