Richard Wayne Johnson passed away, age 90, in New Britain, Connecticut, on Tuesday, 2020 December 29. He was an author, editor, museum official in the numismatic field; author, cataloger, medal publisher in the medallic field. He wrote under the name D. Wayne Johnson for serious material, and under Dick Johnson for brief items (such as E-Sylum, a weekly internet newsletter for numismatic literature devotees). His research and writing covers American medallic art, coin and medal technology, American medallic artists, future coins, medallic objects, and biographies of select medallic artists. He was an authority on 20th century American medals and the Medallic Art Company, of which he was staff writer-researcher, 1966-77, and, company historian and senior consultant, 2010-17. Author of Monograms of American Coin and Medal Artists (2010), Who's Who Among American Medallists (2015), and An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology (2016).
Richard was born 1930 August 27 in Kansas City, Missouri, to Robert Winfield and Rubye Margaret Marie (Palmrose) Johnson. He was raised in Kansas City, Kansas, and several years in Chicago and Park Ridge, Illinois, and in New Orleans, Louisiana, then back to Kansas City, Kansas. He attended Maccachaque Grade School, in Kansas City, Kansas (third generation to do so, grandfather Penick and father Robert attended same grade school), Irving Park Grade School in Chicago, Illinois, Maine Township Junior High in Des Plaines, Illinois, Alcee Fortier High School in New Orleans, graduating from Rosedale High School in Kansas City, Kansas.
After graduating high school he attended one year at Kansas City Kansas Junior College, dropped out for six months, worked at A&P, returned to college at Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas, 1949 September to December. He joined the Air Force 1950 January 07 with basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, where he was tested and assigned to intelligence. After training at Brooks Air Force Base also in San Antonio, his squadron flew to Washington, DC, where he was stationed in the National Security Agency for his entire four-year duty during the Korean War. He was discharged 1954 January 07.
In 1951 he attended his first national coin convention in New York City. At that meeting he helped organize a group of young numismatists, the Rittenhouse Society (after first US Mint Director David Rittenhouse). Later he helped form a regional coin organization, Middle Atlantic Numismatic Association, and was its first co-editor, with numismatist Walter Breen.
Richard attended Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, from 1954 February until 1957 receiving a BS degree in business administration. He served as president of the St. Louis Numismatic Society while still in college and was appointed to the Central States Numismatic Society board of directors.
After graduating in 1957 he joined Reynolds & Reynolds, a printing firm in Dayton, Ohio, for a sales training position. Due to cutbacks he was laid off after six months. He traveled to New York City for employment but chose to return to Kansas City for a classified ad manager job at the Kansas City Kansan (from 1958-59). He married Shirley Rausch of Kansas City, Kansas, in 1959.
Amos Press hired him to start a weekly newspaper in the coin field, Coin World, first published 1960 Spring. Resigning after eighteen months Richard and Shirley returned to the Kansas City area in 1963 where he started a new publication, Coin Wholesaler, which was in turn sold to a group in Houston, Texas, Space City Numismatics. For this firm he started a new publication, Pace, for coin investors.
After an interim job as editor on an engineering publication, Corrosion, he accepted a position with Medallic Art Company, then in New York City, as director of research. Here he did sales research, cataloged the firm's past medallic issues, wrote speeches for the president, William Trees Louth, issued press releases, edited the firm's collector newsletter, The Art Medallist, and other public relations activities. For technical and art aspect of the medallic field he was trained by Julius Lauth, Vice President and Art Director. The pair created a gigantic art medal exhibit mounted in 1968 for the 75th anniversary of the National Sculpture Society. It displayed medals of every NSS member who had created medals.
As part of cataloging the firm's medallic output (first medal 1907) he created an archive collection of 6,121 medallic items (to 1976) the firm had made in its first 70 years. Each medal was photographed, the image entered on a 3x5-inch card along with details of size, composition, artist's and the client's name. (The archive information was later entered in an electronic format by a later owner.)
Working with publications, both national and numismatic, was a major activity in publicizing the firm’s medallic output. An example of a numismatic article was “Home of the Art Medal,” in Coinage magazine, “Medals of the American Numismatic Society” in Coins magazine, and, on medal technology, “Modern Patinas.” For national publications the famed official Inaugural Medals for each new president were always of interest (the firm had produced seven prior to 1969). For the Nixon Inauguration he supplied an Inaugural Medal to Time to place on their cover, a public relations coup to obtain the firm’s product on a magazine cover.
For the 1971 centennial of the birth of Victor David Brenner, Johnson and a group of medal collectors mounted an exhibit of Brenner’s medallic work. This was on display at the Chase Manhattan Money Museum at Rockefeller Center, New York City. The U.S. Mint furnished Brenner’s original models for the 1909 Lincoln Cent, the original galvanos made from the models – first time ever shown outside the Mint since 1910. Also Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro appeared for the opening day with his models and galvanos of his 1959 reverse of Brenner’s cent design.
Sales research for the 1976 Bicentennial began in 1970. Medallic Art Company struck the first medal for this national event in 1972 for the Daughters of the American Revolution. The firm moved to a new plant in Danbury, Connecticut, in June that same year. Here, over the next four years, the firm produced Bicentennial medals for 17 American States, 40 cities and other municipalities, and dozens more for private and nonprofit organizations.
For collectors and medal enthusiasts Johnson wrote articles in The Art Medallist on bicentennial medal issues. In 1976, following the July 4th Bicentennial celebration, the firm’s medal sales dropped to the former 1970 level. New ownership of the firm cut production staff, scaled back and sold Johnson 64,000 unwanted medals.
With a medal collector friend, Chris Jensen, the pair formed a partnership, Johnson & Jensen, began dealing in medals and medallic art, Spring 1977. They incorporated in 1983 as Medallion House Inc. They had booths at numismatic shows but found auction sales more effective. The pair conducted 27 auction sales 1978-85 offering 27,000 lots of American art medals and related material. The pair published a major pamphlet, on Inaugural Medals, other pamphlets on So-Called Dollars, and Circle of Friends of the Medallion, in addition to specialized medal reports and auction catalogs.
In 1985, the partnership dissolved, Johnson later became executive director of Collectors Auctions Ltd, for a group of investors. He cataloged and conducted another eight auctions, 1987-90. After these 35 auction sales he retired to write about medallic art, artists and the technology of coins and medals.
He served as publicity consultant to Medallic Art Co. for both Ronald Reagan Inaugural Medals (1981, 1985). He has appraised medal collections for estates, auction houses, collectors, museums, banks, and widows. He has cataloged the Tiffany & Co medal collection, the Marqusee collection donated to the Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum at Cornell University, the Wolfing Collection of Miami, Florida, and others.
His 1998 film script, The Medal Maker, on sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser, was narrated by Elizabeth Jones, former Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint. It was made into a commercial video by Hollywood film producer Michael Craven.
In 2005 he served as medal consultant to the Carnegie Hero Fund Foundation for the yearly award medals and the Andrew Carnegie Centennial Medal. Also in 2005 he was named to the board of directors of the Gallery Mint Museum of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In 2006 he was named Curator of Numismatic Art at the Belskie Museum in Closter, New Jersey, here he cataloged the medallic work of sculptor Abram Belskie, for whom the museum is named. In 2007 he created a method for judging art medals at medallic exhibitions with the first at the international exhibition, FIDEM, at Colorado Springs, September 2007. In 2008 he cataloged the studio collection of Marcel Jovine in preparation of a book on this Italian-American medallist, with a catalog of medallic items by Johnson. In 2009 he cataloged the studio collection of Joseph DiLorenzo for the DiLorenzo family.
Also in 2008 he joined forces with numismatist Mark Schlepphorst to come out of retirement and form the firm Signature Art Medals (incorporated, Delaware, November 2008). The firm’s first issue was a medallic plaquette honoring both Abraham Lincoln and Victor David Brenner, creator of the Lincoln Cent. The commemorative plaquette was issued for the 2009 Bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and the Centennial of the Lincoln Cent. Four additional medallic items were issued with a theme of Abraham Lincoln. The firm also publishes medal related lithographs and published medallic books.
On May 1, 2010 Johnson was named Corporate Historian to Medallic Art Company of Dayton, Nevada, the firm he worked for a decade 33 years previous. His knowledge of medals and a history of the firm, its personnel and products led to this appointment. In this position he advises management, writes a weekly report, answers inquiries from the public and collectors, and compiles a history of the firm for a book on the subject. Medallic Art Company went bankrupt in 2017.
His opinion piece advocating abolishing the cent and nickel which was published in the Wall Street Journal in 2013 January led to two items on National Public Radio.
He received Central States Numismatic Association Medal of Merit 1962.
On the 50th anniversary of Coin World, the current editor wrote the first of a five-part history of the publication revealing Johnson’s role in the creation of the weekly news hobby publication in 1960. In August 2012 he was awarded the Carl A. Carlson Award for Cataloging by the Medal Collectors of America.
His family's residences have included Kansas City, Kansas; Sidney, Ohio; Houston, Texas; White Plains and Harrison, New York; Danbury, Southbury, Middlebury, Litchfield, and Torrington, Connecticut.
He is survived by his wife Shirley; three children Jeffry (and Andrea (Olson)), Sandra (Johnson) Carazza (and Alan Ross), and Rhonda (Johnson) Rajcula; and grandchildren Andrew and Dominic Carazza; Jacob, Matthew, Samuel, and Thomas Rajcula; and Dylan Johnson. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister, Roberta Marie (Johnson) Jones, and son-in-law Peter Rajcula.
A memorial gathering in his honor will be scheduled at a later date.
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