Q. David Bowers
"I wish, therefore, you will go over this communication carefully and consider its contents with men like Mr. Atkinson and Andrews, Mell Wilkinson and Forrest Adair. I mention these men because they have, as far as I am concerned, taken no part in the controversy. After conferring with them put the proposition before your committee. The committee should name three who could come here for a day and discuss ways and means for saving the assets of the Memorial and the coin from failure; for restoration of Southern confidence-of Western and national confidence. Time is essential, and I shall be off on another tour in ten days ....
"This letter, as important as it is, is the result of impulse I expressed as I received my correspondence, when a friend from Atlanta said, 'Well, the coin also is a failure.' I answered, 'It must not be a failure. We have got to save the situation against itself.' Well, it's up to you, Mr. Arkwright. There is only one other man in Atlanta I would send this message to, and he is away at this moment. I'll do all that is honorable and fair to help you in the South."
Sales Ideas and Coin Auctions
One sales idea was to have leading corporations and individuals in the South purchase large quantities for use in advertising or other purposes. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the Southern Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, and the Coca-Cola Company (The Coca-Cola Company gave coins as gifts in holders imprinted, "In the purchase of this coin the Coca-Cola Company hopes to aid a worthy movement, in the gift of it to you we hope to draw tighter those bonds of friendship that exist between us.) were among the buyers. Bernard Baruch (a well-known investor and later advisor to American presidents) was named honorary chairman of a committee in New York City assigned to sell 250,000 Stone Mountain half dollars and showed his spirit by personally signing up for 1,000 coins.? Additional quantities were made available to banks across the nation through the Federal Reserve system.
A brochure issued in 1925, shortly after Lukeman assumed the carving project, noted: "The money to finance the monument is being raised by the sale of Confederate Memorial half dollars, by Founders Roll contributions of $1,000 each, by Children's Founders Roll contributions of $1, and by other ways and means. The Association takes the Confederate Memorial half dollars out of the mint at face value, 50 cents each, and sells them for $1 each, thus netting the Association a small gross profit of 50 cents on each coin sold. The act of Congress authorized the mintage of five million coins, of which 2,500,000 have already been allotted to the South. The governors of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee have each assumed a quota calculated on the basis of white [sic] population and bank deposits, and each governor has pledged his state to take his quota ...."
A novel sales promotion involved the distribution of coins through various towns and cities in the South that subscribed for a certain number of coins and then sold them at auction to citizens who desired to obtain them as souvenirs. Some of these coins were appropriately counterstamped with an abbreviation of the name of the state in which they were sold and a distinctive serial number. Others were sold with certificates attesting to their status.
Certain of these half dollars were auctioned for prices amounting to hundreds of dollars or more per coin with one notable sale in Bradenton, Florida posting an impressive $1,300. Public reaction was varied-with some observers considering such prices to be reflective of Southern patriotism and others feeling that the auctions were exploitative.
The following letter from J. Wilson Gibbes, Jr., typed on a Harvest Campaign, Confederate Memorial Coinage letterhead marked "South Carolina's Quota 100,000 Coins," dated December 10, 1925, gave instructions concerning a coin auction to be held. The communication was to Mrs. R.E. Shannon, of Blackstock, South Carolina.
"Your letter of the 9th to my father, Mr. J. Wilson Gibbes, was received this morning in his absence and I hasten to thank you for your efforts and to say that we will be very glad to have you offer the Special Coin to the highest bidder at the hot supper. The average price paid for these coins has been $23.00, the highest price paid being $110.00 and the lowest $10.00. The Chester coin brought $25.00.
"I would suggest that you make a little speech before offering the coin, explaining to those present about the wonderful memorial at Stone Mountain. The enclosed folder will give you a small idea of what it is to be. Your audience may be interested to know that a Special Coin brought $1,300 at Bradenton, Florida, and other towns down there say that they will beat this price. These coins will be treasured in later years, as they cannot be duplicated. The one sent you is [the special] 'Blackstock Coin' and another like it does not exist. It is possible that the Association will issue a certificate to the purchaser and a record of the purchaser will be kept in the great Memorial Hall which is to be carved out of the base of the Mountain.
"When your coin is sold, kindly give us the full name of the purchaser and have check for the proceeds made payable to J. Wilson Gibbes, Executive Secretary....
"Yours very truly,
"[signed] J. Wilson Gibbes Jr., in charge of auction coins"
The intention to honor the memory of Warren G. Harding was negated, for no mention of the president appeared on the coins, but few people cared about the omission. Still others, recalling that certain other commemorative half dollar issues had been melted to the extent of thousands of unsold coins, felt that too many Stone Mountain half dollars had been authorized and too many had been struck. With such vast quantities in the offing, the Stone Mountain pieces had absolutely no appeal to knowledgeable speculators.
As it turned out and as might have been expected, sales projections were overly optimistic. The large quantity of 2,310,000 pieces plus an additional 4,709 for assay had been struck. A letter from Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon to Hon. Randolph Perkins, chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures, January 31, 1930, stated that none had been returned to the Mint for melting, but, "It is understood that large numbers of Stone Mountain coins are on hand, unsold, at the banks."! Eventually, one million coins were returned to the Mintto be melted in two batches of 500,000 each. At the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, the State of Georgia still had coins for sale for $1 apiece.