The origin of this stamp's design is obscure. Many publications attribute the design to a Spanish engraving, but in his Chronicle article on this stamp, George B. Arfken referenced an article in "Essay Proof Journal" that noted the appearance of a similar design in an American book published in mid-1892. This would have been six months before the Columbian Exposition Issue was released. There were striking similarities between the two images. In the end, the authors of both articles could not say conclusively that American Bank Note Company engravers had used the book’s design for the stamp image.
The Columbian Exposition Issue's one major error appears on the 4-cent Fleet of Columbus. It is a color error: the ultramarine-colored ink of the normal printing was mistakenly replaced by a blue-colored ink, similar but not identical to the color of the 1-cent Columbian. Two sheets of the error were supposedly purchased by the public before being discovered.
The 4-cent Columbian Exposition stamp most often paid the double-weight, first-class mail rate. But two 4-cent stamps would conveniently pay the registered mail fee or, in combination with other denominations, any number of other domestic and foreign destination rates. American Bank Note Company printed a total of 19,181,550 stamps of this 4-cent issue.