US Coins

Behind the scenes

Sometimes little details and asides are crowded out by the “hard news” or the bare essentials of who, what, when, where, and how in accounts of events and happenings that we read.

It’s not that they are uninteresting or unimportant. It’s that they are judged by the writer in the heat of battling deadlines as less important than other information deemed more essential.

Or, they were included in the original draft, but were “cut” or deleted for a multitude of reasons. Until the advent of the digital age, “lack of space” in print publications was most often the culprit.

Thus, many little nuggets of interesting information went unreported to the mass reading audience, but were often savored and contemplated or shared over a cup of coffee with other wordsmiths who likely had some gems of their own to share.

Capturing from memory

Capturing from memory (and a few scattered notes here and there) those moments and incidents from my 35 years of reporting and writing in the numismatic realm will be the aim of this column.

To borrow a phrase from Paul Harvey, it will be in the genre of “the rest of the story,” with a definite numismatic bent.

Now for the disclaimers and reassurances.

Our intent is to bring to light some of the interesting and often humorous “back stories” that were “lost” as the result of lack of space (in print publications) or time to write in the face of demanding deadlines. Our intent is not to embarrass anyone.

Nor will what we publish in this column betray any confidences or reveal any “off-the-record” conversations or expose “confidential information.”

The time frame will be from March 1981, when I joined the Coin World staff, through April 2012, when I retired and left the day-to-day world of news gathering in the specialized world of coins and other numismatic collectibles.

Turning back the calendar

Since the best place to start is the beginning, we’ll turn back the calendar to March 1981 and set the scene for the column to be published in February.

The nation had elected Ronald Reagan president in November 1980, and after his inauguration Jan. 20, 1981, speculation began to build as to those the new president would appoint to significant positions within the Treasury, such as director of the United States Mint.

Coin World’s weekly page count in the spring of 1981 was hovering in the record-breaking 192- to 200-page range (large-size tabloid newsprint pages).

The collecting community was brimming with excitement over the prospect that the long drought on U.S. commemorative coins may be coming to an end.

It was a time when well-placed sources were golden. Most news was gathered by phone and written using the latest and greatest technology — electric typewriters.

It was a time, too, when the weekly numismatic newspapers were the primary source of news for most engaged in the hobby and rare coin market.

Coin World, delivered by the U.S. Post Office, could take two to three weeks for delivery from coast to coast — often making the events covered in the news columns three to four weeks in the past. But that did not seem to matter to a community hungry for information that could not be found elsewhere.

In a world without a 24-hour news cycle and sans Twitter, the time-lag took a back seat to reading exclusive in-depth, first-hand reporting of events and actions of decision-makers at all levels of government and within hobby organizations.

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

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