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HomeUS Coins1893 Isabella Quarter : A Collector's Guide

1893 Isabella Quarter : A Collector’s Guide

This 1893 Isabella quarter, graded NGC MS65, was sold by Stack’s Bowers on 6/16/2021 for $840.
This 1893 Isabella quarter, graded NGC MS65, was sold by Stack’s Bowers on 6/16/2021 for $840.

The Isabella quarter is a commemorative coin that was sold during the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. The obverse of the coin features a fictionalized, not particularly accurate depiction of Queen Isabella I, royal patron of Christopher Columbus. The reverse design features a kneeling textile spinner holding “a distaff of yarn in her left hand.” The reverse also features an inscription that reads “Board of Lady Managers”, which refers to a group of women assigned by the promoters of the Columbian Exhibition to publicize portions of the event that would appeal to women. Originally, Bertha Palmer requested that the reverse inscription read: “Commemorative Coin Issued for the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition by Act of Congress, 1492-1892”, but the Treasury Secretary informed her on March 28, that there was insufficient space on the coin for that inscription.

The idea of the quarter, according to numismatists Anthony Swiatek and Walter Breen, came from Bertha Palmer, socialite wife of real estate magnate Potter Palmer. Mrs. Palmer convinced Congress to apportion $10,000 worth of commemorative quarters to the group in support of the exposition. Congress passed the measure on March 3, 1893.

The silver used to produce the quarters was derived from obsolete coinage and 40,000 coins were struck for distribution, with an additional 23 for assay. It is believed that a total of 103 were Proofs, which consisted of the first 100 coins struck and coin numbers 400, 1492, and 1892. Proofs are offered infrequently and carry a high premium. Dealer Dan Brown featured one in a March 1965 Numismatist ad for $450.

Artist Caroline Peddle’s original design concept for the Isabella quarter. Image: National Archives / CoinWeek.
Artist Caroline Peddle’s original design concept for the Isabella quarter. Image: National Archives / CoinWeek.

The design was panned by contemporary numismatics (along with the design of the Columbus half dollar released alongside it). Of the 24,214 distributed, 15,000 were apparently sold at the World’s Columbian Exposition, with 10,000 pieces purchased by Mrs. Palmer. Q. David Bowers notes in his book American Coins, Treasures and Hoards, that Thomas Elder claimed to have purchased 1,000 from the Exposition Committee for 40 cents each, and additional pieces at 45 cents a piece. Bowers believes that Scott Stamp & Coin Company also bought a few thousand as well. That the coin didn’t sell nearly as well as the Columbian half dollar is usually attributed to its $1.00 price point, identical to that of the half dollar.

Learn more about this important classic commemorative issue by checking out David Provost’s in-depth article: The 1893 Isabella Quarter: Commemorative Stories.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

In the December 1947 issue of The Numismatist, Henry Grunthal listed examples of the 1893 Isabella quarter dollar for $9.00 each.

In an ad published in the July 1964 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, Oklahoma dealer Roy L. Baker offered a Brilliant Uncirculated 1893 Isabella quarter dollar for $90.

In a two-page ad published in the October 1976 Numismatist, dealer Joel Rettew offered GEM BU examples of the 1893 Isabella quarter for $245 each.

In the November 1937 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, dealer William Evans of Chicago offered a coin purported to be a Proof and the fourth coin struck (along with two affidavits purporting to confirm the coin’s provenance). In Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine’s April 1964 issue, dealer Ken Nichols of Costa Mesa, California, offered the same coin and its supporting documents for $750.

Top Population: PCGS MS68+ (3, 3/2024). NGC MS68+ (1, 3/2024). CAC MS68 (3:0 stickered:graded, 3/2024).

  • PCGS MS68+ CAC #29949436: Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2019 , Lot 5391 – $82,500 Reserve Not Met. Vivid cobalt and gold toning. Light spy neat G on reverse. Schultz on insert. 
  • PCGS MS68+ 46632999: As NGC MS69 #163965-001. Heritage Auctions, July 27, 2002, Lot 5040 – $46,000; As PCGS MS68 #21627266. “JFS Collection, Part Two”, Heritage Auctions, August 18, 2004, Lot 4198 – $51,750. JFS Collection on insert. Since this sale, regraded and upgraded one half point. All over toning in gold, orange, green, and red.
  • PCGS MS68 #45357304: “Pavonini Collection of Toned Silver Commemoratives”, GreatCollections, September 25, 2022, Lot 1146239 – $27,174.38.
  • PCGS MS68 CAC #2207877: Heritage Auctions, January 9 , 2014, Lot 5606 – $47,000; Heritage Auctions, March 21, 2014, Lot 10911 – $47,000. Rattler. Aqua and rose toning,
  • NGC MS68 CAC #2037631-111: “Eric P. Newman Collection, Part II”, Heritage Auctions, November 15, 2013, Lot 33525 – $64,625. Eric P. Newman novelty insert. Sold with Newman envelope stating his original cost of the coin was $10. Colorful target toning in gold, green, blue, and aubergine. 
  • NGC MS68 #901500-002: Heritage Auctions, April 17, 2008, Lot 2527 – $21,850. Red, green blue, and aubergine toning all over. 
  • PCGS MS67+ CAC CMQ #48825006: Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4400 – View. Toned.
  • PCGS MS67+ #49007098: Stack’s Bowers, March 26, 2024, Lot 4401 – View. Dark Blue, purple, and orange toning on the obverse and reverse.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1893
Denomination: Quarter Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Distribution: 24,191
Alloy: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight: 6.25 g
Diameter: 24.3 mm
Edge Reeded
OBV Designer Charles E. Barber
REV Designer Charles E. Barber
Quality: Business Strike

 


The 1893 Proof Isabella Quarter

Proof strikings were made of the World’s Columbian Exposition half dollar, and it is believed that the Mint also struck a limited number of Proofs for the Isabella quarter. A mintage of 103 is often repeated, even here, but researchers point out that there are no Mint records to support that or any other number.

NGC and PCGS populations also are much lower than one would expect for a mintage of 103 Proofs from the turn of the century.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS PR65 (1, 3/2024). NGC PF67 (1, 3/2024). CAC PR67 (1:0 stickered:graded, 3/2024).

  • NGC PF67 #2097258-008: Heritage Auctions, February 24, 2022, Lot 3383 – $31,200.
  • NGC PF66 #3608576-001: Heritage Auctions, January 9, 2014, Lot 5607 – $15,275.
  • NGC PF66: Heritage Auctions, May 31, 2001, Lot 6755 – $16,100. Golden-red toning with hints of blue.
  • NGC PF65 #545454-034: “The Greg Bingham Collection of Silver Commemoratives”, GreatCollections, June 26, 2022, Lot 1157925 – $13,218.75. Aqua, cobalt, and green target toning.
  • NGC PF65 #4216510-001: “The Greg Bingham Collection of Silver Commemoratives’, GreatCollections, June 12, 2022, Lot 1157923 – $12,937.50.
  • NGC PF65 #242272-003: Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2014, Lot 6136 – $15,275.
  • NGC PF65 #1285500-001: Heritage Auctions, August 21, 2004, Lot 8035 – $12,650.

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1893
Denomination: Quarter Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Distribution: 103
Alloy: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight: 6.25 g
Diameter: 24.3 mm
Edge Reeded
OBV Designer Charles E. Barber
REV Designer Charles E. Barber
Quality: Proof

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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