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Paul Green’s passing leaves a hobby void

Paul Green is dead. I am stunned. He was only 57. I got the word just as I returned to my home in Iola, Wis., following the American Numismatic Association convention in Denver.

It was a great convention. I was upbeat. I was returning with a Numismatic Literary Guild Award plaque for Paul for his column about life and numismatics in Costa Rica that appears in World Coin News, sister publication to Numismatic News.

Like I said, I am in shock. Paul died Sunday morning, Aug. 20. He had gotten up just about 6 a.m., poured himself a cup of coffee, returned to his bed and then apparently suffered a massive heart attack. Death was nearly instantaneous, according to Mauricio Soto, a mutual friend who telephoned me from San Jose. Paul?s wife is distraught.

At times like this, I feel helpless. Also, my mind tends to wander back to the highlights of Paul?s career as a free-lance writer as well as my own, which have overlapped each other almost completely. I am 51.

I first came into contact with Paul when I was the newly minted editor of CoinsMagazine in the autumn of 1980. He sent me an unsolicited article about the Comstock Lode. I liked it. I bought it. I published it.

I telephoned him and asked him what else he could do. I don?t remember his words, but the upshot was just about anything. Give him a try. So I did. Readers of CoinsMagazine and Numismatic News have been the beneficiaries ever since.

He lived just down the road in Ridgeway, Wis., approximately a two-hour drive from Iola. Not only could he write on just about anything, he was fast. When I telephoned him for a special topic, it arrived in my morning mail just three days after our phone conversation. This was pre-Internet and pre-fax. I was impressed.

Better yet, he was professional. He sold his work. I edited it. He didn?t argue about commas. He just said do what I wanted with anything he wrote.

For my first tenure as Numismatic News editor 1984-1988, he was a major contributor. He did a series we called Statue Fever, which covered the Statue of Liberty commemorative coins. It was incredible. He was totally in sync with the readers. They loved it.

Then I got the notion to run for political office in 1988. Cliff Mishler granted me a 90-day leave of absence and I ran for State Assembly. I came in second in a five-way primary. I said I was the No. 1 loser, came back to work here and am delighted with how life turned out.

Paul turned his attention away from numismatics to sports cards. He had written for both Numismatic News and Sports Collectors Digest, but when I left Numismatic News, he spent the next four years or so writing almost exclusively for SCD. It was growing so fast that it could publish him as fast as he could write.

Then Paul?s domestic life fell apart and his health took a hit. He nearly died after intestinal surgery. In fact, he told me that the undertaker was getting off the elevator when he showed a spark of life that gave him another dozen years.

He renewed his lifelong love affair with numismatics as his physical condition deteriorated. He moved to Costa Rica in December of 1995. I visited him regularly there. He met and married Mayela Santana Ruiz. He was happier than I had ever seen him before.

That might have been the end of the story except that the invention of the Internet allowed him to stay in contact with American numismatics in a way that could never have happened in the past. He kept writing. We often exchanged e-mails on current auction results and U.S. Mint sellouts. If the topic was coins, he was interested.

I think he knew the end was coming because he really kicked up his writing pace in the past year. I have a large number of manuscripts that I will publish as long as they are accurate. I will review them and update them as necessary to assure you that they reflect the current market and yet retain Paul?s take on collecting and history. I hope you will like them. The checks will go to his widow.

Address letters to Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. All letters must be signed and include a return address. Numismatic Newsreserves the right to edit all letters. E-mail should be sent todavid.harper@fwpubs.com. Include your city and state in your e-mail.

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