Q. David Bowers
"There is no certain time in which you can expect to receive the coins as there are too many unforeseen matters which come up and delay the work, even after the Department [of the Treasury] tells you when you can expect them. I hope you will not think I am offering too much information. I, of course, have no way of telling whether you are a collector or what you know about coins so trust you will take my letter in the spirit in which it is sent. Will be pleased to hear from you again .... "
In a letter dated October 12, 1935, to Rovelstad, Hoffecker cautioned: "It would not be good for either of us if the word got out you had disposed of the entire issue to me."
A Business Proposal
In a letter to Rovelstad dated October 23, 1935, Hoffecker outlined his business proposal: "After careful consideration I will handle your issue in the same manner I handled ours [the Old Spanish Trail coins]; to wit: I will favor collectors in preference to dealers, not let any dealer have any great number of the coins. By continuing the sale for three or four months the collectors will have no right to complain if they fail to get any of the coins, and I will keep the price at $2.00 until the issue is exhausted. I now have a much larger mailing list than when I first started.
"These issues cannot be handled in the future as some committees handled them in the past, or the government will discontinue the coining of commemoratives entirely. I will pay for the coins, $5,000, the cost of the dies and the express, and pay to any bank you may designated as your agent, the sum of $12,000. In this way you will have no worry or uncertainty about how much you will have to spend or when you will get it."
At this point, it was still envisioned that just 10,000 coins would be produced. The sales price of $2.00 was similar to that charged for Hoffecker's 1935 Old Spanish Trail half dollar of similar mintage.
The letter continued: "Any correspondence you may receive on the coins you can bunch up and mail me once or twice a week and I will answer it. I will run adds [sic] in the leading numismatic journals so the collectors will know where to buy, starting the adds as soon as the bill is signed by the president, to give everybody a chance, but will depend mostly on the literature I will send to collectors who do not belong to the clubs or take a numismatic magazine ....
"I am enclosing part of a letter from the Maryland Commission. They seem to have not had a good mailing list. The Hudson people, I understand on good authority, sold the major portion of their coins for 95 cents each and the balance for $1.00 leaving them approximately only $3,500 net. Please let me know what you decide on as soon as possible and how you are progressing in Washington. I think I could be of some assistance to your congressmen by telling them how I got by with our issue."
On November 3, 1935, Rovelstad advised that he accepted Hoffecker's terms "contingent on the passage of coinage bill H.R. 8234 (pioneer coin)." On December 4, 1935, Rovelstad advised Hoffecker that he had on hand letters and orders from over 125 collectors, each of whom wanted from one to 6,000 coins. (Upon being contacted later, W.A. Schneider, an Illinois numismatist who expressed interest in buying 6,000 specimens, reduced his order to just five pieces.)
L.W. Hoffecker informed Trygve A. Rovelstad on January 24, 1936, that as chairman of a committee appointed by the president of the American Numismatic Association he planned "to go to Washington in the near future and consult with the Treasury Department about the future issues of commemorative coins, and try and stop the rackets they are running on the present issues." Further: "I will go by way of Chicago and will stop off and see you as I go through." This was done, and Hoffecker visited Rovelstad in Elgin.
The sculptor was in constant touch with Congressman Chauncey Reed, and encouraged him, at Hoffecker's urging, to limit the quantity of Elgin half dollars to just 10,000 pieces. Unfortunately, Congress was not of a mind to do this with new legislation, in view of abuses with previously authorized limited-mintage series.
On February 21,1936, Hoffecker wrote to Rovelstad as follows: "Am certainly sorry to hear Mr. Reed could not get the bill through for 10,000 coins as it is a lot more work to sell 25,000, and you will not be able to get over $1.00 each for them, and consequently cannot make as much money as you could on 10,000 at $2.00 each."
The Elgin proposal languished. On April 13, 1936, Hoffecker sent this message to Rovelstad: "I thought best to write you. The president just signed a coin bill for Cincinnati. It was proposed Jan. 16 and they will have their coins in a few weeks. Can you not get some of your leading politicians to hurry matters up in Washington? There are so many bills coming up I am afraid the president will quit signing any of them. And the sooner we get the coins the better chance we have to sell them."
On April 26th Hoffecker suggested that Rovelstad "amend the bill asking for only 15,000 coins." Further: "Where more than 15,000 coins were minted all from one mint it has been necessary to send a part of them back to the mint for remelting, and the commissions do not realize the money they should. The coin collectors are in favor of a small issue all from one mint, and the government objects to taking coins back and also objects to minting coins in all three mints. 15,000 is the best number for us .... "
Hoffecker visited Washington (at a cost of $300 for train fare and accommodations at the Willard Hotel), met with congressmen, and upon his return to El Paso wrote to Rovelstadon May 2, 1936: "A lot of these representatives seem to think that if you can make money on 10,000 coins you should be able to make as much more in proportion on 25,000, but this is not true. The more you get, the cheaper you have to sell the coins, and the more trouble and expense you have in selling them." Later in the month Hoffecker met with Rovelstad in Washington, and they both spent time on Capitol Hill.