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Wolf helped hobby find voice on designs

Diane Wolf died Jan. 10. The name may not seem familiar to readers of Numismatic News. It has been a long time since it appeared in this paper. I myself had not spoken to her in a decade or so. Nevertheless, I was still shocked to read a Jan. 17 obituary notice that she had passed on. It does not seem possible. She was only 53, an age I hit my next birthday.

It was Diane who launched a sustained campaign to change U.S. coin designs in 1987. It did not succeed, but it laid the groundwork for all of the many design changes that we collectors have come to enjoy: state quarters, Lewis and Clark nickels, the upcoming changing reverse on the Lincoln cent in 2009 and the series of new reverses on the Sacagawea dollar that will begin in 2009.

The effort began with a Paul Green interview that was published in the Jan. 13, 1987, issue. That was a paper prepared during the week between Christmas and New Year?s and as such, it was an interview commissioned and waiting for use in that time-short week.

Wolf was a member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and she made remarks in a meeting that led me to conclude that she supported coinage redesign.

I asked Paul to do the interview. He confirmed her view. Away we went. Diane led the charge. Paul helped plot strategy. I asked Cliff Mishler if we could launch a newspaper crusade to advocate redesign. He agreed. We launched it in the Feb. 10 issue that was the special Long Beach issue. We had a clip-out reader survey that we asked readers to fill out and mail to us. Remember, this was pre-Internet.

We received 2,117 responses where 93 percent said they wanted new designs. This proved that readers were excited and behind the effort and Diane was speaking from a deep well of hobby support. We also provided survey forms through Long Beach and American Numismatic Association show venues, so total responses rose to 4,309, and an 85 percent affirmative vote.

Diane spoke to the ANA board  and secured its endorsement. Cliff took the results April 8 to Washington, D.C., where he provided them to Sen. William Proximire, who chaired the Senate banking committee. I addressed the Commission of Fine Arts April 16 to share the results. The commssion voted unanimously to recommend redesign.

 The momentum was amazing. The sense of hobbyists finding their collective voice through Diane was gratifying, but ultimately this effort fizzled out in a battle between Senate proponents and opponents in the U.S. House led by Rep. Frank Annunzio, who was coinage czar. He did not like to be pushed. He did not like the woman doing the pushing. We had asked him for years prior to get out in front of a redesign effort, but he basically said, ?if it ain?t broke, don?t fix it.?

It is too bad the hobby had to wait for new players to pick up where Diane left things, but it finally happened.

It was Diane who got us tantalizingly close to redesign success and got the hobby to believe that it truly was possible. She was the pioneer. It was an honor to know her.

For more of Dave’s insight, visit his blog, Buzz.

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