Columbus Commemorative coins -- a hundred years later

1992 Columbus half dollar

In 1992, the US mint celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Columbus landing with a half dollar (struck in clad), a silver dollar, and a five dollar gold coin. Columbus had previously appeared 100 years earlier on the 1892 half dollar. During the century, Columbus had lost his luster.

Re-thinking Columbus

1992 Clumbus Dollar

In 1892, Columbus was seen as the brave seaman who “discovered” America. Between 1892 and 1992, many began to question that notion. Certainly it was not a discovery in the sense that people were present. Additionally, Columbus was attacked for both his seamanship and his lack of respect for human rights.

Columbus -- the lost sailor

The fact that the Earth was round and the size of the Earth had been well established over a thousand years before Columbus set sail. Columbus however made a major calculation error (perhaps due to converting between ancient and modern units). Because Columbus thought the world was small, he erroneously thought he could reach the Indies by sailing West, despite his limited supplies. Columbus then drifted southward. One speculation is that he mistook the star Beta Crux for the North star. When Columbus reached the island of Hispaniola, he enslaved the Arawak Indians and forced them to provide him with gold. Arawaks who failed to meet their quota of gold had their hands cut off, and generally bled to death. After two years, over 100,000 Arawaks had perished. And so, the 1892 view of Columbus as a hero was being replaced by the 1992 view of Columbus as an oppressor.

1992 Columbus gold

The Columbus controversy comes to Philadelphia In 1992, Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania decided to honor Columbus by naming a street “Columbus Boulevard.” The street had been called Delaware avenue, named after the Delaware Indians, who were outraged. As a result of the dispute, the city refused to recognize the new name of the street. On the interstate, large green signs supplied by the state instructed people where to exit for Columbus Avenue. Once they exited, the tourists would never find it, since the city was in charge of actually labeling the street, and they kept it as Delaware Avenue.

Values of the Columbus Commemorative coins

There were approximately 500,000 half dollars, 500,000 dollars, and 100,000 five dollar coins minted. These mintages are on the high side for commemorative coins, which limits their premium value.