Mintage: 950,000 (1892), 4,052,105 (1893)
Distribution: 950,000 (1892), 1,550,405 (1893)
Weight: 12.5 grams
Designer: Charles Barber / George T. Morgan
When the Columbian Exposition was held in 1893, it was proposed that half dollars be made bearing the likeness to Columbus to commemorate both the anniversary of the landing and the celebration itself. This was remarkable because it was the first US coin to feature a foreigner. Charles Barber was chosen to design the obverse. He based his design on a plaster model of Columbus done by Olin Levi Warner. Although Warner copied the design for his plaster model from an authentic Spanish medal, there was some controversy over the portrait because it is difficult to determine whether or not it actually resembled Columbus. The reverse design by George T. Morgan features the Santa Maria and two globes, which represent the “new” and “old” worlds. This design was also based on a plaster model by Warner. Both the model of the ship and that of Columbus were featured as an exhibit at the Exposition, but Warner was not credited for his contributions.
In totally, 950,000 were minted in 1892 and 4,052,105 were minted in 1893. Wyckoff, Seamans, and Benedict, the manufacturing company responsible for the Remington typewriter, paid $10,000 for the first coin struck. In return, their typewriter was declared the official typewriter of the Columbian Exposition. Other major number strikings, like the 400th, 1492nd, and 1892nd, were also sold at a premium. All of the 1892 coins were sold, but over half of the 1893 coins were returned to the Mint for melting. However, not all of the coins were sold at the premium price. As such, these coins are very common in circulated grades.