The Columbian half dollar, issued by the Bureau of the Mint in 1892 and 1893, marked the quadricentennial of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the Americas. It was the first traditional United States commemorative coin.

The coin's design was influenced by a 16th-century painting owned by fair official James Ellsworth. Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber's initial sketches were deemed unsatisfactory, leading to the adoption of a design by artist Olin Levi Warner, modified by Barber and his assistant, George T. Morgan.

Authorized for production in 1892, approximately 5,000,000 coins were struck, but half were melted due to oversupply. The coins were intended to raise funds for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and were sold at face value to the exposition, which then sold them to the public for one dollar each. Notably, the Remington Typewriter company purchased the first coin minted for $10,000, equivalent to over $285,000 today, and donated it to the Columbian Museum. Despite the premium price for some 400,000 coins, about 2,000,000 were released into circulation at face value, remaining in circulation as late as the 1950s.


Depicts a portrait of Christopher Columbus in profile, surrounded by the country name above and denomination below divided by stars. The initial of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber (B) below the neck.

Christopher Columbus (c. 1451–1506), an Italian explorer under the Spanish Crown, completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, initiating European colonization of the New World. Seeking new trade routes and colonies, Columbus proposed sailing westward to reach the East Indies, leading to his first voyage in 1492. Instead of Japan, he landed in the Bahamas, later exploring the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Caribbean coast of Venezuela, and Central America, claiming these territories for the Crown of Castile.

While not the first European to reach the Americas (preceded by Leif Erikson), Columbus's expeditions established lasting European contact with the New World, ushering in a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that spanned centuries.



Depicts Christopher Columbus's flagship Santa María with two globes below, surrounded by the inscription above and the date of the issue below. The date of Columbus’s discovery of the new world “1492” appears split by the two globes.

La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción, also known simply as La Santa María, originally named La Gallega, was the largest of Christopher Columbus's three ships during his inaugural voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. Juan de la Cosa served as her master and owner.

The World's Columbian Exposition, or Chicago World's Fair, held from May 5 to October 31, 1893, commemorated Christopher Columbus's 1492 arrival in the New World. Located in Jackson Park, Chicago, it featured a large water pool symbolizing Columbus's voyage. Designed by John Wellborn Root, Daniel Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Charles B. Atwood, it showcased neoclassical architecture, earning the nickname the White City. With 690 acres of exhibits from 46 countries, it attracted over 27 million visitors, symbolizing American exceptionalism. Dedicated on October 21, 1892, it marked Chicago's recovery from the 1871 Great Fire. Chicago Day on October 9, 1893, set a world record for outdoor event attendance, and the fair's debt was promptly paid off with a $1.5 million check.

14 92
* 1893 *

Type Commemorative Issue (Circulating)
Material Silver
Fineness 0.900
Weight 12.5 g
Diameter 30.61 mm
Thickness 2.15 mm
Shape round
Alignment Coin
Philadelphia Mint (no mintmark)

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