Dick Johnson, founding editor of Coin World and regular E-Sylum contributor, submitted these thoughts on numismatic periodicals. Thanks! Below is a photo of Dick and Shirley Johnson examining the first issue of Coin World off the press.
I appreciate the praise in last week’s E-Sylum, particularly Harry Waterson’s article on using my books for researching American coins and medals, also the kudos from Harry Cabluck. But I would really like to comment on the broader aspect of numismatic publication.
The literary numismatic field has changed dramatically since the 1960s when there were only two numismatic periodicals in America – The Numismatist and the Numismatic Scrapbook. The articles were stiff, often written without passion and only sparsely illustrated. The advertisements were mostly columns of coins for sale, date and price, very few illustrations. No color anywhere. Numismatic News was started, mostly of classified ads with only three classifications, Wanted, For Sale, For Trade.
This was the landscape when the Amos family in Ohio, publishers of a daily newspaper, Sidney News, had just installed a new newspaper press. They were contract printers for a weekly stamp publication, Linn’s Stamp News. The local paper took half hour each day to print 10,000 copies, Linn’s took an hour and a half to print once a week. That expensive new press stood idle most of the week.
They wanted another newsprint publication to print. Since they printed a stamp publication why not a coin publication. They would have to start their own. They talked to coin dealer Jim Kelly in nearby Dayton, and on a business trip to New York City, they inquired of several coin dealers about such a publication.
“Weekly? No way!” they said almost to a man. “There is not that much news in the field to fill a weekly newspaper.”
Undaunted, they persevered. The overhead cost of that press drove them on. They needed someone who could establish such a periodical and run it. They found me from a tip by Jim Kelly. At the time I was on the staff of a daily newspaper in Kansas City. I had started work there as a classified ad salesman, was so eager to succeed that I outsold two other salesmen. Within nine months I was promoted head of the department managing eight women and the two men.
J. Oliver Amos and Cecil Watkins, from the Sidney newspaper, met with me for an all-day interview at the airport in Chicago. It had been my dream to be an editor of a coin publication since I was in high school 20 years earlier. I did my best selling job: a coin collector since age nine, on staff of a newspaper, had both advertising and editorial experience, knew all major coin dealers having been to dozens of coin conventions, was a member of major coin associations, plus I had a large library. I even outlined how I would gather news, despite what those NYC coin dealers had stated.
The letter offering me the job came in October. Then things happened fast, I got married in November to my wife -- who had been on the staff of that same KC newspaper -- traveled to Sidney in December, went to work in January, had a pilot issue of Coin World out in March and started publishing weekly in April. At age 29 I realized my dream job.
To their credit the publishers knew how to promote a newspaper. They charged $3 a year subscription (one twentieth of today’s cost), low cost for advertising, and promoted every possible way – even issuing a Civil War centennial medal with a new subscription during the 100th anniversary year.
However I’ll take credit for making a truly classified section with 60 different classifications (not just three) that at its high point ran six to eight pages. Also for introducing more art work in both ads and editorial, even encouraging dealers and suppliers to use ad agencies to create more artistic ads. And finally write more passion in the articles. (I was once criticized I was too excited in my articles.)
Now after 55 years Coin World has morphed into a magazine. Agency designed ads are standard fare in every coin publication. And color abounds.
I write all this to say that The E-Sylum is closer to what I wanted Coin World to be originally, somewhat more for the advanced coin collector. I recognize, however, that CW has to survive based on successful advertisers. So its editorial and advertising is slanted more for the beginning collector who does more buying, say, for new issues and such that are more heavily advertised. Advanced collectors tend to seek more information of auctions and the literature.
For this reason E-Sylum excels. Now for the real kiss-up. Editor Wayne Homren should receive even more praise than I received in that last issue for his weekly efforts.
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: JANUARY 8, 2017 : Kudos for Dick Johnson
THE DICK JOHNSON TOOLBOX
COIN WORLD CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Wayne Homren, Editor
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