The 1915 Panama-Pacific commemorative coinage yielded several designs that have long attracted numismatic attention. However, arguably the most appealing of these is the 1915-S Octagonal $50 Panama-Pacific commemorative coin, a gold piece with a unique shape and intriguing design by Robert Aitken.
Of the five 1915 Panama-Pacific commemoratives, two were large $50 gold coins bearing nearly the same design but struck on planchets of two different shapes. One is round, and aside from its large size and unusual design incorporating an owl, otherwise looks much like a conventional gold coin. The other, the octagonal piece mentioned here, is unlike anything else the United States Mint has produced before or since.
While 1,500 examples of the octagonal were struck, only 645 were sold due to the coin's incredibly steep price of $100 -- a mighty sum for most Americans in 1915. Today, both the versions of the $50 gold coin are in high demand, but the octagonal coin still proves a collector favorite. It even carries a special border containing eight dolphins -- a novelty in American numismatics.
One specimen exhibiting superior surfaces for its grade recently traded hands at a Stack's Bowers Galleries auction for big bucks. Graded MS62 by Professional Coin Grading Service, this piece exhibits warm, wheat-colored golden hues with minimal scratches and abrasions. It sold at auction for $60,000 in an August 2020 Stack's Bowers Galleries sale, representing an excellent coin that sold for a princely price.
*Coin images courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries.