US Coins

Guest Commentary: Collecting community should support new Pan-Pac coins

Legislation currently pending the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2760, seeks commemorative coins celebrating the centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and the completion of the Panama Canal.

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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 International Exposition.

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 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 numismatic legislation.

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.

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