Mastery and the skill (and art) of readable numismatic writing

It’s currently a popular notion that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Coin World has been fortunate to have several longtime staff members who have developed true mastery of the skill (and art) of informative and entertaining numismatic writing.

This issue represents Michele Orzano’s final week on the masthead, although you’ll likely see her byline in the weeks to come.

Michele has been our go-to writer for all things paper money for more than two decades. A fixture at the Memphis paper money show, Michele’s knowledge of the paper money field will be missed.

But, we’ll also miss Michele’s stories on the people who shape our hobby and make it into the fascinating place it is.

She came to Coin World in 1985 not as a numismatist, but as a newspaper writer with an education in journalism. Her approach to storytelling, aversion to esoteric jargon and the way she has brought items together in her stories using plain-language reflects that experience.

Writing about coins and paper money for 52 print issues a year, along with the additional daily demands of a robust website, isn’t easy.

It takes patience, dedication and an understanding that our audience is specialized, but still wants interesting, readable stories that help them learn about things in their collection and introduce them to new collecting areas.

Michele wrote beyond paper. For example, she was essential in Coin World’s coverage of the 50 States quarter dollars, from the program’s initial stirrings to the last coins for U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia in the follow-up program in 2009.

She’s written hundreds of stories on the legislation that authorizes coins, new notes produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and banks around the world, and just about everything else numismatic.

When I asked her what she’ll remember most about the hobby that she grew so familiar with, Michele wanted to thank “all the people who willingly gave of their time to answer my questions and teach me to look for the stories behind the collectibles we write about.”

Writing about numismatics is a skill that can be learned with time and patience, but it takes a special person to do it well for nearly 30 years.

The richness in background and the sense of how a singular event plays into history, as well as a memory of prior coverage provides an intangible depth to the stories written by our longtime writers, including William T. Gibbs (since 1976), Paul Gilkes (since 1988) and Jeff Starck (since 2003) that continues to inspire me (since 2006).

Michele provides a high standard for the next generation of writers to aspire to, and the hobby is better off because of her work.

Thank you, Michele, from all of us at Coin World. And thank you, our readers, for allowing us to join you each week as you pursue your hobby.

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