Q. David Bowers
Trygve A. Rovelstad made arrangements soon thereafter to return 5,000 unsold coins to the Mint for melting. L.W. Hoffecker's inventory of 250 or so coins lasted a long time. (L.W. Hoffecker's records reveal that in early 1948 his Watkins Coin Company still had a stock of Elgin commemorative half dollars on hand for sale and was selling them for $2.25 each. Earl C. Schill, a Detroit dealer, bought 10 of them at that price on February 26; Miss Kathleen Coen, a Michigan collector, bought 3 on March 12.) Apart from the illogic of their distribution in distant El Paso, nothing untoward was associated with the distribution of the Elgin Centennial half dollars, and certainly at the Illinois end of the deal sculptor Trygve A. Rovelstad's intentions and ethics were of the highest order. L.W. Hoffecker distributed the pieces in a skillfully orchestrated publicity campaign and did as well as anyone could have done at the time. Trygve A. Rovelstad netted about $8,000 from the sale of the half dollars enough to keep the work going on the Pioneer Memorial as it awaited government funds (which never came) to make its completion possible.
Collecting Elgin Half Dollars
Elgin half dollars seem to have been handled with particular care at the time of minting with the result that the pieces have fewer bagmarks than seen on many others of the same era. The surfaces of the many 1936 Elgin half dollars have a mattelike appearance (seemingly a combination of a lustrous business strike and a Matte Proof) quite different from other commemorative issues of the year. Others are fairly frosty. Chief Engraver Sinnock made a few Matte Proofs at the Mint by pickling coins in acid (see above text).
The mattelike surface of the Elgin half dollar has permitted such pieces to with-stand repeated dipping better than most. Nearly all surviving Elgin half dollars are in Mint State, for nearly all were sold to numismatists to begin with. Sales to the general public were negligible. Typical coins grade in the MS-63 or better range and are fairly plentiful today.
GRADING SUMMARY: This issue was very carefully handled, and most coins seen today are well preserved. Marks, when seen, are apt to be on the cheek of the pioneer on the obverse or on the statue figures on the reverse. Sometimes the heads of the statue figures are lightly struck and show graininess from the surface of the original planchet. The fields of this issue, instead of being deeply frosty and lustrous, usually have a matte-like appearance. On many coins a bright spot is seen on the reverse below the A of AMERICA, the result of an inadvertent polishing on a small area of the die.
Commemorating: 100th anniversary of the 1835 founding of the city of Elgin, Illinois (and to provide funds for the erection of the Pioneer Memorial statuary group)
Obverse motif: Portrait of pioneer
Reverse motif: Pioneer Memorial group
Authorization date: June 16, 1936
Dates on coins: 1936 (also 1673)
Date when coins were actually minted: 1936
Mint used: Philadelphia
Maximum quantity authorized: 25,000
Total quantity minted (including assay coins): 25,015
Assay coins (included in above): 15
Quantity melted: 5,000
Net number distributed (including assay coins): 20,015
Issued by: Elgin Centennial Monumental Committee, P.O. Box 75, El Paso, Texas (L.W.
Hoffecker in charge); banks in and near Elgin, including the First National Bank of Elgin, the Elgin National Bank, and the Union National Bank; (address used by Trygve Rovelstad in earlier correspondence with government officials: 100 East Chicago Street, Elgin, Illinois)
Standard original packaging: Paper coin envelope; some mailed in six-coin cardboard insert-type holder with L.W. HOFFECKER and his address stamped on it (same holder used for 1935 Old Spanish Trail halves)
Official sale price: $1.50
Designer of obverse and reverse: Trygve A. Rovelstad
Interesting fact: Authorized in 1936 for an anniversary that had already taken place in 1935; profits from the sale of this issue went toward the work on a statue in Elgin, which to this day has not been erected.
(average market prices)
1940 MS-64 to 65 $1.25
1945 MS-64 to 65 $2
1950 MS-64 to 65 $3
1955 MS-64 to 65 $10
1960 MS-63 to 64 $17
1965 MS-63 to 64 $ 50
1970 MS-63 to 64 $ 36
1975 MS-63 to 64 $100
1980 MS-63 to 64 $570
1985 MS-63 to 64 $360
1986 MS-60 $235, MS-63 $340, MS-64 $660, MS-65 $1,350
1990 (spring) MS-60 $265, MS-63 $290, MS-64 $390, MS-65 $1,175
1990 (December) MS-60 $215, MS-63 $230, MS-64 $245, MS-65 $590