HOFFECKER, LYMAN WILLIAM

Copyright 2011-2017 John N. Lupia, III

Fig. 1. Lyman William Hoffecker (1868-1955), photograph published in The Numismatist, February (1955) : 142. It looks to be the reversed print of that published November 1939.

Lyman William Hoffecker (1868-1955), was born the eldest of five children on September 27, 1868, son of Hiram H. Hoffecker (1839-1912), a wheelwright and carriage maker, and Hannah E. Mack Hoffecker (1836-1906), at Tunkkannock, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania.

            In 1886, at eighteen he began collecting coins while working at the Dalton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania Post Office as a letter carrier. The Post Office was renamed on August 13, 1878, and Calvin L. Briggs was made the Postmaster. Previously it was known as Dalton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania from August 29, 1871 to August 13, 1878. 
            In 1895 he married Cora Knapp (1868-1915), daughter of A. H. Knapp and Harriet Knapp,  at Pennsylvania.
            In 1896, he and his first wife Cora had a daughter named Merle at Pennsylvania. 
          
            In 1900, he and his wife Cora and daughter Merle moved to El Paso, Texas, at 1110 Texas Street, and worked as a carpenter and in the wholesale glass and building materials business. Learning the business he opened L. W.  Hoffecker Door & Sash Company in the building materials trade. In November 1918, he went to Belgium purchasing glass for retail sale in America. Also, in 1918 he went to Mexico as a building contractor.
            In 1910, he and his family and his father Hiram lived at 1514 Montana Street, El Paso, Texas, working in the Plate Glass business.

            On July 4, 1915 Cora Hoffecker died of stomach cancer, and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, El Paso, Texas..
            About 1919, he married Sarah Jane Jennie Watkins (1889-1954), a native of Kentucky, daughter of Edward Everett Watkins (1860-1903) and Prudence Campbell Watkins (1870-1925?).
            In 1920 he lived at 1514 East Boulevard, El Paso, Texas, with his wife Sarah and his mother-in-law, Prudence Campbell Watkins (1870-1851).

            In 1922, he retired from the building materials trade business. After retirement Hoffecker devoted his time to world travels and coin collecting and dealing. He visited 72 foreign countries and brought back home many numismatic specimens for his collection and for his inventory for sales.

            In 1924, he joined the ANA and became Member No. 2610.

            In 1929, Hoffecker had his first volley into the initiation of U. S. Commemorative coins with his plan to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, ratified in 1854. He erected a Commission at El Paso, headed by himself to plan the design and promote its advocacy among the appropriate Congressional Committee members. It was approved. However, President Herbert Hoover vetoed it and any notion of commemorative coinages were simply out of the question since there was too great a risk of counterfeiting. Consequently, when President Hoover's term was up in 1933, and eventually a new climate, more amenable to commemoratives would finally arrive. However, it was not all that simple. There was still much resistance among the Senate Finance Committee and U. S. Mint officials and heated debates regarding them continued for several years.   
            Both Hoffecker and Thomas L. Elder worked to influence the U. S. legislation on commemorative coinage, which looked very bleak in the first months of 1935.   It was widely thought at that time that U. S. Commemorative coins would be entirely discontinued.    Elder wrote aggressively on the subject appealing to continue and promoted U. S. Commemorative coinages. Hoffecker worked with his local historical society and museum. He became the chairman of the El Paso Museum Coin Committee. And, in 1935, he designed the Old Spanish Trail Commemorative Half Dollar engraved by sculptor Edmund Senn, and became the distributer for the Museum. The profits made in sales were for funding the Museum.

Fig. 2.   Old Spanish Trail Commemorative Half Dollar. Hoffecker published a notice in the October 1935 issue of The Numismatist, on page 703 that the entire mintage was sold out.  

            Hoffecker and his wife Sarah opened Watkins Coin Co. in El Paso, Texas, so-called after her maiden name. They advertised in Hobbies : The Magazine For Collectors.

            He lived at 1514 Montana Street, El Paso, Texas.

            From 1936 - 1939 he served on the ANA Board of Governors.

Fig. 3. He was also responsible for distribution of the Elgin Centennial half dollar.  


Fig. 4. Hoffecker's business stationery as a distributor for the Elgin Commemorative Half Dollar sent to Henry Chambers, Wilmington, California, postmarked registered mail, October 29, 1936, El Paso, Texas. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

Fig. 5. 1938 Fixed Price List of Watkins Coin Co. in El Paso, Texas.

Fig. 6. Photograph of Hoffecker as newly elected ANA President in the November 1939 issue of The Numismatist, page 940.

            In 1939, he was elected the 22nd President of the ANA.
            In 1942, he became ANA Life Member No. 68.

Fig. 7. Hoffecker writing to Helen Chapman and Ella B. Wright at Henry Chapman Inc., franked by 3 cent purple Jefferson Prexie, postmarked July 12, 1946, El Paso, Texas. The strange scribble is not that at all but upon rotating to the right one can see Ella's writing the abbreviation for Registered "Reg" referring to her mailing Hoffecker coins via registered mail. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

He was a member of the Masons, Knights Templar, the El Paso Commandery, a charter member of the El Maida Shrine Temple, Masonic Lodge No. 130, and was in charge of rites at the Evergreen Cemetery, El Paso, Texas.
Fig. 8. Photograph of Hoffecker with the wife of the late vice-president Mrs. Marshall published in 
The Numismatist, November 1951, page 1198.

            In the June 1954 issue of The Numismatist, on page 610, Hoffecker announced he will sell is collection en block through B. Max Mehl. His collection was sold together with that of Joseph C. Rovensky at auction by B. Max Mehl, Sale #115, on November 30, 1954 (Adam's rated B), just forty three days before his demise. 
            In the October 1954 issue of The Numismatist, pages 1091 the announcement of the death of Mrs. Hoffecker in August was made as well as a report that Mr. Hoffecker was critically ill at home requiring continual care.
            He died of arteriosclerotic heart disease on January 13, 1955. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. He was survived by his daughter Mrs. Merle Hoffecker Vail (1896-1989), wife of Lt. Col. Benners Brasfield Vail (1892-1961), Montgomery, Alabama. She is buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, El Paso, Texas

Fig. 9. Hoffecker's tombstone Evergreen Cemetery, El Paso, Texas.

The inventory stock of Watkins Coin Co., was purchased by Leo A. Young, Lockeford, California and was published for sale in the October 1955 issue of The Numismatist, pages 1138-1139. Additional pieces were sold at auction by Superior on February 9-11, 1986.  

Bibliography :

The Numismatist, February (1955) : 142 obit + photo
Don Taxay, An Illustrated History of U. S. Commemorative Coinage (New York : Arco Publishing, 1967) : 175-177
John Weston Adams, United States Numismatic Literature (1990) Vol. 2, 68
Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies



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