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Coin Of the Month

Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin

South Dakota Quarter

November is the month when South Dakota became a state, so let's take a look at the mountain sculpture on South Dakota's quarter, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

The idea for the monument began in 1923 with a South Dakota state historian.  He wanted western cowboy heroes to be carved in stone pillars in the Black Hills, but the pillars turned out to be too thin and weak for such carving.

The monument's chosen sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, liked Mount Rushmore.  It faced southeast, so it was well-lit during the day.  Its peak was the highest in the area and its granite was very strong.  And rather than cowboys, the sculptor picked a symbol for the whole nation:  four presidents.  Each presidential bust had its own "unveiling," a ceremony where the face was hidden behind a flag, then shown to the world for the first time.

George Washington's face was carved first.  Washington was unveiled for the world to see on July 4, 1934.  Thomas Jefferson's carving was started on Washington's right, but the granite was found to be badly cracked.  The first Jefferson had to be blasted off the mountain.  The second Jefferson, on Washington's left, was unveiled in 1936.

The sculpture of Abraham Lincoln was unveiled on September 17, 1937, exactly 150 years after the United States Constitution was signed.  The 1939 unveiling of Theodore Roosevelt's figure was lit by new electric lights and followed by fireworks.  The presidential faces were declared finished in 1941.

You can read more about Mount Rushmore and the Chinese ring-necked pheasant on the South Dakota quarter page.  I bet the founders of South Dakota would be proud to see their state host a treasure like Mount Rushmore!

—Inspector Collector

Image shows the back of the South Dakota quarter.
Reverse:  South Dakota's design features state symbols: a Chinese ring-necked pheasant, Mount Rushmore, and two heads of wheat.

Image of quarter obverses.
Obverse:  All the new quarters show the traditional portrait of George Washington, with some minor changes.  The bust is smaller and the legends have been moved.  Place your mouse over the image to see the former design.

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