Commemorative Coins, New Discoveries, Historic Medals and Aviation Awards to Highlight Bonhams Fall Auction

Bonhams is pleased to announce the addition of a highly sought after five-piece Panama Pacific coin set to the September 4, 2011 auction of Rare Coins and Medals. Created to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal and the workmen that created it, the coins graced the 1915 exposition in San Francisco in celebration of the monumental event.

Paul Song, Director of the Rare Coins and Banknotes Department at Bonhams & Butterfields, said of the coin set: “The Panama Pacific coin set is one of the highest-priced coin sets of this type to come to market. Many of the sets made by this mint have been melted down since 1915. Bonhams is pleased to offer such a pristine set.”

Coins featured in the set include a 1915-S 50C, 1915-S G$1, 1915-S $50 Round, 1915-S $50 Octagonal and a 1915-S $2.5. It was during this time that many new devices were being tested on America’s coinage: matte proofing, rims without denticles, artistic lettering, textured fields, and the like. As can be seen, the coins struck for this exposition, such as this attractive quarter eagle, incorporate many of these innovations. Instead of a more traditional design, the artist of the 1915-S $2.5 proposed an unusual motif of Columbia seated on a mythological hippocampus, half-horse, half-sea serpent. The eagle, too, was styled in a new way, not seen before on an American production coin. It was modeled upon a similar eagle seen on one of the rare pattern issues. The coins are offered with the original case of issue inscribed PANAMA-PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION COMMEMORATIVE COINS 1915 SAN FRANCISCO, U.S.A. and are estimated to bring $90,000-100,000.

Timed to coincide with the celebration of Mexican independence on September 16th Bonhams is pleased to offer an extremely rare Mexico Centennial Gold Medal of Independence (est. $6,000-8,000). The gold medal was struck in 1910 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the independence of Mexico from Spain and remains a highly sought after piece of history.

Also of note within the medal section of the fall auction is the gold trophy from the first Pulitzer Air Race, awarded to Lieutenant Corliss C. Moseley in 1920. The obverse with relief design shows the Pulitzer Trophy itself, which was crafted by sculptor Mario Josef Korbel, and the words “Pulitzer Trophy.” The reverse has a laurel-crowned propeller and inscription “Winner of First Place: Lt. C.C. Moseley, USA. Distance 116.0808. Time 44:29:57. November 25, 1920.” Struck in gold by the Gorham Company of New York, the trophy is marked 14 karat, measures 124 x 75 mm, and weighs approximately 375 grams. The Pulitzer Air Race occurred annually until 1925, and the large silver trophy itself now resides in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (est. $15,000 – 20,000).

Additional awards and accolades featured within the sale include the Gold Roosevelt Memorial Association Medal of Honor presented to Owen Wister for distinguished service. This rare medal has been in the possession of Owen Wister’s family since it was issued to him in 1929 by James Garfield, President of the Roosevelt Association. Garfield was the son of the late James A. Garfield and served as the Secretary of the Interior during the Roosevelt administration. To date, only 135 Theodore Distinguished Service Medals have been awarded. This medal is an extremely rare offering at public auction and is expected to bring (est. $18,000-25,000).

Song continues: “Bonhams is pleased to offer these rare to market medals and awards. They are rare pieces of history with great provenance that are not generally seen at public auction.”

Filled with rarities, the sale also contains a collection of gold coins from the Estate of Hellen and Charles Mapes, of Reno, Nev. Once owned by the famed hotel and casino mogul Charles Mapes, the offering includes a rarely seen, high grade 1870-CC Liberty Double Eagle coin. This date and mint are well known to numismatists as the top Carson City rarity in the Liberty Double Eagle series. In fact, it is the rarest of all CC gold coinage. (Please see separate press release).

Song continues: “We are estimating the Mapes 1870-CC Double Eagle to conservatively be $150,000-$180,000. This year marks the 50th year anniversary of Mr. Mapes’ purchase of this ultra-rarity and this example has not seen the light of day for the past 50 years, making this example in effect a coin of the highest importance being offered after a half century in the depths of a safety deposit box.”

This particular coin has been in the Mapes Collection since it was purchased in February of 1961 from the fabled Kreisberg-Schulman Auction of February 16-18, 1961 held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and can be considered a “discovery” piece due to the length of time since its last offering 50 years ago. Knowledgeable researchers estimate that approximately 35 to 45 1870-CC $20 coins exist, most in the Very Fine to Extremely Fine grade range. It should be noted there are no Uncirculated (Mint State) examples presently known to either of the major grading services.

Additional coinage of note from the sale includes a core of $20 gold pieces from a private collection (estimates range from $1,600-40,000); a complete collection of Indian Head $2.5 Quarter eagle coins (estimates range from $250-14,000) and a 1796 $10 AU50 NGC (est. $50,000-60,000), an outstanding example of the second year of the $10 gold eagle.

The illustrated auction catalog for the sale is available online for review and purchase in the weeks preceding the sale at For more information about the department, please visit

Los Angeles Preview: September 2-4, 2011

Auction: September 4, 2011, Los Angeles

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published.