So-Called Dollars


Purpose: To celebrate both opening of Panama Canal and "completion" of San Diego and Arizona Railroad; latter, however, not finished until 1919 so received little, if any, recognition.

Organization: First proposed July 1909 by San Diego Chamber of Commerce; city made strong bid for 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition awarded San Francisco; yielded when promised second Fair. Company chartered Sept. 1909; raised $2,000,000 by sale of stock and city grant; state appropriated $1,000,000; Congress $500,000. Ground broken July 19, 1911--142nd anniversary of founding of mission that was first site for city in state. Planning and construction had to start from scratch; population then hardly 40,000 (vs. 2,800,000 in 2000); obviously, presentation of large exposition was giant task for San Diego in those days.

Site: City Park, now Balboa Park. California Building was only permanent structure and still is landmark in park.

Dates, Attendance: First year, calendar year 1915; second year, Jan. 1, 1916 to midnight Jan. 1, 1917. Total attendance, both years, about 3,500,000; 2,000,000 paid.

Participants: Principally western and southwestern states, Central and South American countries; 7 states and few foreign countries erected own buildings. Federal displays included Mint Exhibit.

Comment: Construction provided for "more ornate architecture of Spain" to be adapted "to the needs of modern life." To this exposition can be attributed striking spread of Moorish-Spanish architectural influence throughout southwestern states. Feature of exposition was Spreckel's $1,000,000 outdoor organ. Called "The Exposition Beautiful," it was directly responsible for immediate trebling of San Diego's permanent population.

Medals: Official Medals below designed by C. K. Berryman, Cartoonist for Washington Evening Star; engraved by C. E. Barber; struck in Mint Exhibit on grounds. This was first and only official exposition medal with Uncle Sam as main design (1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition gold dollars were not official medals); also striking of this issue for both years of exposition represented first occasion "where medal of this character had been minted and dated for different years."


Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. Full figure of Uncle Sam part r., pick in r. hand over r. shoulder, shovel in l. hand, two Continents in background and handle of shovel lies across Canal--all within center circle; outside around Panama California Exposition San Diego 1915.
Rev. Ship passing through Canal, above Official Souvenir; above around Panama Canal Opened by S.S. Ancon; below ship Aug. 15. 1914

HK-426 Silver. 34mm.
HK-427 Bronze.
HK-428 Gilt.
HK-429 Silver or Silver-plate*, but Obv. date is 1916.
* So designated because there is some doubt that this 1916 version was struck in Silver. All specimens seen have been in Silver-plate and in each case weight was same as Bronze piece below.
HK-430 Bronze, Obv. date 1916.
HK-431 Gilt, Obv. date 1916.


Photos courtesy of David King

Obv. Exposition entrance, above to r. 1915-- all within beaded circle; outside, around West Gate, Panama-California-Exposition, below * San Diego *; beaded border.
Rev. Ship passing thru Canal, to r. 1915, below The Completion / of the / Panama Canal--all within beaded circle; outside, above Panama-California-Exposition, below San Diego; to l., microscopic Casparv, to r. L. A. Cal.; beaded border.

HK-432 Bronze. 38mm.
HK-432a Copper.
HK-432b Gilt.


Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. Edifice, airplane above; below edifice Home Economy / Bldg--all within circle; outside, above Panama-California Exposition; outside, below San Diego 1915 (no beaded border).
Rev. Swastika containing 4-leaf clover, horseshoe, wishbone and 3 other good luck emblems; below Good Luck; above, around Membership Emblem of the Don't Worry Club; beaded border.

HK-433 Gilt. 36mm.

Photos courtesy of Bob Lewis

Obv. Same as obverse of No. 433 [Home Economy Bldg.].
Rev. Edifice within circle; outside, above Compliments of U. S. Grant Hotel; outside, below San Diego, Cal.; beaded border.

HK-434 Gilt. 36mm.

HK-399 to HK-425