The second U.S. commemorative coin to fit the definition of a "noncirculating legal-tender" issue is the 1893 Isabella Quarter. It was minted in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition, a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893. The occassion being observed was the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage of discovery to America. These were sold to help raise money for the fair, where they were sold for $1 each. More than a century later, the Isabella Quarter remains the only U.S. commemorative coin ever produced in that denomination.
The provision for this souvenir coin was intended by the national legislature to mark two important events: the aid given by Queen Isabella of Spain to Columbus in the furtherance of his voyage of discovery; and also emphasis of the fact that for the first time in the history of the world, special provision has been made by the United States Congress for the adequate participation of women in a great international enterprise. At the World’s Columbian Exposition itself, relatively few were purchased, probably because they represented less of a “good buy” at the dollar price demanded, for someone could buy a Columbian half dollar – a coin of twice the face value – for the same amount.
Obverse: Depicts a crowned bust of Isabella of Spain. Most Isabella quarters are well-struck. Their striking quality is much better than that of the Columbian half dollars. Any weakness of strike, will be evident in the hair detail and in Isabella's crown, with some specimens showing weakness in the detail of the clothing.
Reverse: Depicts "Board of Lady Managers." A kneeling female with distaff and spindle which is emblematic of women's industry. Note: The Board of Lady Managers had been formed at the insistence of Susan B. Anthony, who has determined that women should be adequately represented in the administration of the Exposition. On the reverse, any weakness of strike can be seen mainly in the folds and other details of the costume. The figure's hand and hair also may exhibit weakness on such strikings.
Overall: The luster on these coins is usually satin to very frosty. As with Columbian half dollars, there are many spectacularly toned examples, ranging from a light, mainly golden color to deeply colored coins with hues of green and blues. Prooflike coins are fairly common and are sometimes so deceptive that they are sold as Proofs. One more reason to only buy certified examples only. True Proof issues have razor-sharp detail and show mirrored surfaces in every nook and cranny of the design. As with the Columbian half dollar Proofs, 103 Isabella quarters were struck in Proof and numbered.
The typical Isabella quarter grades MS62 to MS64. There are also quite a few lightly circulated "AU" examples. A small number of Isabellas found their way into circulation and worn pieces are occasionally encountered. Gem MS65 examples are rare, Superb Gem MS66 examples are very rare, and only a handful of MS67s exist.