Though the subject of the Columbian Exposition Issue's 1-dollar stamp suggests that Queen Isabella sold her jewels to fund Columbus's expedition, in reality the Spanish nobility also provided the adventure considerable support. For decades the finances of northern Spain had been vested in the struggle to re-conquer the Moor-controlled south, a battle won in 1492. The triumph assured, Isabella's willingness to sell her own jewels to underwrite the expedition prompted many noblemen to follow suit.
The collecting community considers the 'dollar-value Columbians' the jewels of the Columbian Exposition Issue. Their denominations constitute $15 of the set's total $16.34 face value. As the 'jewels', they are less attainable than the 1- to 50-cent denominations that typically fill a collector's album.
Until 1893 the highest denomination of any single U.S. stamp was ninety cents. Every company from Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co. to American Bank Note had printed at least one stamp of this denomination, all with defined uses. But when the 'dollar-value Columbians' were conceived, none was intended to pre-pay a specified rate on its own. The stamps' functions seem to have been to publicize the Columbian set and to generate revenue for the Post Office Department. In other words, the issues were intended as collectibles, not postage 'work horses'. Printing costs were essentially the same for any denomination of the Columbian Issue, so the dollar-value stamps offered a high margin of profit.
As expected, stamp collectors and dealers, who saw the opportunity to create collectible covers, used the issues to drastically overpay the usually low domestic rates. The stamp could also have paid expensive heavyweight foreign destination rates. American Bank Note Company printed a total 55,050 stamps of the 1-dollar issue.