Stone Mountain
Commemorative Half Dollar

Grading

Elements

The Illustrations below identify the key grading elements for the Stone Mountain Commemorative Half Dollar.  We will use these references in describing grading elements.

The coin obverse has several design features that are important to understand.

  • The highest surface element is Lee's gloved left hand and left leg.  These will show wear first, but can also be flattened from a less than complete strike.
  • Lee is also wearing a long coat that covers a portion of what is often considered the leg (shown with stripes in the image above).
  • When the coin is fully struck there are diagonal folds in the coat that will show and will traverse nearly the whole coat from about eleven o'clock toward four o'clock.  But wear will also cause these to deteriorate quickly.
  • Lee's stirrup is a high point just below the leg and begins to flatten with wear.
  • The bridle is not at a high point near Traveler's head, but where it crosses Lee's holster it is nearly as high as the leg.  It is also a somewhat fragile element and tends to be flatten easily with wear or a less than complete strike.
  • Lee's holster starts to show wear just after the bridle and glove.
  • Lee's hat brim is a high point, but it traverses all the way to the field.  So it will show wear early, but almost never disappear even at the lowest grades.
  • The thirteen stars are almost always visible, even in circulated grades.
  • In addition to the date doubling on the double die variety, Little Sorrel's head will often be doubled as a thin line on the front of the face.

Although artistically pleasing, the coin reverse is poorly designed from a practical standpoint.  With the high point in the design offset to the northeast very uneven wear is often produced on uncirculated coins.  Then there is a practical production note when striking coins.  The design of the die must be such that it facilitates the flow of metal into all areas of the finished coin.  With the Eagle offset it would have taken more metal flowing to the upper right and less toward the lower left.  This peculiarity shows up in some wear patterns when coins begin to go down in grade.

  • The Eagle's breast is the high point in the design and shows wear first.  It is important to distinguish between wear and a weak strike because they will exhibit similar loss of detail.
  • The Eagle's head and the tops of the wings are next in the relief and begin to lose detail about the same rate.
  • The Eagles legs also lose detail with wear but are lower in the design.
  • In the word LIBERTY, the TY is positioned on top of the rocky outcrop and are higher in the relief than the other letters.  They often show wear or disappear much faster than the rest of the letters.
  • Of major concern is the stars in the field.  Rarely do all thirty-five stars show and they can be lost from an incomplete strike, wear, die repolishing, or bag damage.

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