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We will miss you, Jay
October 19, 2009

The road not taken is a question that occurs not only in a Robert Frost poem, but in the minds of everybody from time to time.

What would have happened had a decision gone differently, we all ask?

News of former Mint Director Jay Johnson’s death from a heart attack Saturday at the age of 66 at his suburban Washington home raises that question in my mind for the American Numismatic Association.

After his time as Mint director ended in 2001, Johnson wanted to be executive director of the ANA.

He would have put a warm and friendly face on an organization that has spent more than a decade in leadership turmoil since Bob Leuver left the executive director’s post in 1997.

It was not to be.

Instead over the years since 1997 the ANA board chose a six-week wonder, gone back to retired executive directors, and then most disastrously chose its legal counsel, Christopher Cipoletti, to hold that post and the executive director’s post simultaneously, thereby cutting the board off by its own action from any independent input.

The current legal counsel, Ron Sirna, reported to the current ANA board Oct. 13 that Cipoletti’s tenure cost the ANA $5 million to $8 million.

Johnson was elected to the House of Representatives from the congressional district that includes Iola for one term.

That made him a politician. It also made him suspect in the minds of some hobbyists as a result of that label.

But he just might have been the person who could have interpreted hobby needs to official Washington in a manner that the power brokers there understand. Perhaps then the hobby today would not be asking why the government does not seem to want to do anything about the imports of Chinese counterfeit coins.

To his credit, Johnson stuck with the hobby and did some work in marketing, most recently becoming a public face for buying gold.

What might have happened under an ANA Executive Director Johnson?

I can only wonder.

Note: The U.S. Mint has sold out the 50,000 available the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles sets, but it is still taking orders on standby just in case others are canceled.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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