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Early Commemorative History: 1936 Elgin Half Dollar

9 posts in this topic

On 12/7/2023 at 10:37 AM, leeg said:

Hi all,

Just wanted to share.

All of my research will be going to the ANA at some time in the future.

I'm will be available to all collectors who are interested in the series. That's better than a book, right. It's free.

I'd rather have the book myself. Regardless, it's fantastic that you've made arrangements so that your research can be accessed by all collectors free of charge. :golfclap:

I've greatly enjoyed your posts on U.S. commemoratives over the last handful of years. 

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I still wish the book could become a reality. There is so much new and interesting (and accurate) material in there....

Also, if you are making a donation, consider having NNP digitize everything before turning it over to ANA. That will ensure access and long-term preservation.


Edited by RWB
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Sinnock had sample commemorative halves sandblasted so they would look more medallic than "coiny." These were used for administrative approval of mint/Treasury officers and sometimes sponsors. The difference between sandblasting and acid pickling can be seen easily with 50x magnification. A sandblast piece has sharp, angular grains and tiny mirror-like grain faces (unless it has been dipped). The grains on a acid treated coin will always be slightly rounded and lack sharp angles. Acid attacks copper alloy first, then silver. (If a TPG fails to mention this in their "specimen" designation, they are saying that their designation is a guess without technical basis -- i.e., "bologna." The same applies to calling one of these a "proof" or something else.)

[PS: Back in the 1920-30, real silica sand was used. Since the late 1940s the "sand" has really been uniform class beads. The beaded product makes a more acid-like finish.]

Edited by RWB
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Good stuff Roger. Thanks.



Pioneer Family Memorial Sculpture. Dedicated on November 11, 2001, the project was overseen by the Pioneer Memorial Foundation and created by artist Trygve Rovelstad. It is composed of bronze. The statue is composed of four main figures and an infant. One of the main figures was modeled after Elgin’s founder, James T. Gifford. This sculpture is a tribute to the original pioneers who settled in Elgin. Courtesy of the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin.

    Designs for this issue were prepared by Trygve Rovelstad, who adapted both the obverse and reverse from his sketch’s of the Pioneer Memorial Statue. It was for the purpose of financing the heroic Memorial that the issue of half-dollars was authorized, as noted in the Act.  During October, 1936, a total of 25,015 pieces were struck at the Philadelphia Mint and released to the Elgin Centennial Monumental Committee of Elgin, Illinois, which distributed them at one dollar and fifty cents each through Mr. L.W. Hofer of El Paso, Texas.


Courtesy of the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts 

Minutes of Meeting held in New York City, July 17, 1936. 

The following members were present:

Mr. Moore, Chairman

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Lawrie

Mr. Savage

Mr. Borie

Mr. Shepley


Also Mr. H. P. Caemmerer, Secretary and Administrative Officer. 

Elgin, Illinois Memorial Coin: under date of July 15, 1936, the following letter was received from the Acting Director of the Mint, submitting sketches for the Elgin Illinois, memorial coin: 

July 15, 1936. 

Hon. Charles Moore, Chairman,

Commission of Fine Arts,

Navy Department Building,

Washington, D.C. 

Dear Sir,

    I am submitting sketches of a model for the coin authorized by Congress to be issued in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Elgin, Illinois, and the of a heroic Pioneer Memorial.

    The sketches are submitted for your consideration as to their artistic merits, and with the understanding that the plaster model will be presented before final approval is attached by the Secretary of the Treasury.


Very truly yours, 

(Signed) M.M. O’Reilly,

Acting Director of the Mint.


    The sketches were inspected by Mr. Lawrie in particular. The obverse represented a head of one of the founders of the city and the reverse a group from the Pioneer Memorial. Mr. Lawrie advised that the head on the obverse should be shown in profile and with this criticism the sketches were approved and a report was made to the Acting Director of the Mint accordingly, it being understood that models of the sketches will be submitted later. (Exhibit C) 


July 17, 1936.

Dear Miss O’Reilly:

    Your letter of July 15, with which you submitted sketches of a design for the Elgin, Illinois, memorial coin, has been received. The Commission of Fine Arts considered the sketches at their meeting held today in New York City and approved the sketches. The head of the obverse should be shown in profile.

    For the Commission of Fine Arts:


Very truly yours,


(Signed) Charles Moore,


Hon. M. M. O’Reilly

Acting Director of the Mint,

Washington, D. C.


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