Recollections of D. Wayne Johnson
Pete Smith submitted these notes on the life of Dick Johnson. Thanks!
In 2003, Dick and Shirley Johnson drove to Bloomington, Minnesota, to visit their daughter, Rhonda Johnson Rajcula, her husband and Dick's grandsons. By pre-arrangement, I drove to Bloomington on the morning of May 8 to meet Dick. He got in my car and Shirley drove their car for the trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dick had an appointment at the Medalcraft Mint the following day. He was making personal contacts for his research on medals, the artists and the plants that strike medals.
I had a tape recorder between us in the car to record our interview. It was not hard to get Dick to talk. I would bring up a topic and he would talk for a while before we went on to the next area of discussion. He understood what I wanted and was happy to tell his story.
He talked about his service in the Air Force. He was much more frugal with his money than some of the other airmen and had a profitable business making loans on the side. For an advance of $5 before payday, they would pay back $6 after payday.
Dick attended many coin shows and assembled a mailing list of dealers. When Dick was hired as editor of Coin World in 1960, he brought his files with him. This gave Coin World a mailing list to send out sample issues and promotional materials.
When Dick was hired, he believed he would benefit from profit sharing when Coin World became successful. The refusal of additional compensation from John Amos hastened his departure. His successor, Margo Russell, had publishing experience and family connections, but lacked Dick's extensive background and personal contacts in numismatics.
We got to Green Bay and checked into a hotel. Dick and Shirley took one room and I had an adjacent room. A door could be opened between the two rooms and our discussion continued without a recording.
That evening Dick and I had dinner with sculptor-engraver Virginia Janssen. I had met her and her mother at an earlier ANA convention. She had worked for Medalcraft Mint and did private commissions. Now she was drifting away from engraving and putting her efforts into opening a restaurant in Green Bay with her husband.
The following day Dick and I got a tour of the Medalcraft Mint. Their engraving department was on the second floor with no elevator. I recall that Dick had some difficulty getting up and down the stairs. I wrote up the tour as "A Visit to a Private Mint" for the TAMS Journal, February 2005.
My interview in the car was published in the Summer 2003 issue of The Asylum as "Recollections of D. Wayne Johnson as told to Pete Smith." I did not write the article but just transcribed his words from the interview. I believe Dick told the story much better than I could. The article is available on the Newman Numismatic portal.
I treasure the time I was able to spend with Dick. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of artists and minting techniques and was always willing to share what he knew. I hope that E-Sylum readers also appreciated his weekly contributions.
To read the complete article, see:
Recollections of D. Wayne Johnson as told to Pete Smith
Wayne Homren, Editor
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