The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 1, January 1, 2012, Article 11


Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on a landmark advertisement in U.S. numismatic history. Thanks! -Editor

I told this story once before, it was mentioned in part one on the history of Coin World (in Coin World, April 5, 2010) but the ad was reproduced again in this week's Coin World (January 2, 2012, page 20). So perhaps it needs retelling.

Small date cent ad

It was 1960, the first year of Coin World. I was hired from the staff of the Kansas City Kansan to become the first editor of Coin World. One of the big news events that first year was the action of the U.S. Mint of making cents with smaller dates than normal. Small Date Cents caught the imagination of the entire field, and we at Coin World fanned the fire.

We ran pictures of the date size variety on the front page and advertisers offered the new variety from both Philadelphia and Denver -- singles, sets and in rolls. They were scarce enough that made them desirable as a "must have variety," yet plentiful enough they were still available in quantity. Even by the bagful. Philadelphia coin dealer Harry Forman was the principle promoter of the new variety, he offered to buy or sell, any quantity!

One day in July 1960 I received a call from Harold H. Berk, the owner of the Warren Coin Shop. He also owned a car dealership in Warren, Ohio. It is not unusual for car dealers -- new or used -- to have an interest dealing in coins. The appeal is the same, buy and sell, condition and variety is everything, so is the ability to negotiate.

As editor of Coin World that first year I did everything, write news articles, sell advertising, process classified ads, attend numismatic conventions, everything but subscriptions. I took Harold Berk's call, he dictated the text of an ad to me on that phone call. My shorthand at that time was to write down all nouns with no verbs, I would reconstruct the exact text on the typewriter immediately after. He wanted to trade a brand new Pontiac from his dealership for a $50 bag of small date cents.

"How big you want that ad?" I asked thinking this might a small ad. "Full page," he answered.

My mind raced. Here was an opportunity I was seeking since I started Coin World. You have to know that all the ads in existing coin publications at the time were all text, no artistic treatment. Most were tabular lists of dates and mintmarks and prices. Gray lines of type that filled every ad.

With a full page I could do something closer to what an ad agency would do. I raced downstairs to the ad department of the Sydney Daily News in the same building. Having worked in the advertising department of the Kansan I knew my way around an ad department. I hit the Daily News "clip book" -- this is a subscription service to newspapers offering stock art work that you would "clip," actually cut out and paste up to create your own ads.

Berk was a Pontiac dealer. I found two Pontiac illustrations I could use. I also grabbed an appropriate headline. Back at my desk I pasted up a full page and typed up my notes indicating what text went in what area on the paste up. I sent the ad to the composing room.

The ad appeared in the July 21, 1960 issue of Coin World. It hit the numismatic field with a Bang. It made news. The day it was printed I walked across the hall to the Daily News newsroom and had the news item "an Ohio car dealer was offering a new car for a $50 bag of cents" sent out on the AP newswire.

The ad made national news. It even made Time Magazine the following week!

Harold Berk became famous in the numismatic field. His ad was the talk everywhere coin collectors gathered. He eventually was elected to the board of Governors of the American Numismatic Association.

Fast forward to 1966. I had left Coin World, returned to Kansas City and started another coin publication, sold it to a group of investors in Houston, moved there and started another coin publication. Meanwhile the ANA had a new headquarters building in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The organization needed a new editor to serve in that capacity in Colorado.

I wanted that job. But so did Ed Rochette, who was editor of Numismatic News in Iola, Wisconsin. The decision was to be made by the nine-member board of the ANA. John Pitman was a good friend and a member of the board at that time. He was my inside board contact and I had him campaign for my candidacy for the editor position.

The vote was taken August 23, 1966. John had four votes lined up for me. Four favored Ed. The swing vote was none other than that same Harold Berk. He voted for Rochette. Whether he was inconsiderate, or unappreciative, or didn't remember what I had done for him six years earlier, I do not know. But Ed Rochette won the vote, left Numismatic News and became the editor of The Numismatist.

(Later that year I was offered the position of Director of Research at Medallic Art Company, which I accepted. Ironically I ended up editing MACO's publication, The Art Medallist.)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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