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Elgin Centennial Half Dollar

On June 16, 1936, in the middle of an earlier rash of commemoratives, Congress authorized the Elgin Centennial Half Dollar (along with commemoratives for Albany and Gettysburg). The coin is part of the mast head of The Elgin Coin Cub (ECC) Newsletter and of all ECC official communications. For you who do not know much about it, here are some interesting facts.

The coin was issued to finance the construction of Trygve Rovelstad's Pioneer Memorial in Davidson Park in Elgin. It's foundation was laid in 1934 and it is still not built. The reverse of the coin is the a reproduction of that very Pioneer Memorial, a group of five pioneers--the baby in arms is the fifth. The obverse is a copy of "Head of a Pioneer," another work of Trygve Rovelstad.

Oddly the date 1636 has nothing to do with the Elgin Centennial. It is, however, the year Frs. Marquette and Joliet entered Illinois to begin their missionary work in Illinois. Beyond the name Elgin, Illinois, on the lower reverse, nothing else directly ties this to this city. Maybe this should be more appropriately named the "Tri-centenary of the Pioneers."

The Philadelphia mint coined 25,000 (the maximum allowed) in late 1936. According to Gold and Silver Commemorative Coins by Swiatek and Breen, the El Paso Texas, coin dealer, Hoffecker, who distributed the coins, sold 20,000 coins at $1.50 each. He returned 5,000 to the mint for re-melting in 1937 because there was no more demand for them. [Why did someone from Texas distribute coins for Elgin, Illinois?]

Swiatek and Breen continue, "the vast majority of the survivors ... were not well struck; it is very unusual to find to find one in which the pioneers on the reverse all have facial details."

Though Trygve Rovelstad died a number of years ago, efforts are still underway to complete the memorial. Trygve's wife, Gloria, is a member of our club.

Editor's mid-2001 update: Gloria Rovelstad has since died. But now most of the funds have been raised to cast and set up the Pioneer Memorial statue in Elgin soon.


Originally published January, 1997.

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