Worden takes lifelong passion and puts it into words.
Editor, writer and videographer Leon Worden recently traveled to Baltimore to receive the Numismatic Literary Guild's James L. Miller Memorial Award for best numismatic article to appear in any medium.
Named for the founder of COINage magazine (1964), the award was presented July 31 during the American Numismatic Association's 117th anniversary "World's Fair of Money" convention.
Since 1968, the Guild has represented all writers in the field of numismatics, which is the study of coins, tokens, medals and paper money. The Guild annually honors dozens of authors and writers in categories including books, magazines, newspapers (general and specialized), newsletters (professional and nonprofit), auction catalogs, websites and video.
Worden, who has written for COINage magazine since 2005, won consecutive Guild awards in 2006 and 2007 for best coin article in a U.S. coin magazine. Published monthly in Ventura, COINage is the largest monthly U.S. numismatic periodical.
"This year's top writing award is particularly meaningful to me because the nominees included some of the icons in the industry – people I've been reading since I was a teenager, or younger," Worden said.
Worden's winning entry was a two-part series titled "Mr. Brenner's Lincoln," published in the November 2007 and December 2007 editions of COINage magazine. The series included original research on the design of the Lincoln cent. Worden discovered the whereabouts of the exact photographs used by coin designer Victor David Brenner when he modeled his famous bust of Abraham Lincoln and adapted it for use on the nation's most common coin. Worden also found correspondence in the Harvard University archives to prove that the photographs actually were used by Brenner.
Brenner borrowed several Civil War-era photographs of Lincoln from the son of Charles Eliot Norton, Harvard's – and the nation's – first full-time professor of art history. Norton was a leader in the education reform movement of the last quarter of the 19th Century. Worden's series settles conflicting accounts of the loan of the photographs.
Worden also discovered a relationship between the Norton family and Harvard alumnus Theodore Roosevelt, who is widely known for hiring Brenner and launching a renaissance in American coin design during his presidency in the early 1900s.
"It's peculiar to think there are still things to learn about the world's best known coin," said Worden, noting that more Lincoln cents have been made since 1909 than all other coins in the history of the world, combined. "It also makes you wonder what else is hiding in Grandma's attic."
The particular Lincoln photographs were in the Norton family's possession until 2006 when a descendant sold them on eBay. The buyer, a Midwestern Sunday school teacher and collector of Lincolniana, doubled his money a year later when he sold them in a Long Beach, Calif., auction conducted by Heritage Galleries of Dallas.