When Coin World Editor Margo Russell said, “We’ve got a
project to do,” on the afternoon of March 2, 1981, I assumed it
pertained to a story or photos for the upcoming March 18 issue of
Coin World on which we had begun to work.
She motioned, “Let’s talk in my office.” I stepped into her office
and she followed and closed the door. “We can’t talk about this around
the other staff for a while.”
“That was Donna Pope on the phone,” Margo said. The name had a
familiar ring to it, but I could not place it or relate it to coins.
Before joining Coin World, I had been news editor of the
daily newspaper in Sidney, Ohio, and one of my responsibilities had
been to select and edit stories from the wire services for publication.
“She’s under consideration to be the next director of the United
States Mint,” Margo explained. “Mint director is a presidential
appointment, you know.”
Bingo. That Donna Pope. She was minority whip in the Ohio
Legislature and had been co-chair of the recent Ohio Reagan campaign.
She had crisscrossed the state campaigning for Ronald Reagan for
president for more than a year and also headed the Ohio delegation at
the 1980 national Republican convention, where he was nominated.
Angela Bay Buchanan, Reagan’s newly appointed treasurer of the
United States, had called Mrs. Pope at her home in Parma, Ohio, to ask
if she would be interested in being the next Mint director and serving
in the Reagan administration. In a recent telephone conversation, Mrs.
Pope recalled, “I knew the U.S. Mint made coins. But I didn’t have the
slightest idea what the Mint director did.”
Before heading off to Washington for a follow-up, in-person
interview with the treasurer, Mrs. Pope decided she needed a
crash-course on the U.S. Mint and the duties and responsibilities of
the director. She asked her police officer husband to stop by the
local library on his way home from work and pick up some books about
the U.S. Mint.
“He came home with one book about coins. It had one paragraph
about the Mint. That’s all.”
Mrs. Pope doesn’t recall who suggested she contact Coin World.
Margo gave her a brief overview of the U.S. Mint during their
phone conversation and promised to send some reading material right
away. Our “project” was to select back issues of Coin World with
information about the Mint and interviews with previous directors.
By the next afternoon, Margo had filled a big box. As we were
beginning to tape the box shut, she picked up a copy of the 984-page
1978 edition of the Coin World Almanac and placed it at the
top. “This should give her plenty to read,” Margo chuckled.
The almanac contained a full chapter on the history of the U.S.
Mint as well as chapters on the Treasury Department, the Federal
Reserve and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
The next task was getting the box to Parma, a suburb of Cleveland.
Margo taped the label on the box and looked me straight in the eye.
“She needs this tomorrow morning,” she said.
For a few seconds I had a sinking feeling that perhaps I was in
for a long night. Cleveland is north of Sidney, about a four-hour drive.
“Just get this box to the Greyhound station before five,” Margo
instructed. That was an easy assignment. The bus station was about 10
minutes from our office and on my route home.
The trusty Greyhound bus pulled into Parma at 7 the next morning
and an anxious Donna Pope was there to greet it.
Next month: Would a bullet change numismatic history?
Beth Deisher was editor of Coin World for 27 of the 31
years she was on the publication’s staff. She may be contacted at email@example.com.