Unnaturally bright from a long-ago polishing or cleaning, yet the surfaces are remarkably free of marks to the naked eye. Though the PCGS qualifier notes "Filed Rims," the firm overlooked the obvious in the readily noticeable cleaning and polishing that has beset this particular piece. Still, "it is what it is" as they say nowadays, and no one can deny the importance of the issue in the scheme of all things numismatic.
Arguably one of the most beautiful of all American coinage designs, in the commemorative vein or otherwise. Technically dated MCMXV-S, though the "Arabic" numerals version of the date, 1915-S, is the date that rings true with today's collecting community. From a total mintage of 1,509 pieces, with nine of those for intended assay. Of that modest production figure, 645 examples were sold at the Exposition, the balance melted after the fact. Its octagonal format—the only such occurrence in U.S. coinage from any federal mint—was a big draw and 162 more of the unique octagonal format were sold at the Exposition than those in the round format. Robert Aitken's beautiful design features Athena—or Minerva, take your pick—at the center in full battle armor with crested helm and warrior shield, the shield emblazoned with the date in Roman numerals, and with IN GOD WE TRUST on two lines above the helmet's visor, all within a circle of alternating dots and dashes. An outer design circle features UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FIFTY DOLLARS around the central motif. A dolphin, symbolizing freedom of the seas, is seen in each of the eight angles of the coin. The reverse design features the "wise old owl" of Athena, her familiar and the symbol of ancient Athens, perched on a pine branch and surrounded by pinecones. E PLURIBUS UNUM appears on three lines behind the owl, and the tiny S mintmark is nestled among the pinecones. As on the obverse, two concentric circles appear, here with PANAMA-PACIFIC EXPOSITION SAN FRANCISCO within; a dolphin occupies each angle.
The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition was one of the greatest of the earlier World’s Fairs held in the United States, along with the 1876 Centennial Exposition, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the somewhat lesser remembered 1901 Pan-American Exposition and the 1904 Lewis and Clark Exposition (St. Louis World’s Fair). The commemoratives issued for the 1915 event were unparalleled and consisted of five different varieties spanning four denominations, highlighted by two $50 gold coins, one octagonal (as here) and the other round.