US Coins

Entering a new world

Monday, March 2, 1981, instead of heading down the corridor at Amos Press Inc. headquarters to the Sidney Daily News (where I had worked the previous four years), I turned to enter the offices of Coin World.

After the daily newspaper had gone to press the previous Friday afternoon I had stopped by Coin World to go over details of the location of my desk and where I would be working next.

Coin World Editor Margo Russell, to whom I would be reporting as news editor, reassured, “You’re going to enjoy working here.” Just as I was about to leave, she handed me two books, smiled and said, “This is for your weekend reading.”

Weekend reading

One of the books was the 1980 edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins (known to everyone as the “Red Book”) and the other was the 984-page third edition (1978) of the Coin World Almanac.

I must have had a slightly bewildered look on my face. (I had a 1-year-old son at home. If I were lucky, I might sneak in a couple of hours of reading while he was napping Saturday and Sunday.)

“Oh, I meant this is to get you started,” Margo quipped. My interpretation: Read and study them as quickly as possible, but no “pop quiz” Monday.

While I had helped my aunt (who was a coin collector) search bags and rolls of coins to find dates and Mint marks of the denominations in circulation in the early 1960s to fill Whitman folders, I did not have an extensive background in coin collecting.

My expertise was in writing, copy editing and newsroom management.

Learning numismatics

“We can teach you the numismatic side,” Margo said confidently. I would be replacing Fred Reed, who had recently departed Ohio to take a management position with a publisher in Texas.

I knew most of the Coin World staff by name, even if I did not yet fully speak “numismatics.” Upon arrival Monday, everyone quickly settled into morning routines.

Margo was seated at a large table piled high with stacks of envelopes, both small and large. She invited me over to show me how she “sorted” the mail. “This is just the first mail,” Margo explained. “We’ll get more in the second mail.”

Most of the mail was addressed to Margo, with the majority being Letters to the Editor to be reviewed for possible publication.

The second largest category consisted of questions from readers, which were distributed to various staff members for response.

We had also received a few press releases and dozens of collector publications, which were passed on to various staff members for determining if they contained “story material.”

After lunch, advertising manager Tom Ehler strolled over to say, “welcome aboard” and to give me a heads-up. It appeared the page count for the next issue would be 192 pages.

Coin World at the time was published in over-sized tabloid newsprint.

Filling pages

The large page count meant that lots of stories had to be written, copy edited and prepared for layout. The next issue, dated March 18, would go to press at 1 p.m. Friday — just four and a half days away. No wire service was available.

Every story, regardless of length, was written or edited by the Coin World staff.

Margo had just finished processing the final mail around 3 p.m. when her phone rang. She took the call in her office. She returned with a big smile on her face and said, “We’ve got a project to do.”

Next month: “The project.”

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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