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Commems Collection: 1893 Isabella Quarter - In The News (In 1893) - Part II

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 Posted 09/18/2023  12:59 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Part I of this story stretched into May 1893 and gave a sense of the anticipation being cultivated for the Isabella Quarter by the press notices for it.

Early in June we find that preparation of the coin's dies from the final designs is underway. From the June 1, 1893 edition of the Abilene Weekly Reflector (Abilene, Kansas):

Design for the Isabella Coin

The dies for the Isabella coin, the souvenir quarter dollar to be issued from the United States mint for the board of lady managers, are being made and the coins will be ready for distribution In a few weeks. On the obverse side is to be a portrait bust of Queen Isabella, surrounded by the words: "United States of America, Quarter Dollar." On the reverse side is to be the kneeling figure of a woman with a distaff In her hand, which represents the Industries of women. About this figure are the words: "Board of Lady Managers, Columbia Coin." The ladles would have been glad to have furnished their own design for reverse side of (he coin, but were not able to do so for lack of time.

The notice described the graphic elements of the coin's designs accurately, but didn't fare quite as well with the inscriptions for each side.

A related story appeared about a week later in the June 9, 1893 edition of the Clarksburg Telegram (Clarksburg, West Virginia):

Design for the Obverse Side of the Ladles' Souvenir Coin

General satisfaction was expressed by all the lady managers who saw for the first time the design for the obverse side of the Isabella Quarter submitted by the director of the United States mint. The design represents the head of Queen Isabella and the coin will be the first one ever issued by the government bearing the portrait of a woman. The design for the reverse side has not yet been sent to the lady managers. It represents a kneeling female figure with a distaff.

Isabella Quarter - Obverse Design Drawing

The June 15, 1893 edition of the Western Sentinel (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) carried a story that was an edited version of the release from April 1893 (above), reflecting the confirmed issue of the coins vs. describing a future event:

The New Souvenir Coins
The 40,000 souvenir, quarter dollars which congress authorized to be minted for the board of lady managers of the World's fair have just been issued. These souvenir coins are of peculiar interest for several reasons. The net of congress authorizing their issue only provides for the minting, of $10,000, or 40,000 quarters; hence they will be extremely rare. They are. certain to command the attention of women the world over, since they are the first recognition by any government of the position that women are attaining in art, industrial and social movements. The coin itself is a work of art.

One of the special features of the new coin is that it is the first issued by this government to bear the portrait of a woman. Other coins bear the Goddess of Liberty and similar ideal figures, but this is the first portrait of a real woman. The coin is intended by the national government to commemorate two important events: the aid given by Queen Isabella to Columbus, which enabled him to make the voyage of discovery to America, and the first special provision made by the United States government for the adequate participation of women in an enterprise of worldwide importance.

The July 12, 1893 edition of the Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, Indiana) announced that the Isabella Quarters were available from the Board of Lady Managers:


The Isabella souvenir quarters have arrived. The board of lady managers wish it widely announced that if those persons holding receipts for payment upon orders for these coins will present or forward the same to the Merchants' Loan and Trust Company, the quarters will be delivered immediately. When it is desired that they be forwarded by express, the purchaser of the coins will be required to prepay the express charges. There is a large demand for the coins, the comparatively small number and their unusual beauty making them eagerly sought for.

Let the collecting begin!

Unfortunately, sales expectations were not fully achieved, and many of the coins went unsold. A brief mention of the status of Columbian Exposition souvenir coins was published in the October 19, 1893 edition of the New Haven Daily Morning Journal and Courier:

There Are Half a Million Columbian Half Dollars at Chicago and a Good Many Isabella Quarters That People Do Not Want

Chicago, Oct. 18. About 500,000 Columbian half dollars are stored in the vaults of the sub-treasury here awaiting orders for their disposition from Washington, the public does not seem particularly anxious to acquire possession.

Up to a recent date they were marketed at a dollar each by the fair authorities, but just prior to Chicago day they could be had for that sum with a handsome badge attachment thrown in. There are also a good many Isabella quarters yet lying untouched in Uncle Sam's depository.

The novelty of "souvenir coins" in the US in 1893 led to significant coverage in local newspapers across the country (the above is just a fraction of what was printed), much more attention was paid than is today. All of the attention, however, was not enough to cause sell-outs of the Exposition's coins. Of the 40,000 Isabella Quarters minted, 15,000 were returned to the Mint to be melted.

For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, including more stories about the Isabella Quarter, see: Commems Collection - Some interesting discussions of the coin's design elements can be found via the "Design Discussions" link.

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
Edited by commems
09/18/2023 1:16 pm
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 Posted 09/18/2023  2:11 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Hondo Boguss to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Excellent article, commems - thank you for this information!

Of the 40,000 Isabella Quarters minted, 15,000 were returned to the Mint to be melted.

Inordinately fascinated by bits of metal with strange markings and figures
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 Posted 09/18/2023  5:17 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Another good read!
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 Posted 09/19/2023  07:50 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I really enjoyed reading these contemporary views, thank you for bringing the history to life for us.

There are also a good many Isabella quarters yet lying untouched in Uncle Sam's depository.

So much for the budding excitement pre-release of the coins. Apparently not every woman in the world wanted an example, as was predicted in the June 15,1893 Western Sentinel article:

They are certain to command the attention of women the world over

As noted by @commems eventually 15,000 Isabella quarters were returned to the mint for melting. What a shame for collectors today.
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