The 1915 Panama Pacific Half Dollar represented only the second commemorative silver half dollar issued by the United States Mint. Although this would later become the most frequent denomination for classic commemorative coins, the earlier issues took place across a range of denominations. The program of five commemorative coins issued for the Panama Pacific International Exposition included two versions of a $50 gold piece, a gold quarter eagle, and a gold dollar.
The half dollar featured the full length figure of the allegorical Columbia with rays of the sun and the Golden Gate in the background. Her arms are outstretched to scatter fruits and flowers. A cherub appears to her right holding a cornucopia. Inscriptions read “Panama Pacific Exposition” and the date “1915”. The obverse includes the “S” mint mark, as the coins were produced at the San Francisco Mint facility.
The reverse of the Panama Pacific Exposition Half Dollar features an American Eagle with wings outstretched, perched on a shield. An oak branch and olive branch appears to each side to represent strength and peace. The words “In God We Trust” appear near the eagle’s head, representing the motto’s first appearance on a commemorative coin. The additional inscriptions “United States of America” and “Half Dollar” surround. The obverse of the coin was designed by Charles E. Barber, and the reverse was designed by George T. Morgan.
Despite the higher authorized mintage of 200,000 coins, net distribution after melting was only 27,134. The gold commemorative issues struck for the Panama Pacific International Exposition sold a proportionally large amount of their maximum mintage. The 1915 Panama Pacific Half Dollar were sold for $1 each, or included in combination offers for four coin sets, five coin sets, or double sets incorporating all issues of the commemorative coin program.
Panama Pacific Half Dollar Coin Specifications
Designer: Charles E. Barber (obverse), George T. Morgan (reverse)
Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 12.50 grams
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Authorization: Public Law No. 63-233
Maximum Authorized Mintage: 200,000
Panama Pacific Half Dollar Mintages