Classic Coins - Elgin Illinois
Centennial Half Dollar
In 1936, the US Mint created the Elgin Illinois Centennial Half Dollar Classic Commemorative Coin to recognize
and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the city of Elgin and the accomplishment of the heroic
Characteristics - size, weight, metal content, value range
Obverse - picture, description, artist
Reverse - picture, description, artist
Commentary - coin notes, mintage information, historical comments, fun
On June 16, 1936, the second session of the 74th Congress approved an act which became Public Law
74-688 that authorized "the coinage of 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the
founding of the city of Elgin, Illinois, and the erection of a heroic Pioneer Memorial."
The law began, "That in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Elgin,
Illinois, and the erection of the heroic Pioneer Memorial, there shall be coined at a mint of the United States, to
be designated by the Director of the Mint, not to exceed twenty-five thousand silver 50-cent pieces of standard
size, weight, and composition and of a special appropriate single design containing a replica of the 'Pioneers', to
be fixed by the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, but the United States
shall not be subject to the expense of making the necessary dies and other preparations for this coinage.
"SEC. 2. The coins herein authorized shall bear the date 1936, irrespective of the year in which they are minted
or issued, shall be legal tender in any payment to the amount of their face value, and shall be issued only upon
the request of the chairman of the coinage committee of the Elgin Centennial Monumental Committee, upon payment by
him of the par value of such coins, but not less than twenty-five thousand such coins shall be issued to him at any
one time and no such coins shall be issued after the expiration of one year after the date of enactment of this
Act. Such coins may be disposed of at par or at a premium by such committee, and the net proceeds shall be used by
it in defraying the expenses incidental and appropriate to the commemoration of such event."
The law continues in Section 3 stating that all laws already in place applying to coinage shall also apply to
Characteristics - Elgin Illinois
Centennial Half Dollar
Metal Composition: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Diameter - millimeters: 30.6
Diameter - inches: 1.2
Weight - grams: 12.5
Weight - troy ounce: 0.401884332
Silver content weight - troy ounce: 0.3617
Mint Locations: Philadelphia
Years Minted: 1936
The coin's silver content alone makes it more valuable than its face value of $0.50.
But, the coin's age, its condition, and its desirability make it even more valuable as a collectible.
The coin's estimated value ranges from $160 (low grade - XF) to $265 (high grade - MS-66).
Extraordinary characteristics on the Elgin Illinois Centennial Half Dollar can command a price outside the
estimated value range.
Obverse - Elgin Illinois Centennial Half
The obverse or front of the coin shows the left-facing portrait of a bearded, indomitable pioneer.
The coinage inscriptions say, Pioneer, In God We Trust, and 1673-1936.
Artist: Trygve A. Rovelstad
Reverse - Elgin Illinois Centennial Half
The reverse or back of the coin features four pioneer figures: a woman and baby, farmer and plow, miller and
mill wheel, frontiersman and rifle.
The coinage inscriptions read United States of America, Pioneer Memorial, Elgin Illinois, E Pluribus Unum,
and Half Dollar.
Artist: Trygve A. Rovelstad
Commentary - Elgin Illinois Centennial Half
The stated mintage was "not to exceed twenty-five thousand silver 50-cent pieces" and "coined at a mint."
Records show the Philadelphia Mint produced 20,015 of the Elgin Illinois Centennial half dollar
coins, which is less than the delivery number specified in SEC 2 of the law.
Perhaps too many commemorative coins flooded the market in 1936, or perhaps there was not enough interest in the
Regardless, 5,000 of the coins were returned and melted for recoinage.
The coin pictured above resides in an NGC holder and is graded as an MS-66. (NGC, Numismatic Guaranty
Corporation, provides coin grading and certification services.)
Versions of the coin also exist across a variety of the grades.
In New York, James T. Gifford and his brother Hezekiah Gifford learned of the fertile land in the west.
They moved westward and looked for a site on the stagecoach route from Chicago to Galena, Illinois.
They chose a location on the Fox River where a bridge could span the river.
In April 1836 (or 1835 in some historical documents), they founded Elgin and named it after the Scottish hymn
In 17th century Protestant church music, all psalms of eight syllables in the first line and six in the next
could be sung to common tunes, some of which were named after cities and towns in Scotland, including
Having grown up with these tunes and religious, James T. Gifford, chose his favorite hymn tune for its
Gifford explained, "I had been a great admirer of that tune from boyhood," he explained, "and the name Elgin had
ever fallen upon my ear with musical effect."
The word Elgin is of Old English and Gaelic origin and means "high-minded; little Ireland."
Trygve A. Rovelstad, the coin's artist, was a native of Elgin, IL, born in 1903.
His artistry included medals and monuments along with the Elgin Illinois Centennial half dollar coin.
During World War II, Rovelstad became the First Medalist Sculptor for the U.S. War Department.
He designed several medals and awards including the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Legion of Merit,
the Bronze Star, and several other medals.
In the 1930s, Trygve designed the sculpture, "Pioneer Family Memorial," that is represented on the coin's
reverse as a tribute to the pioneers settling in the Fox River Valley.
But, the lack of revenue delayed the work on the memorial.
In 1957, Rovelstad founded the non-profit Pioneer Memorial Foundation of Illinois Inc. in along
with other civic leaders to raise the funds to erect the sculpture.
Though he did not live to see the sculpture erected, the foundation continued the work after his death in 1990
at age 86.
The foundation's artists finished the four-figure heroic size bronze sculpture, titled "The Pioneer Family
Memorial," in 2001 — 65 years after the design on the Elgin Illinois Centennial half dollar coin.
The memorial was dedicated on November 11, 2001 at its location at Kimball Street Bridge and the Fox
River in Elgin, Illinois.
See a picture of the Pioneer Family Memorial in the Elgin Coin Club Newsletter. Scroll down the page to see the
picture along with another picture of the Elgin Illinois Centennial half dollar coin.
Visit our GACS Numismatic Shoppe Elgin Illinois Centennial for a
variety of useful items decorated with images of the classic commemorative silver half dollar coin.