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Call me anything you like but not 'elitist'

Numismatic News editor remembers Jules Reiver and talks about how coin collecting is the hobby of the common man.

Around Iola, Wis., about the worst thing you can be called is an elitist. I am fortunate in my life in that it is hard to find an elitist in Iola and for the most part it is hard to find one in the numismatic hobby.

This paper was founded by a carpenter in 1952. He came to work in overalls for five years because he was trying to juggle his role as a building contractor with his newer role as publisher and editor.

As Chet Krause used to say in company meetings, he decided to lay his hammer down in 1957 and take his chances with this publication. That proved fortunate for me. Had he not done so, I would not have found a desk here in the office when I was ready to go to work and earn a living in 1978.

Chet had for the most part graduated to suits and then business casual attire when I first met him, but he was always just Chet to his friends and his employees. You never could tell the difference between the two by the way you were treated.

Chet hired a fellow named Cliff Mishler in 1963 who ultimately followed Chet in the company presidency and the CEO role in the corporation. It didn?t hurt that he had done a little manual labor in his younger years. He is plain spoken and unpretentious, too.

Where Chet had a creative knack and a sure approach in judging people, Cliff was more nuts and bolts and ?let?s get this thing done? kind of guy.

Cliff?s great strength was his willingness to listen. No matter how wound up you might be or how crazy or inappropriate your idea, his door was always open and he always listened until the complainer/idea pitcher himself had decided that he had said his piece. In my experience, Cliff never tried to cut me off, rush me or impress me with his power when I was sitting in his office.

How did I get so lucky? I don?t wear overalls. I don?t think I am as patient with others as Cliff was with me. I never did any manual labor, but yet I am one of the gang here in Iola. Colin Bruce, our resident world coin genius, still wears overalls to work.

From here, my narrow hobby experience as a kid of 22 blossomed into meeting collectors from all over the United States and from all walks of life.
One of those people that I happened to meet was Jules Reiver. I was reminded of this when I saw the beautiful color Heritage ad in the Feb. 21 paper. I am happy for his family that his collection realized $8.8 million.

The Jules Reiver I met was just another ordinary fellow who fit right in here in Iola. The Heritage ad calls him a World War II hero. He was. But I remember him visiting Iola to give a talk that helped turn Iola?s August military vehicles show into an annual event. He made it seem that his behavior at the Battle of the Bulge was just something any American in the same circumstances would do.

I knew he was an advanced collector, but I had no idea to what extent. How many Jules Reivers do I know? In sense, almost everybody I interact with in the hobby shares his characteristics.

What makes the hobby so outstanding is the reluctance of so many hobbyists to stand out. This doesn?t mean they aren?t active or hard working. It just means they are the kind of people you won?t see on some celebrity TV show. Whether they help set up and take down bourse tables, or share their specialized knowledge in an educational forum, they make it seem so easy and reasonable that you might think any one of hundreds of others could do it.

Sure, you can probably name an elitist or two in numismatics, but I count myself fortunate that I and other Numismatic News staff members work for a hobby paper that shares the values of most hobbyists. We aren?t interested in talking down to you. I know there are thousands of readers who can teach me a thing or two. What the staff here is interested in is getting you the information that you need to further your own collecting interests. That includes information about famous collections. It is reassuring to know those famous collectors are just like you and me.