John B. writes: I gave a guy three dollars for some interesting coins he had in an old coffee can. One item is a medal, larger than a half dollar, ‘California the exposition state/San Francisco 1915’ on either side, with the “Tower of Jewels” on one side and perhaps the state seal on the other. Reeded edge, tarnished golden color. History, metal composition, mintage amount, suggested value please?
This piece was one of the official exposition “State Dollars” that were minted and sold at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. The fair’s purpose was to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and to show the restored city of San Francisco, destroyed by earthquake and fire in 1906. The fair was open from February 20 to December 4, 1915 and had more than 18 million visitors.
It was a large fair with eleven exhibition halls and 240 other buildings. One of the most impressive exhibits was the Tower of Jewels. Thousands of Austrian cut glass “gems” covered a 435 foot tower. Flood lights illuminated the tower; the first use of indirect electric lighting.
Your piece shows a standing female figure facing right, holding a flag of California and a wreath. A bear stands to her left. A view of the exposition is beneath the flag. Above is CALIFORNIA THE EXPOSITION STATE, below, San Francisco 1915. There is a beaded border.
There are several reverses to this medal. Yours shows the “Tower of Jewels” within a circle, CALIFORNIA THE EXPOSITION STATE, below, SAN FRANCISCO.
The medal is gilt brass with a reeded edge. It is not unusual to see the gilt wearing through. Approximate value range (depends on grade): $50 – $300.