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Commems Collection: 1893 Queen Isabella

 
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 Posted 05/12/2012  12:05 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Tonight's guest of honor is the only commemorative quarter-dollar of the classic commemorative series, the 1893 Queen Isabella issued in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. The coin is represented by an example in PCGS MS-64.

The Isabella quarter-dollar was sponsored by the Exposition's Board of Lady Managers. It was one of the many efforts by Susan B. Anthony to promote women and help ensure that women were seen as having significant responsibilities within the Exposition -- it was not simply a "men's club." The Board insisted on a female theme for the coin, and was actively involved in the coin's design. Mrs. Potter Palmer, president of the Board of Lady Managers, served a lead role in the coin's development.

Read More: Commems Collection

The coin we are all familiar with is the work of Charles Barber. Its obverse features a left-facing, crowned portrait of Isabella, Queen of Castile and LeĆ³n, while the reverse features "a kneeling female figure with a distaff in hand in the act of winding flax; with suitable inscription. The distaff is used in art to symbolize patient industry, and especially the industry of women." (From a letter from the Mint to the Board of Lady Managers.)

The story of the design of the Isabella quarter-dollar is one of several twists and turns and possibly one of misattribution. Contemporary accounts suggest that Kenyon Cox was commissioned by the Board to design the coin, and that he provided design sketches to Barber for modeling. At the time of the Exposition, this was not refuted. In the 1960s, however, Cox's son made a statement indicating that his father was not at all involved with the coin's final designs. I believe it's hard to say one way or the other, as no sketches attributed to Cox are to be found in Mint records (but Mint records are not complete).

At the same time, it is known that the Board of Lady Managers worked with Caroline Peddle on the coin's design. Her initial sketches showed a full, front-facing, seated portrait of Isabella on the obverse and a lengthy commemorative inscription on the reverse; the wording was proposed by Mrs. Potter Palmer. Charles Barber, however, was not in favor of outside artists being used to design and model US coins. So, something of a "battle" ensued in which Barber began by criticizing Miss Peddle's designs and recommended instead a bust portrait vs. figure portrait for the obverse. He also successfully pushed to take control of the design for the coin's reverse. Miss Peddle then threatened to discontinue her work on the coin and went so far as to send a letter to the Lady Managers indicating that she had decided to decline working on the coin.

She was, however, eventually convinced to send in her completed model for the redesigned, bust portrait for the coin's obverse. Though it is generally believed that the portrait seen on the coin is the work of Barber, the lack of definitive records stating such allows for the possibility that Peddle's obverse model may have actually been used.

As an alternate to the initially proposed reverse inscriptions, the Lady Managers suggested depicting the Woman's Building that was part of the Exposition. Barber objected to this idea as well, arguing that it was unsuitable for a coin as small as a quarter-dollar. (I wonder what he would have thought about some of the Statehood Quarter designs!) He prepared several heraldic eagle designs for the reverse, but none were selected for use. After several additional design exchanges between the Board and the Mint, Barber ultimately arrived at the designs seen on the coins.

The Mint at Philadelphia struck 40,000 Isabella quarter-dollars - $10,000 worth - to fulfill part of the overall funds assigned to the Board of Lady Managers by the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, sales of the coins did not meet expectations, and almost 16,000 of the coins were ultimately returned to the Mint for melting.

The coin shown is a lustrous white example in MS-64. I've been looking for an upgrade to the piece, but haven't found one that surpasses this one in eye appeal (at least to my eye!). I've been able to examine quite a few with a higher technical grade (i.e., a few less marks), but I haven't yet seen one that I liked better in terms of overall eye appeal. Someday...

Also shown is a medal issued by the Board of Lady Managers for the Exposition. The obverse of the piece presents a portrait of the Board's President -- Mrs. Potter Palmer; the simple reverse design is primarily inscriptions. It's a neat little tie-in to the group that sponsored the quarter-dollar and the woman who actively saw it through.

Enjoy!


1893 Isabella Quarter-Dollar -- Obverse




1893 Isabella Quarter-Dollar -- Reverse




1893 Board of Lady Managers Medal -- Obverse




1893 Board of Lady Managers Medal -- Reverse



Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
Edited by commems
05/12/2012 10:42 pm
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 Posted 05/12/2012  3:59 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add bpoc1 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Commems, your pictures and historical knowledge of Commemoratives has been outstanding. Thanks for all the time you have spent to post.
Hope you can post all of them together for a reference, some day.
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 Posted 05/12/2012  8:05 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Lovely MS64 Isabella ... and another exceptional story behind the coin.

I believe your MS64 example is outstanding ... and agree that I have seen many in higher technical grade that are no match for the visual impact of this coin.

You related medal is another learning for me ... I am but a neophyte in comparison to the breadth and depth of your classic silver commemorative collection.

Very well shown indeed.

David
Take a look at my other hobby ... http://www.jk-dk.art
Too many hobbies .... too much work .... not enough time.
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 Posted 05/12/2012  8:54 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add paleoguy45 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I echo David's critique of your coins and knowledge Commems.... Hopefully we all can generate a spark in others to study, collect, and enjoy these flashy little jewels... PG
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 Posted 05/12/2012  10:47 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

@all: Thank you very much for the kind words and positive feedback about my posts. I've enjoyed preparing each one, as well as having the forum (no pun intended) to share parts of my collection.

@paleoguy45: I really hope that at least a few folks have been intrigued enough by my posts to consider starting (or completing) their US commemorative collection. It truly is a wonderful series to collect, and IMHO is much more interesting to collect than a run of the same design whose only change is the year stamped on it.

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 05/13/2012  03:58 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add basebal21 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I really hope that at least a few folks have been intrigued enough by my posts to consider starting (or completing) their US commemorative collection. It truly is a wonderful series to collect, and IMHO is much more interesting to collect than a run of the same design whose only change is the year stamped on it.


Rest assured you have. Before seeing your posts I did have the Lexington old commem, but you really opened my eyes to what a great set the old commems are. They really are a beautiful set of coins and for the most part they honor some very interesting and important aspects of American history.

Youve made a believer out of me and I thank you for opening my eyes to a collection I had previously over looked
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 Posted 05/14/2012  3:24 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add wquinn to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very nice and you have an amazing collection. Thanks so much for posting. Like I said in another post, you need to write your own book on it.
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 Posted 08/06/2012  10:31 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Captain Morgan to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great quarter commem and yet another post I have learned from.
I have one of these graded by PCGS but it is graded genuine, its toned somewhat but otherwise a very sharp coin.
Do you know why it was graded genuine? I have spent hours looking at this coin but cant figure out why they graded it as Genuine.
Any help you could give me, I would be grateful for.
Thank for taking the time to post this info and the pictures
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 Posted 08/07/2012  12:04 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@Captain Morgan: First, a word of "Thanks!" for all of the positive comments you have made about my various posts -- I'm glad you are enjoying them and learning something from them.

Regarding your Isabella, here's a link to the PCGS site that explains the codes associated with the "Genuine" tag. http://www.PCGS.com/grades.html. Check it out and let us know if you need additional help clarifying the reason for your particular coin. (At that point, pictures of your coin will be needed here on CCF.)

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 08/08/2012  2:44 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Captain Morgan to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thank you for the link, it has been most helpfull
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