The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 1, January 4, 2015, Article 13


Dick Johnson submitted this article about publisher Lee Hewitt's medal for   Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine contributors. Thanks. -Editor

If you wrote a numismatic article in the 1940s or 1950s and sent it to the   Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine chances are it would have gotten published exactly like you wrote it. And if Lee Hewitt felt like it he would send you a medal. No payment for articles - this was a contributor's medal.

The medal was not all that precious. It was small, brass, and one of Osborn Coinage's stock medals of the U.S. presidents. It is the kind of medal like thousands of others that ultimately end up in a dealer's junk box, called a "Loonie Bin" in Canada. (What do they call a junk box in England or Europe?)

But for me that medal was priceless. I had come of age, I was a numismatic author. Lee Hewitt published the first numismatic article I wrote. It was on Missouri Mills. As a 19-year old I was fascinated by the new plastic mills used by Missouri retailers to collect sales tax. One mill for every dollar purchase, I believe. (Later replaced by a bracket schedule as sales tax rates rose so the mills were abolished.)

The one mill denomination tokens were red plastic, five mills were green. They replaced similar size tokens in zinc of the same denominations. I would go to the Missouri Revenue office in Kansas City Missouri and buy quantities of the tokens. They came in boxes of 500, the name on the box was J.W.(?) Wright Manufacturing Co. From that data I wrote my article. (Later I learned the Wright firm was a sales agent not the actual maker.)

However, all through my Air Force and college years I subscribed to the Numismatic Scrapbook. When I graduated from college I traveled to north Chicago to visit Lee Hewitt at his printing plant. I asked him for a job, I wanted to be a numismatic editor. He had no need for one; his operation was pretty lean.

Lee and his brother Cliff had owned a print shop for a number of years. In 1934 he printed a small format pamphlet that became a monthly magazine. As coin collecting became popular in the late 1930s his magazine grew. After World War II it became thick with hundreds of ads.

To maintain his second class mailing permit he had to have 25 percent of editorial matter. As the number of ad pages increased he had to increase the number of editorial pages. It didn't matter too much to Lee. He printed just about anything sent to him.

The magazine was printed letterpress and he had one linotype operator (later this was numismatist Arlie Slabaugh). When an article arrived in the mail Lee would drop it off at his linotype operator who knew instinctively what to do with it -- standard headline and body type. No editing, and few illustrations.

When the magazine was printed Lee had a handful of ladies who inserted them in addressed envelopes. At its height of its circulation, and fat issues, he had as many as thirty ladies working for him for the week the magazine was mailed. He ended up marrying of these as his second wife. (You couldn't do that today with sexual harassment laws. Now an employer would have to say "You're fired; now will you have dinner with me?")

Lee Hewitt and I met often at numismatic conventions. We had similar interests and became fast friends. He taught me a lot about numismatic publishing. He ultimately sold the Scrapbook to Amos Press (Coin World publisher) then retired to Florida. He bought a boat and loved going out on the water. But he couldn't stop going to conventions where we met again and again.

But I cherish the little president medal he gave me for my first numismatic article.


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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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