Shortly after 9:30 a.m. on July 1, 1982, Mint Director Donna Pope and
Denver Mint Superintendent Nora Hussey led attendees at the ceremonial
striking of the Uncirculated George Washington commemorative half
dollar from the press briefing room down the corridor at the Denver Mint.
I noticed that Superintendent Hussey slowed her pace and turned to
talk with American Numismatic Association President Adna G. Wilde Jr.,
who was a couple of steps ahead of me. As we approached the wide
stairs leading to the lower coin production area, I caught up with
Wilde and we descended the stairs together. He had a big smile on his
face and told me the superintendent had just invited him to strike a coin.
He talked excitedly, like a child opening gifts on Christmas morning
(highly unusual for the normally unflappable retired Air Force
colonel). He said he thought he would be the first ANA president since
Farran Zerbe to strike a commemorative coin. (Zerbe struck a
Panama-Pacific International Exposition commemorative gold $50 coin at
the San Francisco Mint in 1915.)
Director Pope struck the first coin at 9:36 a.m. Central Time. Mrs.
Hussey struck the second, Denver Mayor William H. McNichols Jr. struck
the third, Wilde struck the fourth, and commemorative expert Anthony
J. Swiatek struck the fifth.
By 10 a.m. Pope, members of her Washington staff, and Swiatek were
scurrying from the Denver Mint building and headed to the airport.
Swiatek, recently recalling the mad dash, noted that they arrived at
the airport to find that there would be a flight delay. Pope called
the San Francisco Mint superintendent, and the ceremony for striking
the Proof version was rescheduled for an hour later at 3:30 p.m.
Swiatek said one of his vivid memories from the San Francisco
ceremony was hearing President Reagan on the phone with Mint Director
Pope, giving the order to strike the first Proof version of the George
Washington commemorative. Director Pope struck all five Proof coins.
As soon as the ceremony ended, Swiatek rushed to call Coin World to
provide details of the San Francisco Mint event and to put his roll of
35-millimeter film on an overnight delivery service.
Meanwhile, I had taken a late afternoon flight from Denver via
Chicago to Dayton. I used the time in flight and in airports to write
my story by hand on a legal pad. I arrived home after midnight, but
was at the office by 5 a.m. on Friday. The technician in our photo lab
came in early to process and print the pictures we would use to
illustrate the story. We made all of our deadlines, and the issue
dated July 14, 1982, containing the historic coverage went to press at
1 p.m., with a confident Margo Russell exclaiming, “I knew we could do it!”