New Proposal for Panama Pacific Exposition Centennial Commemorative Coins

July 25, 2013 By Michael Zielinski

A bill was recently introduced in the House of Representatives which seeks to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue commemorative coins to mark the centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and the Panama Canal. Several details of program would differ from those included in a similarly themed commemorative coin program proposed under two bills introduced in the last Congress.

The new proposal would include a total of five different coins, compared to four coins included in the previous proposal. All five of the proposed coins would feature designs which are close likenesses of the five commemorative coins issued in 1915 for the opening of the Panama Pacific Exposition, compared to only three of the original designs being being re-used. Lastly, the new proposal calls for the half dollar denomination to be minted in 99.9% fine silver, with an optional clad version released for circulation. Under the previous proposal, the half dollar would have only been produced in clad composition, with no option for a circulation release.


The first of the newly proposed coins would be two $5 face value gold coins carrying the designs of the octagonal and round 1915 Panama Pacific $50 Gold Coins. The obverse design features the head of the goddess Minerva wearing a Corinthian style helmet, while the reverse features an owl perched on a pine bough with four pine cones and sprigs of pine needles. The obverse and reverse designs for the octagonal version include dolphins placed at each of the vertices. In stark contrast to the original $50 gold coins which had a hefty weight of 83.55 grams and large diameter of 2 inches, the new $5 gold coins would have a weight of 4.18 grams and diameter of 0.7087 inches.


The next proposed coin would would be a $2.50 gold piece, or quarter eagle, featuring likenesses of the obverse and reverse designs for the original 1915 Pan-Pac $2.50 Gold Piece. The obverse design features the goddess Olympia holding a caduceus and riding on the mythological hippocampus, which has the head of a horse and the tail of a dragon. The reverse features an eagle perched on a plaque carrying the inscription “E Pluribus Unum”. The coins would have a weight of 4.18 grams and diameter of 0.7087 inches, matching those of the original issue.


A final proposed gold coin would have a face value of $1 and carry the same design as the original 1915 Panama Pacific Gold Dollar. The obverse features a Panama Canal laborer wearing a cap, while the reverse features a depiction of two dolphins encircling the denomination. Specifications for the new coin would match those of the original, with a weight of 1.67 grams and diameter of 0.5906 inches. All gold coins for the new program would be struck in 90% gold and 10% copper.


The last coin included in the program would be a half dollar struck in .999 fine silver with a weight of 12.5 grams and diameter of 1.2047 inches. The design would be a close likeness to the half dollar issued in 1915 featuring the full figure of Columbia scattering flowers from a cornucopia held by a cherub towards a sunset on the Golden Gate. The reverse design features an eagle perched on the union shield with an oak branch an olive branch to each side.

Circulating clad composition half dollars featuring the same design may also be issued at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. These would be issued along with half dollars bearing the standard design and may not account for more than half of the overall number of half dollars issued for each year. The clad half dollars with the Panama Pacific design may be issued in 2017 and for no more than five consecutive years.

Besides the clad version of the half dollar, the other coins of the program may be issued only during the one year period beginning on January 1, 2017.

Maximum mintage levels specified under the legislation are 75,000 round $5 gold coins, 75,000 octagonal $5 gold coins, 50,000 $2.50 gold coins, 50,000 $1 gold coins, and 250,000 silver half dollars.

Surcharges of $35 per $5 gold coin, $20 per $2.50 gold coin, $15 per $1 gold coin, and $10 per silver half dollar would be added to the purchase price of each coin. These surcharges would be distributed to to the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society for the design and construction of appropriate exhibitions in the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, including the necessary adaptive reuse of the Old Mint, commemorating the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, as well as the development of appropriate exhibitions at the Palace of Fine Arts on the grounds of the former Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

The bill H.R. 2760: Panama Canal and Pan-Pacific Exhibition Centennial Celebration Act was introduced on July 19, 2013 by Rep. Nancy Pelosi and currently has 12 cosponsors. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. In order to become law, it must be passed by the Congress and signed by the President.