1892 by the United States Congress to commission around five million half dollars for the Chicago World’s Fair. The first issue of the coin came out in 1892, but the Chicago Exposition did not begin until 1893, and more coins had been produced by then. That is why we have the 1892 and 1893 Columbian Expo half dollar coins.
The early design of the obverse featured a portrait of Christopher Columbus that was drawn by U.S.J. Dunbar, who planned to use the portrait of Christopher Columbus by Lorenzo Lotto for inspiration. However, the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint at the time, Charles E. Barber, was not happy with Dunbar’s design. He decided to take on the project himself, and chose a bust created by Olin L. Warner as inspiration for the Columbus portrait on the coin.
Barber was not happy with the design planned for the reserve side of the coin either. He had hoped to add a design of the entire Western Hemisphere on the reverse, but officials were more interested in having the coin depict the Santa Maria, or the ship Christopher Columbus used to sail to the New World for the first time. Furious about being overruled on the design of the coin, Barber refused to complete the reverse side, and ultimately assigned the task to his assistant, George T. Morgan. His assistant designed the coin in the exact way the officials demanded, which is why the reverse side features a depiction of the Santa Maria above two small globes. The 1892 and 1893 Colombian Expo half dollar marked the first time that legal tender in the United States bore the portrait of a non-United States citizen.