Skip to main content

How protective should we be with topics?

Strange phone call sparks Numismatic News editor to write column.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

I had the strangest phone call. It was so strange I had to sit down to write this column right away. It appears to be some extreme protectiveness, but of what I never found out.

A fellow telephoned and said he wanted to talk to the person who wrote about the 1921-D half dollar. I replied that it sounded like something written by Paul Green and he wasn?t here. Paul is a free-lancer. He is never in the office and therefore unavailable to converse.

Since I wanted to take a look at the article and perhaps offer whatever asssistance was being solicited, I asked the caller what issue the article was in, so I could grab a copy and take a look at it.

He said he didn?t know. He didn?t have a copy.

Since I get phone calls from people whose spouses sometimes overenthusiastically trash issues before the hobbyist in the family is done reading them, I continued the conversation thinking this was just another similar case. It wasn?t.

I asked again if he could give me a clue. He said it was in the current issue. I then told him that a current issue could be one of several depending on where he was in the country and when the post office delivers them and that I would have to take a look at the last several.

I did so. As I was paging through the last several issues, I asked the caller what he wanted to talk to Paul about.

His rejoinder was that we had not yet established whether Paul was the actual writer. He wanted to tell the author some things he ought to know.

At that point I found the article. Indeed it was Paul Green. Indeed, it was an Item of the Week, which is what I thought it was.

OK, I said. I have the article. It was written by Paul Green. He is not here. What, I asked, did he want to tell Paul?

The caller?s reply was to ask me to give him the gist of the article. I said I wasn?t going to read it to him over the phone.

?No, I don?t want it read to me. I just want to know what the gist is.?

I said, ?This conversation is over,? and hung up.

So out there, somewhere, there is a person who did not identify himself who would not tell me what he wanted other than to make sure Paul Green was set right about something relating to the 1921-D half dollar.

I have run into people before who have a proprietary interest in certain series. Usually it relates to their great expertise and experience in the field. Most are wonderfully professional to work with and sincerely want to help Numismatic News readers learn important information.

For a few, you just wonder. I remember dealing with Mr. 1873, Harry X Boosel. He is dead now. His claim to fame was his research on Open and Closed 3 1873 coinage. He also did not have a middle name. He used X, which had to appear in print without a period. Boy, did he call up and chew us out if any new staffer put that period after his initial. He became known as Harry X ?No Period? Boosel in the office.

Harry also did not want to reveal his age. I did a profile of him once. He had a number of significant contributions to the hobby, including being the convention chairman of the 1937 American Numismatic Association convention in Washington, D.C. He did that at the ripe old age of 25, as I recall. He chaired a second one in 1966.

He insisted on reviewing the whole profile word for word and not allowing publication until he had cleared it. I said OK. He got the draft. All the suggested changes were made. He OK?d the final version. It was published.
I was free ? or so I thought. Some while afterwards I got a phone call. It was Harry. He had his angry voice on. ?You revealed my age,? he said.
?No, I didn?t,? I replied.

?Readers can figure it out from the article.? That was true I conceded, but he had personally reviewed and cleared the article. That was that. With Harry, that was not that. He wasn?t satisfied. I never talked to him again. His rigid rules were not adhered to. He died not long after.

About that 1921-D half dollar: I wonder if the caller has an X in his name?