The gold Classic Commemorative series is a short, but challenging set. There are 13 different issues, but two—the Round and Octagonal Panama-Pacific fifty dollars—are rare and valuable. High grade examples of all early gold commemoratives are elusive and very desirable.
The first United States gold commemoratives were issued in 1903 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, held the following year. Two varieties were struck: one with a bust of Thomas Jefferson, president at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the other with William McKinley, the president who approved the exposition. A mintage of up to 250,000 gold dollars was authorized, but at $3 a piece the number sold was far lower. Each issue had a final distribution of 17,500 examples, and in 1914 the remaining lot of 214,000 coins was melted.