In 1941, after 14 years in the making, the world’s greatest mountain carving on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota was finally completed. The colossal Black Hills sculpture, designed by Gutzon Borglum, depicts four U.S. presidents chosen for preserving and expanding the Union – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1991, the 50th anniversary of this treasured landmark known as the “Shrine of Democracy” was celebrated on limited-edition U.S. commemorative coins issued for one year only…
While the other two coins contain prominent depictions of the monument, the obverse of the gold coin is dominated by the image of a bald eagle in flight. The eagles claws hold a chisel and a mallet for sculpting and a ribbon in its peak includes the words “In God We Trust”. At the lower right side of the coin, a small view of Mount Rushmore appears. The inscriptions “Liberty”, “1991”, and an arrangement of six stars completes the obverse design by John Mercanti.
The reverse of the coin is entirely designed in lettering, representing the first such design in the history of United States commemorative coins. Centrally, the words “Mount Rushmore National Memorial” appear in calligraphy. Around the outer rim, the remaining inscriptions are placed “United States of America”, “Five Dollars”, and “E Pluribus Unum”. The reverse was modeled by William Cousins and designed by William Lamb, a calligraphic artist.
Obverse: Bald eagle along with a chisel and mallet.
Reverse: Legend in calligraphic font
NGC Coin Grading Scale
NGC uses the internationally accepted Sheldon grading scale of 1 to 70, which was first used in the United States in the late 1940s. This scale was adopted by NGC when it began operations in 1987 and is considered to be the industry standard. Below are NGC’s grading standards for each numeric grade as well as major strike types and designations.
What is a 70?
NGC defines a Mint State or Proof 70 coin as having no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification.
NGC uses two-letter codes before a coin’s numeric grade to describe its method of production and overall appearance. The most common are MS for Mint State coins (those struck for circulation) and PF for Proof coins (those struck for collectors). Another strike type is SP for Specimen, which describes a coin that falls short of the definition for actual Proofs but are superior to the normal currency issues.
|MS||Mint State. Coins struck in the same format as circulation issues. Applies to grades 60 to 70.|
|PF||Proof. Coins struck in a special format for collectors.|
|SP||Specimen. A hybrid between Mint State and Proof.|
NGC uses a numeric grade to succinctly describe a problem-free coin’s condition. The available numeric grades range from 1 to 70 based on an internationally recognized scale developed in the 1940s. As the numeric grade increases, a coin’s condition is considered to be better. Some numbers are skipped below the grade of 60, which is the threshold for a coin to be considered Uncirculated.
|MS/PF 70||A coin with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification.|
|MS/PF 69||A fully struck coin with nearly imperceptible imperfections.|
|MS/PF 68||Very sharply struck with only miniscule imperfections.|
|MS/PF 67||Sharply struck with only a few imperfections.|
|MS/PF 66||Very well struck with minimal marks and hairlines.|
|MS/PF 65||Well struck with moderate marks or hairlines.|
Plus & Star
NGC uses the Plus (+) and Star () designations to distinguish coins at the high end of their assigned grade and/or with exceptional eye appeal for their assigned grade. All coins are evaluated for the Plus and Star designations as part of the normal NGC coin grading process, and they are assigned automatically for no additional fee.
Strike characters are used to describe how well an area of a coin is struck and when information is of specific interest to collectors. For example, strike characters can describe the degree of red luster on a copper coin’s surface (BN, RB and RD), the degree of contrast on a Proof coin (Cameo and Ultra Cameo) or other distinctive features, such as FB for Full Bands on a Mercury Dime.