We knew him as Dick Johnson. Richard Wayne Johnson published under the name D. Wayne Johnson but was informally known as Dick. Well known in numismatics as the founding editor of Coin World, important in the early years of the Rittenhouse Society, research director of Medallic Art Company and author of important books on medals and minting technology, he became an early and frequent contributor to The E-Sylum with an unbroken string of weekly contributions that will likely never be surpassed. He passed away December 29, 2020 at the age of 90. He will be greatly missed. Rest in peace.
Dick once wrote that "The E-Sylum is closer to what I wanted Coin World to be originally, somewhat more for the advanced coin collector. Advanced collectors tend to seek more information of auctions and the literature."
A sampling of a few of Dick's over 1,000 E-Sylum contributions appears elsewhere in this issue. And with his family's permission, we'll continue the Vocabulary article based on Dick's Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Terminology. He may be gone, but he won't be forgotten.
Here is an obituary submitted by his family. The first photo shows him in 2010 with his research files. The second one, courtesy of Coin World, shows him and his wife Shirley reviewing the first issue of the newspaper.
Richard Wayne Johnson passed away, age 90, in New Britain, Connecticut, on Tuesday, 2020 December 29. He was an author, editor, museum official in the numismatic field; author, cataloger, medal publisher in the medallic field. He wrote under the name D. Wayne Johnson for serious material, and under Dick Johnson for brief items (such as The E-Sylum, a weekly internet newsletter for numismatic literature devotees). His research and writing covers American medallic art, coin and medal technology, American medallic artists, future coins, medallic objects, and biographies of select medallic artists. He was an authority on 20th century American medals and the Medallic Art Company, of which he was staff writer-researcher, 1966-77, and, company historian and senior consultant, 2010-17. Author of Monograms of American Coin and Medal Artists (2010), Who's Who Among American Medallists (2015), and An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology (2016).
Richard was born 1930 August 27 in Kansas City, Missouri, to Robert Winfield and Rubye Margaret Marie (Palmrose) Johnson. He was raised in Kansas City, Kansas, and several years in Chicago and Park Ridge, Illinois, and in New Orleans, Louisiana, then back to Kansas City, Kansas. He attended Maccachaque Grade School, in Kansas City, Kansas (third generation to do so, grandfather Penick and father Robert attended same grade school), Irving Park Grade School in Chicago, Illinois, Maine Township Junior High in Des Plaines, Illinois, Alcee Fortier High School in New Orleans, graduating from Rosedale High School in Kansas City, Kansas.
After graduating high school he attended one year at Kansas City Kansas Junior College, dropped out for six months, worked at A&P, returned to college at Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas, 1949 September to December. He joined the Air Force 1950 January 07 with basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, where he was tested and assigned to intelligence. After training at Brooks Air Force Base also in San Antonio, his squadron flew to Washington, DC, where he was stationed in the National Security Agency for his entire four-year duty during the Korean War. He was discharged 1954 January 07.
In 1951 he attended his first national coin convention in New York City. In 1957 he helped organize a group of young numismatists, the Rittenhouse Society (after first US Mint Director David Rittenhouse). He also helped form a regional coin organization, Middle Atlantic Numismatic Association, and was its first co-editor, with numismatist Walter Breen.
Richard attended Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, from 1954 February until 1957 receiving a BS degree in business administration. He served as president of the St. Louis Numismatic Society while still in college and was appointed to the Central States Numismatic Society board of directors.
After graduating in 1957 he joined Reynolds & Reynolds, a printing firm in Dayton, Ohio, for a sales training position. Due to cutbacks he was laid off after six months. He traveled to New York City for employment but chose to return to Kansas City for a classified ad manager job at the Kansas City Kansan (from 1958-59). He married Shirley Rausch of Kansas City, Kansas, in 1959.
Amos Press hired him to start a weekly newspaper in the coin field, Coin World, first published 1960 Spring. Resigning after eighteen months Richard and Shirley returned to the Kansas City area in 1963 where he started a new publication, Coin Wholesaler, which was in turn sold to a group in Houston, Texas, Space City Numismatics. For this firm he started a new publication, Pace, for coin investors.
After an interim job as editor on an engineering publication, Corrosion, he accepted a position with Medallic Art Company, then in New York City, as director of research. Here he did sales research, cataloged the firm's past medallic issues, wrote speeches for the president, William Trees Louth, issued press releases, edited the firm's collector newsletter, The Art Medallist, and other public relations activities. For technical and art aspects of the medallic field he was trained by Julius Lauth, Vice President and Art Director. The pair created a gigantic art medal exhibit mounted in 1968 for the 75th anniversary of the National Sculpture Society. It displayed medals of every NSS member who had created medals.
As part of cataloging the firm's medallic output (first medal 1907) he created an archive collection of 6,121 medallic items (to 1976) the firm had made in its first 70 years. Each medal was photographed, the image entered on a 3x5-inch card along with details of size, composition, artist's and the client's name. (The archive information was later entered in an electronic format by a later owner.)
Working with publications, both national and numismatic, was a major activity in publicizing the firm's medallic output. An example of a numismatic article was "Home of the Art Medal," in Coinage magazine, "Medals of the American Numismatic Society" in Coins magazine, and, on medal technology, "Modern Patinas." For national publications the famed official Inaugural Medals for each new president were always of interest (the firm had produced seven prior to 1969). For the Nixon Inauguration he supplied an Inaugural Medal to Time to place on their cover, a public relations coup to obtain the firm's product on a magazine cover.
For the 1971 centennial of the birth of Victor David Brenner, Johnson and a group of medal collectors mounted an exhibit of Brenner's medallic work. This was on display at the Chase Manhattan Money Museum at Rockefeller Center, New York City. The U.S. Mint furnished Brenner's original models for the 1909 Lincoln Cent, the original galvanos made from the models – first time ever shown outside the Mint since 1910. Also Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro appeared for the opening day with his models and galvanos of his 1959 reverse of Brenner's cent design.
Sales research for the 1976 Bicentennial began in 1970. Medallic Art Company struck the first medal for this national event in 1972 for the Daughters of the American Revolution. The firm moved to a new plant in Danbury, Connecticut, in June that same year. Here, over the next four years, the firm produced Bicentennial medals for 17 American States, 40 cities and other municipalities, and dozens more for private and nonprofit organizations.
For collectors and medal enthusiasts Johnson wrote articles in The Art Medallist on bicentennial medal issues. In 1976, following the July 4th Bicentennial celebration, the firm's medal sales dropped to the former 1970 level. New ownership of the firm cut production staff, scaled back and sold Johnson 64,000 unwanted medals.
With a medal collector friend, Chris Jensen, the pair formed a partnership, Johnson & Jensen, began dealing in medals and medallic art, Spring 1977. They incorporated in 1983 as Medallion House Inc. They had booths at numismatic shows but found auction sales more effective. The pair conducted 27 auction sales 1978-85 offering 27,000 lots of American art medals and related material. The pair published a major pamphlet on Inaugural Medals, other pamphlets on So-Called Dollars, and Circle of Friends of the Medallion, in addition to specialized medal reports and auction catalogs.
In 1985, the partnership dissolved, Johnson later became executive director of Collectors Auctions Ltd, for a group of investors. He cataloged and conducted another eight auctions, 1987-90. After these 35 auction sales he retired to write about medallic art, artists and the technology of coins and medals.
He served as publicity consultant to Medallic Art Co. for both Ronald Reagan Inaugural Medals (1981, 1985). He has appraised medal collections for estates, auction houses, collectors, museums, banks, and widows. He has cataloged some of the Tiffany & Co medal collection, the Marqusee collection donated to the Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum at Cornell University, the Wolfing Collection of Miami, Florida, and others.
His 1998 film script, The Medal Maker, on sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser, was narrated by Elizabeth Jones, former Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint. It was made into a commercial video by Hollywood film producer Michael Craven.
In 2005 he served as medal consultant to the Carnegie Hero Fund Foundation for the yearly award medals and the Andrew Carnegie Centennial Medal. Also in 2005 he was named to the board of directors of the Gallery Mint Museum of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In 2006 he was named Curator of Numismatic Art at the Belskie Museum in Closter, New Jersey; here he cataloged the medallic work of sculptor Abram Belskie, for whom the museum is named. In 2007 he created a method for judging art medals at medallic exhibitions with the first at the international exhibition, FIDEM, at Colorado Springs, September 2007. In 2008 he cataloged the studio collection of Marcel Jovine in preparation of a book on this Italian-American medallist, with a catalog of medallic items by Johnson. In 2009 he cataloged the studio collection of Joseph DiLorenzo for the DiLorenzo family.
Also in 2008 he joined forces with numismatist Mark Schlepphorst to come out of retirement and form the firm Signature Art Medals (incorporated, Delaware, November 2008). The firm's first issue was a medallic plaquette honoring both Abraham Lincoln and Victor David Brenner, creator of the Lincoln Cent. The commemorative plaquette was issued for the 2009 Bicentennial of Lincoln's birth and the Centennial of the Lincoln Cent. Four additional medallic items were issued with a theme of Abraham Lincoln. The firm also publishes medal related lithographs and published medallic books.
On May 1, 2010 Johnson was named Corporate Historian to Medallic Art Company of Dayton, Nevada, the firm he worked for a decade 33 years previous. His knowledge of medals and a history of the firm, its personnel and products led to this appointment. In this position he advised management, wrote a weekly report, answered inquiries from the public and collectors, and compiled a history of the firm for a book on the subject. Medallic Art Company went bankrupt in 2017.
His opinion piece advocating abolishing the cent and nickel which was published in the Wall Street Journal in 2013 January led to two items on National Public Radio.
He received the Central States Numismatic Association Medal of Merit 1962.
On the 50th anniversary of Coin World, the current editor wrote the first of a five-part history of the publication revealing Johnson's role in the creation of the weekly news hobby publication in 1960. In August 2012 he was awarded the Carl A. Carlson Award for Cataloging by the Medal Collectors of America.
His family's residences have included Kansas City, Kansas; Sidney, Ohio; Houston, Texas; White Plains and Harrison, New York; Danbury, Southbury, Middlebury, Litchfield, and Torrington, Connecticut.
He is survived by his wife Shirley; three children Jeffry (and Andrea (Olson)), Sandra (Johnson) Carazza (and Alan Ross), and Rhonda (Johnson) Rajcula; and grandchildren Andrew and Dominic Carazza; Jacob, Matthew, Samuel, and Thomas Rajcula; and Dylan Johnson. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister, Roberta Marie (Johnson) Jones, and son-in-law Peter Rajcula.
A memorial gathering in his honor will be scheduled at a later date.
Some additional notes:
The Kansan published his first newspaper article, an interview with Rev. Arthur B. Coole, author of A Bibliography on Far Eastern Numismatics. The article told of his numismatic
activities in China and a little bit about his collection.
Dick designed two medals for the Rittenhouse Society - the Eric P. Newman Centennial Medal in 2011, and Ken Bressett's 50th Anniversary as RedBook Editor Medal in 2012.
For five decades Dick suffered with a rare condition called Inclusion Body Myositis (I.B.M. for short) which causes muscle cells to deteriorate in the legs and other locations in the body. He began having weakness in his legs in the 1980's and progressed to occasional falling which led to using a wheelchair for mobility by 2008. More recently, Dick's IBM condition had spread to the muscles in his throat, affecting his ability to talk. He spent the bulk of his time reading.
For more on Dick's life, see the bio on his Medal Artists site:
D. Wayne Johnson - Biography
... and this article by Pete Smith in the Summer 2003 issue of The Asylum, available on the Newman Numismatic Portal:
Recollections of D. Wayne Johnson as told to Pete Smith
Here are several photos.
Don Scarinci, Dick Johnson, George Cuhaj at
2009 Dorskey lecture honoring Marcel Jovine (Cuhaj photo)
2009: Mark Schlepphorst and Dick Johnson
2010: Jeff Shevlin and Dick Johnson at Boston ANA (Jeff Shevlin photo)
2015: Beth Deisher, Dick and Shirley Johnson in Greenwich, CT
2017: June Miller, Dick Johnson, Ben Hellings at Yale Art Museum
2017 (Len Augsburger photo); undated George Cuhaj photo)
Ken Bressett writes:
"E-Sylum readers will all miss the contributions of columnist Dick Johnson. He was a giant in the world of numismatics and will be mourned by all who ever knew him, or were touched by his influence and vast knowledge. It was my privilege to know both Dick and his wife Shirley for many years. And we lived through a vastly changed world of this hobby like few others will ever experience. Dick was always a leader and innovator in many ways, although he is most widely known for his expertise in the field of medals.
"I first met Dick over 70 years ago at a time when we frequently met at coin shows, along with many other young friends all eager to share our common interest and learn more about the hobby. Among that group were Q. David Bowers, Walter Breen, Eric Newman, Grover Criswell, as well as Dick and myself. In time we formed an alliance we called the Rittenhouse Society, a group that now includes about 100 prominent numismatists, and still meets annually at ANA conventions.
"Shirley commented to me in a recent letter: "We were pleased to get your Christmas card. It is such a pleasure to keep up with old friends. Unfortunately, we never know what is around the corner. You and Dick go way back, way before we got married in 1959. I didn't get to meet you and Bertha until 1960 or 1961. We were fortunate to have celebrated our 61st wedding anniversary together – no other visitors were allowed due to COVID."
"Dick will live forever in our hearts, and his contributions will continue to serve collectors for generations to come. RIP dear friend."
Harry Waterson writes:
"I met him only once. He was a force of nature.
"We first began corresponding in 2001. I was just then at the beginning of my journey collecting and cataloging the medals of Julio Kilenyi. He sent me his list of medals by Kilenyi. I picked up the list and ran with it. Since Dick had set for himself the task of listing every medal ever struck in the United States, his lists on occasion had little bits of error here and there, and in the case of the Kilenyi list, quite a few medals that shouldn't have been there at all. Isadore Konti had been confused with Julio Kilenyi. As well as Jeno Jzusko. I would point these out as we went along and Dick would put the corrections in a box marked K. His list creation skills were monumental; his clean-up skills after the list had been created, not so slick.
"In 2010, I became aware that a number of medals struck by Medallic Art over more than 30 years by some wonderful medallists was actually a series. This got his attention, he heard me out, he renumbered the 12 medals involved in his MACo format as a series, and then made me write a book about the series. Besides being a force of nature, he was also a witch. The book was published in 2012.
"In the summer of 2015, I did a road trip of the northeast, researching Kilenyi. I spent August 23rd in Dick's company in Torrington, CT. He was wheelchair bound, feeding himself thru a tube and tried to tell me everything he knew about Kilenyi and the companies that struck his medals. He had a young assistant who he would send out to photocopy anything I had an interest in. As I sit here writing this, on a bookstand against the wall is a photocopy of a very rare 11x14-in. Whitehead & Hoag salesman's catalog that came my way that day. Shirley, Dick's wife, came home from work late in the afternoon and we all went out to dinner. Two of us ate and drank but Dick didn't, he just had the best time being the interlocutor, the storyteller and the benevolent host.
"Two weeks later, I was in the Tiffany Archives in Parsippany, NJ at Dick's behest. Dick has done a catalog of the medals of Tiffany, gleaned from anywhere and everywhere. He had done some research at Tiffany and saw for himself a wall of about 80 shoeboxes that he was told contained all the medallic records of the company. After years of negotiating, Dick finally got access to the archive. Dick had hired a graduate research student from Rutgers who was to work one day a week at the Archive and go through all the shoeboxes and update, amplify and take pictures of each medal for his catalog. I was there that first day to help get the process started.
"After an hour with the material in the archive, I made one of the worst phone calls of my life. I called Dick to tell him the shoeboxes contained just the shopfloor orders. About 1,000 to a box. The orders were to strike X number of medals, what the cost was and where they were to be delivered in the company. They were in chronological order so unless you knew when a medal was struck, there was no way to tie a shopfloor order to a medal. I had to tell him that at best he would be spending a lot of money to only learn mintages. I knew how bad I felt making that call; I can only imagine how disappointed Dick was at the news. He still thanked me. As I said, a force of nature.
"Two years ago, I got a note from Shirley to say that Dick was unwell and ask if I would take over his Producers Lists. Keep them updated. Could I say no? Not bloody likely. Of course not. Did I mention he was a bit of a witch? The discs arrived and their folders have been on my computer home page ever since winking at me if I do not add something to them every day. I do wonder what other numismatic dispositions Dick made over the last two years. Time will tell.
"I have poked holes in the accuracy of some of Dick's lists that I have been exposed to over the years. It is easy to do. The hard part is creating the catalog list in the first place. Dick did the heavy lifting. Once the list exists, then we can come along and fix it, reorganize it, reinterpret it, and maybe by some miracle even complete it. Dick Johnson was a giant of Medallic Art in every sense of the term and his numismatic legacy will be the cornerstone of medallic research for decades to come."
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NEW BOOK: THE MEDAL-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB
MORE ON THE MEDAL OF THE MONTH
Jeff Shevlin writes:
"I don't really recall when I first met Dick Johnson in person, but we were already good friends having communicated for years on various projects that either he or I were working on. I was honored that Dick agreed to write the foreword to the first book I published in 2013, "Discover the World of Charbneau So-Called Dollars". It was worth buying the book just to read his foreword.
"I believe a true friend is someone who has a positive impact on your life. In 2013, after leaving the American Numismatic Association as their Executive Director, I received a phone call from Dick. He said "Jeff, I want you to be my boss". At the time he was the Historian for Medallic Art Company. Dick made the arrangements and I ended up flying to Seattle, meeting with the owner, and moving to Dayton, Nevada as Director of Special projects, a place I would have never gone to, but grew to love. Dick had an enormous positive impact on my life, and I can never thank him enough. We grew to be dear friends and I miss him greatly. "
Donald Scarinci writes:
"I first met Dick Johnson in the early 1990's when I began researching the Society of Medallists medals. Dick gave his time and his knowledge selflessly before he even knew how serious I was about medals. Together, we went on to uncover a great deal of information about the Society of Medallists medals, the Brookgreen Gardens medals and other products of the Medallic Art Company. On some occasions we recorded interviews with key players involved with these medals not long before they died.
"Dick always said that he was a collector of information. I remember the first time I saw a working copy of Dick's "Encyclopedia of American Medallic Artists" It did not take me more than an hour to realize that Dick handed me his magnum opus, his life's work. Dick Johnson successfully created the ultimate catalog of American medals through the 21st century. The catalog contains listings of over 3,000 American medallic artists, a brief biography, a listing of their medals and a listing of known auction appearances and exhibits of each medal. When it is finally released in a proper format it will be a fitting legacy to Dick Johnson, the cataloger who collected information."
Besides Coin World, the catalogs of Johnson & Jensen, and the Medallic Art Company newsletter The Art Medallist, Dick published a number of important books.
Numismatic Directory 1957
Who's Who Among American Medallists
Monograms of American Coin and Medal Artists
An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technologys
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
DICK JOHNSON VISITS THE E-SYLUM
ORTION OF SCOVILL ARCHIVES SAVED FROM DESTRUCTION
DICK JOHNSON AND DONALD TRITT, WOODEN MEDAL EXPERT
DICK JOHNSON'S SCHULMAN-FAROUK ARCHIVE
DICK JOHNSON REPORTS FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS FIDEM CONGRESS
DICK JOHNSON: NEW MEDAL, NEW BUSINESS, FINAL PART
DICK JOHNSON ON ADVERTISING AND THE HOBBY IN THE 1960S
MEDALLIC ART COMPANY APPOINTS DICK JOHNSON CORPORATE HISTORIAN
DICK JOHNSON REMINISCES: TYPE DRAWERS AND PRINTING
DICK JOHNSON ON NUMISMATIC PERIODICAL PUBLISHING
DICK JOHNSON: SO WHERE'S THE INAUGURAL MEDAL?
DICK JOHNSON VISITS THE YALE ART MUSEUM
NEWMAN PORTAL ADDS JOHNSON ENCYCLOPEDIA
DICK JOHNSON ON ARTIST INSPIRATIONS
DICK JOHNSON WELCOMES QUESTIONS FROM READERS
DICK JOHNSON REMEMBERS FRANK KATEN
MEDALLIC ART COMPANY APPOINTS DICK JOHNSON CORPORATE HISTORIAN
MORE ON VICTOR DAVID BRENNER SCULPTURES
Wayne Homren, Editor
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