America’s Best-Known Landmarks
If you were asked to identify the one iconic landmark that epitomized the United States of America, which one would you choose? For most people, it’s a simple choice: the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore. Each represents the best of America … and inspires the nation to pursue freedom and liberty.
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor is the world’s greatest symbol of freedom. Dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886, it was a gift to the American people from the French people to celebrate a century of friendship since the era of the American Revolution. It was designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, but the framework that holds the statue together was built by Gustave Eiffel, who also built the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The statue stands 151 feet 1 inch high and sits on a pedestal that is 154 feet high. Liberty holds the torch of freedom aloft with one hand, while the other hand holds a book inscribed with the date July 4, 1776, to honor the Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at Liberty’s feet to represent freedom. Over the years, the statue’s copper skin has taken on a green patina due to oxidation.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the most famous and spectacular tributes to American history. Known as the “Shrine of Democracy,” it features the 60-foot-tall heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved into the granite mountain face.
Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work on the sculpture in 1927. The Washington portrait was the first to be completed, and it was dedicated in 1930. It was followed by Jefferson in 1936, Lincoln in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1939. The project was completed on October 31, 1941; the total cost was about $1 million, and 450,000 tons of rock was removed from the mountain face to create the sculpture.
Celebrate These Iconic Landmarks!
Over the years, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore have been popular images on U.S. coins, most notably on commemorative issues. The Statue of Liberty first appeared on U.S. coins in 1986 as part of the statue’s 100th anniversary celebrations. The Half Dollar depicts the Statue of Liberty in the foreground with the New York skyline in the background, while the Silver Dollar shows the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The proof editions of the these coins are the most popular non-circulating commemoratives in history. Both coins were made available by the U.S. Mint in a special Statue of Liberty Proof Set; and a 1986 Prestige Proof Set that also featured proof versions of the five circulating 1986 U.S. coins.
In 1991, the U.S. Mint issued a commemorative Half Dollar and Silver Dollar to mark the 50th anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore. Both coins feature the iconic memorial, and both were included in the 1991 Prestige Proof Set along with the five circulating 1991 U.S. coins.
When the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore commemorative coins were struck – 30 and 25 years ago, respectively – certified coin grading was in its infancy and few of these coins were even sent to the major coin grading services. However, a small number of proof Half Dollars from each issue have been graded as perfect PR70 DCAM (“deep cameo”), which is the absolute highest grade possible for any coin.