By Bret Evans
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to meet, and get to know, some numismatic giants. Unfortunately, many are not with us anymore.
Not that long ago I added another name to the list of great numismatists I will no longer see: Chet Krause.
Among collectors his name is legendary. Shortly after the Second World War, Chet started Numismatic News working from his home. The publication was a hit, and Chet soon added other coin publications, expanded to other hobbies, and even launched a series of successful trade publications.
Throughout all of it he retained a simple humility even after Krause Publications, with hundreds of employees, became the major employer in his hometown of Iola, Wisconsin.
For us at Canadian Coin News, Chet had a special place as the founder of the magazine. Admittedly he didn’t own it for long because he realized that if it was going to be a success, what was then called Canada Coin News, had to be owned and operated in Canada, not as a branch office of a foreign firm.
I first met Chet in 1991, while attending my first American Numismatic Association convention.
I decided to attend the annual Numismatic Literary Guild bash, which was not at all what I expected.
Chet and I shared a few drinks, and some snacks. You would think that the current editor and founding publisher of CCN would spend most of their time talking shop, but we only talked business for a few minutes.
We talked shop, we talked coins, we talked philosophy and I even convinced Chet to share some stories about his experience in the army.
After that, I saw Chet on a few other occasions, and he was always the same – charming and personable.
When he was in Canada, attending an RCNA convention, Krause Publications didn’t have a place on the bourse, so Chet hung out with the CCN crew, and we shared a table during the banquet. It was then that Chet finally told me that after a few weeks, he had made up his mind that CCN would only work as a totally Canadian office after just a couple of issues. He had flown to Toronto and invited the editor, Cale Jarvis, to dinner.
Chet and Cale were good friends, so Chet simply made an offer. Cale could have a pink slip, or he could buy CCN for a dollar. Cale chose the latter, on the condition that Chet stayed on as nominal publisher for a while longer to give an appearance of stability and support.
A few years later, when Cale sold the company to Don Thomas, he got a pretty good return on the one dollar investment.
Chet never felt bad about any lost profit, he just had too great a heart.
A few years earlier he had retired from Krause Publications, after selling it to his employees for well below market value.
In recent years, Chet had slowed down quite a bit, but he remained active. I have to admit it was a bit nostalgic when his 1936 dot cent went on the block, but Chet had already built his collection and it was time to sell.
He put that money to good use, including spending money on community improvements as a supporter of downtown renovation in Iola.
I feel honoured to have spent some quality time with Chet, not just because he started CCN or was a giant in the world of numismatics. As I look back, I remember not his achievement in the worlds of business or collecting, but his genuine humility, forthright honestly, and his dry sense of humour.