Q. David Bowers
The Elgin National Bank and the First National Bank of Elgin had advance orders totaling about 250 coins, and Hoffecker shipped them 400 on consignment in order to provide an extra supply. The First National Bank of Elgin sold out, and early in November an additional 100 coins were shipped to it, followed by a further 200 early in December. The First National Bank of Elgin ordered 100 more in December. In November another local financial institution, the Union National Bank, expressed interest and was given 50 coins on consignment, with 100 more being sent in December.
An effort was made to sell coins through banks in nearby towns as well, but only two responded by ordering. On December 21st Hoffecker wrote: "The banks in Elgin and in a couple of surrounding towns have 660 coins which I have not received any money for as yet. I am wondering if you had collected anything from the Union Bank for the coins that you delivered to them. I merely wish to know this so as to keep my accounts straight."
The Elgin Watch Company asked for 100 pieces. An effort was made to have them buy more as gifts for their employees, but nothing further came of the endeavor. Hoffecker and Rovelstad were besieged with requests for free coins. On November 7th Hoffecker wrote: "I note what you say about giving complimentary coins never coming to an end. I am afraid since you have made a success of this, you have more friends that you know of, and if you had as many before, you would not have had as hard work getting by. However, I will send out coins to these people whom you have given me the names of." By December 1936, 39 coins were given away in this manner.
Particularly annoying were the repeated requests of Edward L. Weikert, Jr., president of the Washington (D.C.) Numismatic Society, described as a "moocher" by Hoffecker, who statedthat unless he were given several free specimens he would publicly condemn Hoffecker's handling of the Elgin coins. (Weikert endeavored to make the threat as strong as possible and wrote to Hoffecker on congressional stationery. A decade later in 1947 Weikert was a member of the Assay Commission.)
By mid-November 1936, 16,170 coins had been sold for $1.50 each. In a letter to Rove1stad dated December 15, 1936, Hoffecker told how he handled the coins: "When I empty a sack of 2,000 coins I put them in a tray that just holds 100 stacks of 20 coins each. I can then look at my tray any time and count the stacks."
In December Rovelstad made the suggestion that raising the price to $1.75 per coin might stimulate sales of the remaining pieces, to which Hoffecker replied on the 23rd: "I can't agree with you .... If we cannot sell them at $1.50, I do not see how you expect to sell them at $1.75. Had these coins been sold mostly to the dealers, that might have worked, but this is the only issue where all the collectors have been contacted, and some of them two and three times, and the only complaints I have had are [from] some of the dealers, saying that I have sold to all the collectors, and they are not able to do much business .... Let's see what we can do during January and February, and then we might, just as a bluff, threaten to raise the price if orders did not come in by a certain time .... "
A statement sent by L.W. Hoffecker to Trygve Rovelstad, circa late March 1937, included the following figures:
Total coins sold to date: 18,790
Coins (additional to above) sent to Rovelstad: 200
Coins received directly from the Mint by Rovelstad: 10
Coins on consignment to the First National Bank of Elgin: 330
Coins given away: 50
Coins ready to be sent by Hoffecker to the First National Bank of Elgin to the account of T.A. Rovelstad: 5,370
Coins sold to Hoffecker for inventory for $1 each: 250
TOTAL: 25,000 coins
By this time $8,680.00 in profits had been advanced to Rovelstad, and Hoffecker had earned $6,576.50 in commissions. Some profits and commissions consisting of small amounts remained to be paid.
job distributing these coins as I have reached 99% of the collectors, and the dealers are complaining they have no market for their coins; some are offering them for $1.55 and $1.60 to get rid of their stock. ... By letting me have the coins you get your money out of them at once and I will agree to keep the price at $1.50. The sales the last three months have not paid expenses, let alone made anything for my trouble. I feel that I should be favored in preference to sending them back to the government or putting them in general circulation, which you certainly do not want to do .... "
On June 30th Hoffecker wrote again: "Received your letter this morning .... You say, 'hold 600 coins for the Committee.' What do you want me to do with the balance? Have you made arrangements at the Mint to return them? That will be necessary before we can ship them back. And you asked me how many I want. That depends on the price. If I can get them at par, as we talked while I was in Elgin, I will take as many as I can get .... Regardless of how many you let me have, I will agree not to put them in circulation and would not give out any information to anyone as to how many I had disposed of .... During the past month we received orders for only 23 coins .... If you decide to turn the balance of the coins over to me I can give you a check immediately .... If I cannot have the coins for less than $1.00 each, I will take just the 250 coins you offered me. You will be out considerable express and insurance on the coins if you ship them anywhere .... "
In the same letter Hoffecker noted that of the dealers who were advertising in the June 1937 issue of The Numismatist the following had bought Elgin coins in the quantities indicated: William Rabin (50 coins), M.H. Bolender (200), Tatham Stamp & Coin Co. (150), Elias Rasmussen (200), S.M. Koeppel (10), and H.W. Fritter (3).
On July 2, 1937, Rovelstad wrote Hoffecker to inform him that the Elgin Monumental Committee had decided to let him buy as many coins as he wanted for $1 each and sent instructions that the balance of the coins should be shipped to the First National Bank of Elgin. On July 8, 1937 Hoffecker agreed to buy 250 coins at this rate. On the same date Rovelstad informed Hoffecker that the Elgin banks had 244 unsold coins on hand.
On July 10th, Rovelstad, apparently having had second thoughts about bearing the expense of having the coins shipped from El Paso to Elgin and then from Elgin to the Mint, wrote Hoffecker as follows: "It was more or less an understanding that the coins should be returned to the Mint from your office. Now since you have through handling our coin been appointed chairman of the [American Numismatic Association] Legislative Coinage Committee, you are afraid of spoiling your reputation by accommodating us in this way, thus costing us some $ 50 more in freight charges on the coins than would be if sent directly [to the Mint] from your office. I do not think these facts look good on the surface. My committee feels the same. We give you due credit for what you have done, but the facts speak for themselves .... " The difference of opinion was soon straightened out, and later correspondence between the two was in a cordial vein.