One of over a dozen coins issued in 1936, this coin was supposed to be issued in 1935 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Elgin Illinois. The coin was the brain child of Trygve Rovelstad a sculpture who was trying to raise money to complete a statue titled “Pioneer Memorial” to be erected in the Elgin Town Square.
The Reverse of the coin shows the statue that had yet to be cast based on a small model that the Artist had created. The statue depicts four adult pioneers including a mother with Babe in arms, a frontiersman in buckskins holding a rifle, and two adult men presumably farmers. In addition to the statutory inscriptions “United States of America”, “Liberty”, “E Pluribus Unum” and “Half Dollar” the words “Pioneer Memorial” appear to the left of the statue, and “Elgin Illinois” to the right.
The Obverse show a profile of the Rifleman from the Statue facing left with the word “Pioneer” arcing above and the dates “1673 -1936” arcing below the bust with “In God We” to the left of the bust & “Trust” to the right. The artist initials “TR” are combined into what looks like a dot just under the beard. The date combination deserves some explanation as neither date is really strongly related to the rest of the coin design. The dates were supposed to be 1835 – 1935, referring to the founding of Elgin and the date of the centennial. For some reason, lost to history, 1673 the year of the Marquette & Joliet expedition, which began the exploration of Illinois was substituted for the founding date when the legislation was too late to have the coins minted in 1935. 1936 of course is the year of issue.
The final item of note for this coin is the part played by promoter/distributer L. W. Hoffecker in the sale of the coins. Mr. Hoffecker, mortgage broker and part time rare coin dealer from El Paso, Texas had just sewn up a deal to distribute the Old Spanish Trails coins. As part of this arrangement the profits went to the “El Paso Museum Committee”, a committee that appears to have had just one member, and one beneficiary, Mr. Hoffecker.
Hoffecker arranged to receive the entire 25,000 coin mintage of Elgin coins, which he proceeded to sell for $1.50 apiece, keeping a percentage of the profits and turning the rest over to Rovelstad to finance the statue. Unfortunately, the amount returned to the artist was insufficient to complete the statue. He continued to fund raise and work to the goal of the statue for the next half century, but died in 1990 without seeing it complete. The final chapter in the story was written just a few years ago in 2001 when the statue was finally completed and erected in the Elgin town Square!
General Market Notes
The original mintage authorized for this coin was 25,000 with an additional 15 struck and held for assay. The entire mintage of 25,000 coins was forwarded to Hoffecker for sale. He managed to sell 20,000 coins in the first year and returned the remaining 5,000 to the mint in 1937 to be melted.
For the collector, there is both good news and bad associated with this issue. The good news is that the Mint appearently took some care with the handling of these coins so they are by and large in better condition than many of the commems of this era and show fewer bag marks. The bad news is that the strikes are generally weak with little detail in the statue on the reverse and the rifleman's face on the obverse.