Panama-Pacific Gold Pieces Are Low Mintage, Pricey

Question: I have four $1 gold Panama-Pacific coins dated 1915. Is that a set? They’re in good condition and I’d like to know the value. Also, I have a gold Mexican coin, Dos y Medio Pesos, dated 1945. What is its value?--F.G.

Answer: Only 15,000 Panama-Pacific $1 commemoratives were issued, so if you have four, that’s not a bad percentage, although you’re not going to corner the market. In fact, you don’t even have a set. According to the Encyclopedia of United States Silver and Gold Commemorative Coins by Swiatek and Breen, the government-issued Panama-Pacific gold pieces are in half-dollar, $1, $2 1/2 and $50 denominations.

I’ve never seen a half dollar (but Swiatek and Breen say 27,134 were sold); and the $50 pieces are in round and octagonal shapes. All are low mintage and on the pricey side.

Your Panama-Pacific gold dollars, for example, are in the $150-to-$1,500 range. The quarter eagles are in the $500-to-$5,000 range, while the $50 pieces in decent shape are from $10,000 to $30,000. The rounds, incidentally, are more expensive than the octagonals, because there were 483 rounds issued and 645 octagonals.


The Panama-Pacific International Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was held in San Francisco, attracting about 19 million visitors. The obverse of the $1 coin depicts the profile of a worker wearing a cap and is often mistaken for a baseball player.

The Mexican 2 1/2 pesos is $35.

Q: I have a number of Bicentennial commemorative coins in sets. Do they have any collector value or are they just a collection of coins? I have the American First Medals--United States Mint, consisting of 11 coins depicting Revolutionary War battles and mounted in a cardboard holder; eight coins dated 1776-1976 commemorating the American Revolutionary War Bicentennial, in individual boxes; four “first day” commemorative stamps and covers with enclosed coins, and 1973 (Sam Adams and Patrick Henry), 1974 (John Adams), 1975 (Paul Revere) and 1976 (Thomas Jefferson) items.--R.W.

A: You don’t have coins that have monetary value. Rather, you have medals. Medals can also have value, although as a rule they are more difficult to price. Bicentennial medals, such as yours, have little or no value at present, because they are not widely traded and there is little public demand.

Q: Can you tell me the value of a 1909 $2 1/2 gold coin and also the value of an 1878 silver dollar?--R.C.S.

A: Your $2 1/2 gold quarter eagle is a common date worth $200 and up. The dollar is $10 and up, both depending upon condition.

Q: Enclosed are photos of two ancient Roman coins. They seem to be made of bronze. I think they’re dated about 200 BC. Are they rare and what’s their value?--N.S.

A: Neither of your ancient Roman coins is in good condition. They’re each probably in the $25-to-$100 range.


Q: I have been collecting paper bills through the Franklin Mint. I was wondering where else I could get these bills. Because I need only one or two from a particular country, could I go to a currency exchanger for such a small quantity?--G.T.L.

A: There are dealers for paper money, just as there are dealers for coins. It seems to me that you might be collecting modern currency, and what you need are certain denominations. A currency exchanger is a possibility, as you suggest, but you might not get uncirculated bills there.

Try a dealer--they’re listed in the Yellow Pages or you’ll find one at a coin show--or contact the consulate of the country in question. Also, the Numismatist, the monthly publication of the American Numismatic Assn., regularly publishes addresses of foreign mints.

Q: I have an 1883 silver dollar with a very small O under the center of the wreath and above and between the letters D and O in dollar. What might it be worth?--D.J.


A: The O mint mark stands for the branch mint in New Orleans. There were 8.7 million dollars produced at the New Orleans mint in 1883, which makes your $1 worth $10 and up, depending on condition.

Coin News

Twin space and Earth monuments to the Challenger 7 astronauts are the dream of Leo Vogel of Danbury, Conn., who hopes to finance his project with a medal (pictured) created by Edward R. Grove, former engraver with the U.S. Mint. The Challenger 7 Space Monument Project calls for a satellite and a duplicate of it on Earth. One-ounce silver proof medals are $29.50; 1-inch bronze medals are $5.95 and 1 1/2-inch bronze are $9.50 (plus $2 postage). Sets of silver proof and 24-karat gold over silver are $75. Sets of silver proof and bronze are $47.50 (plus $3 postage). Order from the Challenger 7 Space Monument Project, 9-17 Fairview Ave., Danbury, Conn. 06810; telephone (203) 790-1902.

Coin Calendar


Today-Sunday--The 10th Annual Long Beach Numismatic & Philatelic Winter Exposition gets under way today with 450 coin and stamp booths at the Long Beach Convention Center. Highlights include an auction by Kagin’s featuring the 1825/24 $5 (one of only two known). There will also be a grading forum, specialty meetings and a Postal Service booth. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call (213) 436-3636, (714) 548-0734..