Edgar Allan Poe, in his “Letter to B—” (July 1836), wrote about literary judgment, and whether “a good critique on a poem may be written by one who is no poet himself.” Poe, well respected during his lifetime and today widely regarded as one of America’s greatest writers, was skeptical.
A “fool” (in his words) might think of Shakespeare as a great poet without ever reading his works. If the fool’s wiser neighbor asserts that Shakespeare is a great poet, the fool can, without real understanding, absorb that assertion and call it his own “opinion.”
It’s a good reminder that critiques can themselves be critiqued!
“Never read your reviews” is advice that successful authors, artists, and theater types sometimes give to up-and-comers. It’s easier on your nerves. On the other hand, Liberace famously read his harsh critiques and then “cried all the way to the bank.”
For my book American Gold and Silver: U.S. Mint Collector and Investor Coins and Medals, Bicentennial to Date, I bask in reviews that call it “superbly written” and “Great research and information as to legislative history.” I even happily accept the brusque analysis of an Amazon customer: “It arrived appropriately.” Lukewarm, and it raises more questions than it answers, but I’ll take the four stars!
Back to Edgar Allan Poe: In the same letter, he opined that “it is with literature as with law or empire—an established name is an estate in tenure, or a throne in possession.”
You can establish your name within the hobby community even if you haven’t published a book. Subscribe to Coin World, Numismatic News, The Numismatist (monthly publication of the American Numismatic Association), and magazines like Coins and COINage. Study what kinds of articles they publish. Write letters to the editor, or pitch story ideas for features. Does the name Ross Johnson ring a bell? He’s a longtime collector who’s made a name for himself with observations on modern United States Mint products, published as “Guest Commentary” articles in Coin World.
Check out numismatic blogs and online news sites. For Coin Update, Michael Bugeja writes popular commentary on coin auctions, third-party grading, and other hot topics. Louis Golino observes the modern numismatic scene and reports on markets. At World Mint News Blog, Michael Alexander discusses coins of the British Royal Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, and other world mints. And Charles Morgan “does it all” as CoinWeek’s editor and star writer (along with an impressive roster of contributing researchers and authors).
How about you? Do you have a regular (ongoing) column idea, or a one-off article, to share?
Join some of the dozens of numismatic specialty groups such as the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, Early American Coppers, and the Token and Medal Society. These groups publish magazines and newsletters. Their editors welcome contributions, and they’re happy to help you with your writing, whether it’s scholarly, entertaining, market-analytical, or what-have-you. For the Barber Coin Collectors Society a few years ago, I wrote an article about a coin in my collection, a Barber dime “love token” engraved with lyrics from an old sentimental song. It was fun to write, with connections to Tin Pan Alley, World War One, popular children’s names of the early 1900s, and, believe it or not, the comic strip “Li’l Abner.”
As a writer, your first step to an established name—your “estate in tenure” or “throne in possession,” to borrow again from Poe—is to put pen to paper. Then shop it around.
“A writer writes,” as they say.
I look forward to reading you.
Dennis Tucker has served the hobby community as publisher of Whitman Publishing since 2004. His column “Notes Published” covers books and publishing in general, with a special emphasis on antiques and collectibles. Whitman is the Official Supplier of the congressionally chartered American Numismatic Association (online at www.money.org). The firm produces many standard references relating to the art and science of numismatics (the study of coins and related objects). Numismatics is a field that touches on American financial and banking history, economics, artistry and design, technology, mining and metallurgy, political history, society, and culture.