The first commemorative coin issued in the United States was the 1892 Columbian Half Dollar. The coin was issued to raise funds for the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. The issuance of the first coin marked the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus.
A total of 5,000,000 coins were authorized for production with production taking place during 1892 and 1893. The coins were sold at face value to the exposition for face value, which in turn sold them to the public for one dollar each as the “official” souvenir coin of the exposition. The Remington typewriter company famously purchased the first coin minted for $10,000 and donated it to the Columbian Museum. After minted quantities of the half dollar remained unsold, they were released into circulation at face value.
The obverse of the Columbian Half Dollar features a portrait of Christopher Columbus in profile designed by Olin Lewis Warner and engraved by Charles E. Barber. The inscriptions surround the portrait read “United States of America” and “Columbian Half Dollar” with the phrases divided by stars.
The Santa Maria, Columbus’ flagship, is depicted on the reverse with two globes below. The inscriptions surrounding read “World’s Columbian Exposition Chicago” and the date “1892” or “1893” with two stars to either side. The date of Columbus’s discovery of the new world “1492” appears split by the two globes. The reverse was designed by Olin Lewis Warner and engraved by George T. Morgan.
One hundred years later, a modern commemorative coin program was authorized to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. The program included the 1992 Columbus Silver Dollar, Half Dollar, and $5 Gold coin.
Columbian Half Dollar Coin Specifications
Designer: Olin Lewis Warner
Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 12.50 grams
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Authorization: Public-Law 52-203
Maximum Authorized Mintage: 5,000,000
Columbian Half Dollar Mintages