Recent legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives
offers numismatists an exceptional opportunity to enhance a National
Historic Landmark and numismatic icon, the Old San Francisco Mint, as
well as establish a world-class, interactive, 12,000-square-foot money
museum, the American Money and Gold Rush Museum, and could afford
collectors the opportunity to acquire a new version of the extremely
popular and uniquely designed Panama-Pacific International Exposition coins.
Nearly a century ago, Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to issue
five different coins dated 1915 to be issued in connection with the
Panama-Pacific International Exposition — pieces that represent a
high-water mark for American commemorative coins.
Produced at the San Francisco Mint, these were the first U.S.
commemorative coins to bear the motto “In God We Trust.” The coins
were a silver half dollar and four gold coins in denominations of $1,
$2.50 and $50 (the latter as both a round coin and an octagonal coin).
In late July, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced the
legislation that would create an exciting new commemorative coins
program to celebrate the centennial of the Panama-Pacific
International Exposition and the engineering feat that created the
Panama Canal. Joining Ms. Pelosi as co-sponsors of the Panama Canal
and Pan-Pacific Exhibition Centennial Celebration Act, H.R. 2760, are
12 other members of Congress.
The bill authorizes the U.S. Mint to issue commemorative coins
closely resembling those of 1915, including, for the first time, an
octagonal gold $5 piece. Collected surcharges from the sale of the
program’s coins would go to the San Francisco Museum and Historical
Society for the design and construction of appropriate exhibitions in
the San Francisco Museum, 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
The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition celebrated the
completion of the Panama Canal and the 400th anniversary of the
discovery of the Pacific Ocean by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de
Balboa. The fair was held for almost the full year, and was a
significant factor in the economic recovery of San Francisco, which
had been nearly destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent fire in 1906.
The numismatic community is excited about this legislation and
pledges to work to ensure it is enacted. To that end, please contact
your respective representative in the U.S. House and ask that she/he
co-sponsor H.R. 2760. The preferred method of contacting elected
officials is by email or by phone. You can find the contact
information for your member of Congress at www.house.gov. When contacting them,
please reference H.R. 2760, and urge their immediate support of the bill.
Thank you for your time and your support of this important
Donald Kagin is co-chairman of the American Money and Gold Rush
Museum in San Francisco and a board member of the San Francisco Museum
and Historical Society. He is author of Private Gold Coins and
Patterns of the United States.