Robert C. Whitehead has been steadily collecting and organizing information on the Stone Mountain commemorative half dollars.
His research has been published on a public web site. E-Sylum readers are welcome and encouraged to contribute. First, some background on the
sculpture depicted on the coin. -Editor
The carving on Stone Mountain is the largest relief carving in the world. It measures 90 feet tall by 190 feet wide, or 17,100 square feet. At its
deepest, the relief is carved 42 feet into the rock face.
Gutzon Borglum, who went on to carve Mount Rushmore, had grandiose designs for more than the carving and envisioned a complex that included a
memorial hall and reflecting pond leading up to the carving. This is not too different from his plans at Mount Rushmore which also had to be scaled
back. He expected to carve the memorial hall into the mountain, and he had similar plans at Mount Rushmore. At Mount Rushmore he planned to house the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Three figures on horseback featuring Jefferson Finis Davis, Robert Edward Lee, and Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson make up the
entirety of the sculpture. This is greatly reduced in size and complexity from the original concept by Gutzon Borglum. But after three attempts it is
what was achievable balancing time, money, and effort.
The Stone Mountain Commemorative Half
Growing up in Georgia in the 1950’s and 1960’s I would travel with my father to Atlanta several times a year. Our route always took us along U.S.
Highway 78 and thus we passed the unfinished carving on Stone Mountain twice on each trip. Neither of us thought the carving would ever be finished.
It was just too massive and with two failures already it appeared to be someone’s pipe dream and the State’s nightmare.
By the time the carving project was restarted we were living elsewhere and it was not until we moved back to Atlanta in the mid-1970’s that we
could appreciate the magnitude of the effort. Our family climbed the mountain on many Easter Sundays for sunrise services, and we lived close enough
to visit the park on weekends with our children. So, for many the memories of the mountain have nothing to do with many of the discussions we have
seen in recent months. But those discussions did spark some fresh interest in the Stone Mountain Half Dollar and the accompanying story.
Once we contacted other researchers and started to do our own investigation we realized that as a numismatist there was a lot to be learned. We
also discovered that there is ample opportunity to contribute to the hobby through detailed research and examination of the coin. Our preferred
method of presenting studies is to create a web site that will be a living, breathing work as more is understood and documented. This month we are
launching a web site for that purpose at www.stonemountainhalf.com. We have no idea how long this
study will last but based on similar work this will take years. Our early investigation has revealed some fascinating things that we will build on as
There is a great story about the successes and failures of the attempts to create the carving that almost reads like a work of fiction.
Here's a little bit of trivia about the coin. -Editor
One interesting side note between the coin and the carving are the noticeable differences. On the completed carving the three riders have their
hats covering their hearts, whereas on the coin Lee is wearing his hat. On the coin Jackson and Lee are in the lead with Davis completely out of the
picture. These differences exist because of timing. The coin was struck to help raise money for the project and done early in the project when
Borglum was still involved. His design made it to the coin and early items of exonumia, but not completely to the mountain.
The attempts to finance the carving produced a story all its own and created some of the rarest coin varieties (counterstamps) among all U.S.
coins, many with a single known example and others that are documented but with no known examples
Stone Mountain Commemorative Half Research
It appears that the census of known counterstamped coins had not been updated since 1987 and we have already compiled an updated census that more
than doubles the previously documented coins http://www.stonemountainhalf.com/counterstampcensus.html
There is only one major DDO variety recognized by all the TPG’s, but we are identifying as many dies and minor varieties as possible, and there
No one has ever completed a full grading set nor documented the specific features by grade and we are well on our way to accomplishing this with
16 grades in our collection and more in the pipeline http://www.stonemountainhalf.com/ourcollection.html
Our Morgan Dollar experience has made us aware that to do a complete study hundreds of coins will be needed, so there will be excellent material
at the end for anyone with an interest in this commemorative issue to study A by-product of any dedicated study is having all the coins under one
roof with consistent visual documentation for other collectors to study. Having coins that cover the full range of grades and dies is paramount, so
we are working with PCGS to have consistent high-quality images of every coin.
For each coin there is a dedicated research page with detailed notes and high-quality images denoting features of interest and die cracks. We have
already received help from several others who have studied the Stone Mountain Half in some detail, so there is existing interest and knowledge to
draw on in the study. To keep a conversation going we will use existing numismatic forums to publish new findings and gain insight into the knowledge
of other collectors.
Our certified inventory on launch day is 48 coins, and we have more than 50 in the pipeline with a goal of 100 documented coins by year end. Our
experience with other coin types has been that narrowly focused studies of a single coin often produce new and fascinating details for collectors.
So, the adventure begins, and we hope this will spark interest in other collectors to do similar work.
What great work! Be sure to visit and explore the web site, which has lots of great information. But like the sculpture itself
for many years, it's an unfinished work and needs your help. Please contribute however you can; nearly anyone could have a small bit of useful
information, or knows where something useful can be found. -Editor
To visit the web site, see: www.stonemountainhalf.com
Wayne Homren, Editor
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