The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 5, February 1, 2015, Article 8


On Monday January 26, 2015 Dave Bowers passed along news of the death of former Coin World editor Margo Russell. -Editor

Joel Orosz writes:

Margo's place in numismatic history is certainly secure for her accomplishments in transforming Coin World from its late start-up days into a fully-realized numismatic newspaper. Nor should anyone underestimate how effectively she opened the door for the participation of women at every level of numismatics.

One remarkable fact to note: until January of 2015, it was possible to gather every person who had ever occupied the Editor's chair at Coin World, from 1960 to date, in a room together--Dick Johnson, Margo, Beth Deisher, Steve Roach--and take a group picture. 55 years! The editor's chair at Coin World must confer longevity on all those who occupy it!

Naturally, Coin World has great coverage about Margo this week. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

Margo Russell Coin World Former Coin World Editor Margo Russell, 95, died Jan. 26 in Sidney, Ohio.

Mrs. Russell, often called the "First Lady of Numismatics," served as editor for 23 of   Coin World’s first 25 years of operation, before retiring Feb. 28, 1985. She began her newspaper career in Ohio at the age of 17 at the Sidney Daily News.

In 1960, she transferred her journalism skills to Coin World, a new sister publication to the daily newspaper, and in 1962 she took over responsibility for the editorial department when she was named executive editor; later she was promoted to the editorship.

Award recognition

Mrs. Russell received many honors from her peers in the collecting community during her decades of service to the hobby.

She was presented with numerous awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild, including its highest award, the “Clemy.”

She was also a recipient of the ANA’s Medal of Merit and the association's highest honor, the Farran Zerbe Award, and was inducted into the American Numismatic Association Hall of Fame.

Mrs. Russell was given a diploma of recognition from the Sociedad Numismatica de Mexico. She also lectured about numismatics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as Purdue and Roosevelt Universities, and state and regional numismatic educational forums.

Margo’s memories

In the April 5, 2010, issue of Coin World, focusing on numismatic events in the 1960s, Mrs. Russell submitted her observations of those early days.

“In 1960 visionary publishing entrepreneurs in Sidney, Ohio, launched Coin World, the first weekly newspaper for coins and their devotees. After 50 years, the founders’ philosophy, ‘The Collector is King,’ is as good as gold, not only for a hobby but for a science and a profession.

“Early in 1960 I was asked to develop, from home, freelance coin features for the start-up Coin World. … I was given the heady title of historical researcher. I moved to full time, then as executive editor and editor. When the board of directors named me editor in 1967, publisher [J. Oliver] Amos told me I had filled the post, sans title, for some time.

“My first American Numismatic Association convention was in Boston in 1960.

“The first issue of Coin World was timed appropriately to appear during National Coin Week in April 1960.

To read the complete article, see:
'First Lady of Numismatics' dies: Former Coin World Editor Margo Russell, 95 (

And of course, the Sidney Daily News had coverage as well. -Editor

Margo Russell Sidney Daily News Margo Russell, 95, who died Wednesday in Sidney, was a community leader whose influence and expertise were sought and honored nationally and internationally.

A reporter for the Sidney Daily News when she was 17, she enjoyed a long career in publishing at Amos Press (now Amos Media Inc.), eventually serving as editor of Coin World magazine.

The Coin World position catapulted her into national appointments by President Lyndon B. Johnson, onto committees with senators, congressmen and national leaders and into lecture halls at major universities. She garnered many awards from numismatic organizations.

Her marriage to Marion Russell, who preceded her in death in 1997, made her a member of the founding family of Dorothy Love Retirement Community, where she served on the boards of the local facility and also of Dorothy Love’s parent company, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services.

To read the complete article, see:
Community remembers Margo Russell (

Dave Bowers writes:

Margo was a great defining figure in American numismatics, with few equals. I have been close to her ever since 1961. She will be the subject of the “Coins and Collectors” column I will write for Coin World this weekend.

Ken Bressett writes:

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Margo Russell. She was a dear friend not only to me but also to the scores of others who knew her. She was a leader in many ways, but perhaps more than anything else a guiding influence on the modes and principles of how collectors and dealers should conduct their numismatic activities. My sorrow extends beyond her family and friends but also to those who were not fortunate enough to have known her, for there will never be another quite like this Grande Dame of our hobby.

Ed Reiter writes:

Margo Russell was a towering figure not only in numismatic journalism, but also in numismatics as a whole. Her groundbreaking efforts to cultivate better relations between the coin hobby and the U.S. Mint made Washington aware that collectors were a force to be reckoned with and gave us new influence with the people who make key decisions about our coinage. Mint officials attend major coin shows routinely today – but almost never did so in the years Before Margo.

Her gregarious nature, which helped her make important friends in high government places, also won Margo a legion of friends within the hobby, myself included. Through the years, I wrote occasional articles for Coin World – but, more often, I labored for rival publications. For a short time in the early 1970s, I was editor of Numismatic News, which made us direct competitors. She was, I can attest, a formidable adversary.

For a number of years, Margo was a member of “The Girls,” an impromptu troupe that performed song-and-dance skits at annual Bashes of the Numismatic Literary Guild. The elaborately costumed ladies also included such other luminaries as ANA President Virginia Culver and Mint Directors Eva Adams and Mary Brooks. Their meticulously choreographed routines were always a highlight of each evening’s program.

Although I have been deeply involved with what passes for “entertainment” at NLG Bashes for more than 30 years, I never offered The Girls my two cents’ worth. I’ve done foolish things now and then, but tinkering with success wasn’t one of them. Margo Russell enjoyed a long, full life, less than five years short of a century. And luckily for us, she spent much of it planting the seeds for our hobby’s remarkable growth and nurturing that growth to fruition.

Dick Johnson writes:

Nobody worked closer with Margo Russell than I during the early months of Coin World. Publisher John Amos brought two writers from the newsroom across the hall of the Sidney Daily News in to help wife Shirley and I to prepare the editorial part of the paper.

[I also handled the classified ads (since I was class ad manager of the Kansas City Kansan previously and had the experience). I occasionally sold advertising. (the staff nicknamed me "Never Fail" since I always got an ad from any dealer I called). Cecil Watkins handled the subscriptions since he was circulation manager of the Sidney daily. He and John Amos processed the ads that came in.]

Margo was one of those two writers. The other was a senior writer who knew nothing of numismatics, but could fill two columns with words that didn't say anything. He only lasted two weeks. Margo, on the other hand, was an experienced news writer who grasp the essence of a story and could put it in words that made sense to anyone in the numismatic field.

Dick and Shirley Johnson review first issue of COIN World She was a godsend. Shirley and I wrote what stories we could handle in an eight-hour day, but it was never enough because the paper expanded so quickly. As the first weekly newspaper in the field, it appealed to coin dealers; they recognized they could get an advertisement in one week and sell the next, unlike the monthlies then in existence. We had to fill the "news slot" to make the 25% editorial requirement of the newspaper to keep a second class mailing permit.

Margo wrote quickly and processed news articles in a format the composing room were familiar with. Her desk was always clear by the end of the day. Mine always had an article or two that needed further effort.

Margo was not a numismatist. She learned fast but I believe she never came up to the level that should be an editor of a coin publication. A fourth writer was hired from the Midwest -- James Johnson -- no relation. At one time someone prepared 20 questions to test a numismatist's knowledge across all numismatic fields. The three of us took the test. I missed two, Jim missed six, Margo's score was so bad she refused to tell us.

Be that as it may, Margo was a favorite and protégée of John Amos. She was also the company spy. Everything I did in the editorial office she reported to John Amos. I liked that, I didn't have to brag to the boss. Until the end.

I left Coin World in a dispute over compensation. Amos promised me a percent of the profits before he realized how profitable a weekly coin publication could be. He reneged. I resigned. He named Margo editor.

She ran Coin World to John Amo's satisfaction. She rose in the numismatic field because of that position. She was a great news writer despite the fact she was never a numismatist.

She lived to see the 55th anniversary of Coin World. She also observed as Coin World morphed from a newspaper into a magazine.

Sorry Margo, you and I worked at a time of Speed Graphic cameras, Remington typewriters, galley proofs, and newspaper page mats. Today every publication is computer generated and color paste-ups. The technical world has changed. But you and I can feel proud we pioneered in quickening the pace of news publishing in the numismatic field.

The photo above is a Coin World 1960 Copyright photo, published by permission. Shown are Dick Johnson and his wife Shirley, who was the second employee of Coin World. They're holding the first issue of the newspaper. -Editor

Harvey Stack writes:

To the family of Margo Russell

It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of one of my dearest and wonderful friend, Margo

I first met Margo shortly after she took on the editorship of Coin World. We worked together on many of the projects she endorsed, and I am grateful that she always considered me a friend.

I worked with her in getting Congress to acquire the Lilly Collection for the Smithsonian in 1967, I was the representative for the professional numismatist regarding the development of the Hobby Protection Act, we stood together in the 1970's to be certain that the new grading services did things right, we helped each other with the development of the expansion of the ANA library and we opposed the promotional aspects within the trade, which was harmful to the real collector, and I worked with her on numerous projects to improve the way Numismatics should be encouraged.

She fought for the Hobby, went to Washington many times to testify on behalf of numismatics, wrote editorials encouraging people to collect and was a force to reckon with on any project she undertook.

The Hobby will miss her leadership and I will miss one of my greatest ,truest, and most valuable friend's from the decades I have been in the hobby.

God Bless her soul.

Harvey G. Stack
Founder of Stack's Bowers

Wayne Homren, Editor

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