I continue my reminiscences of Margo Russell, who served as editor of
Coin World for 23 years, beginning in 1961. Coin World
made its debut April 21, 1960, D. Wayne (“Dick”) Johnson as editor.
Dick departed in 1961, and Margo Russell, a seasoned newspaper writer
for the Sidney Daily News, was brought in as a placeholder
until an editor could be found.
No new editor was found, and Margo stayed in the position. She was
an improbable choice, said many of the graybeards in the hobby.
What could a woman (scarce in leadership positions at the time) who
was not even a coin collector possibly do?
J. Oliver Amos, head of the Sidney Printing and Publishing Co.,
suggested to Margo that I be on her short list of people to call for
advice. She did, and I became Coin World’s unofficial
determiner of authenticity for United States coins and so finalizer as
to whether a newly discovered variety was significant. Among the finds
sent to me were the 1938-D/S Indian Head 5-cent coin and the 1858 over
inverted 1858 Seated Liberty half dime.
In time, Coin World built its own in-house staff of highly
qualified experts, a veritable “think tank,” but I still worked with
them for years afterward.
In 1962, Margo asked me to write “Numismatic Depth Study,” the
forerunner of “The Joy of Collecting” column you are reading now. That
was 53 years ago!
Margo could not have been a better choice. A born newshawk and also
a lady of intelligence and with a warm personality, she telephoned
dozens of hobby leaders, talked with them, and listened to what they
had to say. She also attended coin shows. The Numismatist, in
reporting about the 1962 American Numismatic Association convention,
said she was “seen almost everywhere.”
She led Coin World to a peak circulation of 170,000 in 1965,
a figure that amazed everyone, including J. Oliver Amos.
On Jan. 18, 1975, then ANA President Virginia Culver held the first
ANA Roundtable, titled “Problems-Projects-Priorities.” Margo assisted
in the planning.
About two dozen hobby leaders came from all over the country and
immersed themselves in the title subjects. By then she had been
awarded just about every high honor numismatics had to offer.
More next week.
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