By Michael Schreiber
George W. Linn created and fostered the successful stamp-hobby publication called Linn's Stamp News, begun in 1928 as Linn's Weekly Stamp News. Over the years, the work of many others also played significant roles. An unsigned short history of Linn's Stamp News, located in the library of Amos Hobby Publishing, states George Linn's role in one sentence: "Linn's is largely the dream and life project of George W. Linn, a philatelic entrepreneur who started the magazine, nurtured it for many years, experienced near failure and finally guided the paper into a safe destiny." The history (actually written by Charles L. Towle) continues: "Many stamp publications have been this type of one-man development. Some passed out of existence with the passing of their leader, others faltered badly and continued a less effective existence, but Linn's was about the only such publication in this country to grow and strengthen after the loss of its original developer."
George Ward Linn was born Feb. 7, 1884, in Greenville, Ohio. His father was a publisher and job printer who owned a printing firm. Allison Cusick, the former author of Linn's Collecting FDCs column and the book Photo Cachet Catalog: Linprint, wrote: "Linn's father was the printer-publisher of the Darke County Advocate, which he had founded in conjunction with W.A. Browne. The family moved twice during Linn's boyhood. William Linn sold his interest in the Advocate to Mr. Browne and purchased a paper in Wapakoneta, Auglaize County. Then in August 1893, the family moved to Columbus, Ohio. Here the Wm. M. Linn Printing Company opened in downtown Columbus at the corner of High and Spring streets. Later, the shop moved to the Chestnut Building at Chestnut and High."
George Linn began as a small-time stamp dealer during his teenage years, when he published his first stamp publication. Called The Columbian and dated January 1901, it lasted for one issue. Its only ads were Linn's own, for a parlor game called "Jack Doolittles trip to Columbus" (the typos also were Linn's own), a yearly subscription (12¢) and a free bijou magnifying glass (for 11¢ postage, 23¢ with a subscription).
Linn's short editorial in the 1900 publication said, "We make no promise except that youll (his typo) get your money's worth." Over the years, Linn published other short-lived titles that essentially were house organs for the stamp business he maintained while he worked for his father.
In 1923, collector, dealer and printer Linn, age 39, traveled to Marion, Ohio, for the first day of the 2¢ Warren G. Harding stamp issued Sept. 1. There and in other nearby cities he serviced what are considered to be the first cacheted first-day covers. The cachet was text only, "In Memorium, Warren G. Harding, Twenty-Ninth President," plus birth and death dates. True to form, Linn misspelled "memoriam" on the envelopes.
In 1926, Linn took a job as editor of Weekly Philatelic Gossip in Holton, Kan., where Linn and his family moved. He lasted there for four months. Linn's father died in 1927, and the Linn sons inherited the printing plant. George was the only one really interested in it.
The Towle history: "He agreed to take over and run the printing plant on the condition that he be allowed to use it to print a weekly stamp magazine. His brothers consented and so was born Linn's Weekly Stamp News, published for stamp collectors every Monday by Linprint of Columbus, Ohio. Volume No. 1, Issue No. 1, was dated Monday, Nov. 5, 1928.
"George Linn had developed a subscription list of 1,800 and a list of some 500 collectors to whom the first issue was sent without charge. It was priced at 2¢ per copy on the newsstands, 25¢ per year by subscription and $1 per year to Canada and foreign countries.
"George was editor and business manager of the 7½-inch-by- 10½-inch, eight-page paper, which was yours 'For only a silver quarter wrapped in a piece of paper or 25¢ in stamps.' "
Page count grew to 12 as of Jan. 21, 1929, but it dropped back to eight and jumped up and down again. The sub list soon grew to 2,000. Later papers in the first few years had 16 pages or occasionally 24 pages. The front pages of the first seven issues were all ads. Linn featured editorial and advertising with spot red color in the Aug. 12, 1929, issue, and he used color again to promote his Linprint airmail envelopes in the Oct. 21, 1929, issue.
The stamp hobby flourished during the Great Depression. Linn's Weekly Stamp News hit 10,000 circulation in January 1932. Three months earlier Linn had sold life subscriptions for $10, with 40 25¢ bonus coupons thrown in, good for other subscriptions, Linprint products or advertising.
The Towle history: "In July 1934 Linn announced the incorporation of Linprint. [In April 1937], with circulation [approaching 18,000], Linn decided that a change was due and handed over his position as editor. Linn kept this arrangement until June 19, 1941, when it was announced that both the printing and the stamp businesses were in serious decline, and that henceforth editing was once again to be handled by George Linn." The new editor in 1937 was collector, part-time dealer and Missouri newspaperman Don Houseworth, 34, who lasted only until August 1937, when Robert Richardson became editor.
Linn continued to supervise the magazine and in the masthead billed himself as "managing editor." When he became editor in October 1937, Richardson was president of the Rubber City Stamp Club in Akron. Before they were hired, both Houseworth and Richardson had been writers for Linn's Weekly Stamp News.
Linprint was Linn's tradename for his stamp-supply business, primarily album pages, airmail envelopes and cacheted envelopes that Linn sold to collectors to make first-day covers for new U.S. stamps, and other stamp accessories. Linprint became the name of the printing company in 1928, and the first envelopes were sold in 1929. Samples of what they looked like were printed in red and blue in the the Oct. 21, 1929, issue of his weekly. Linprint FDC envelopes began in 1932. In June 1936, Linn offered 2,500 shares of stock in Linprint.
In those early years Linn tirelessly promoted his publication at local stamp clubs and shows, something he would do again in the 1950s. In the pre-WWII years, Linn had become acquainted with stamp collector and fellow printer and publisher William T. Amos of Sidney and the Sidney Printing and Publishing Co. Bill Amos collected the stamps of the world, at that time an accomplishable feat, and he continued to collect the world until his death in 1992.
In 1938, Linn began a promotion that he called "Linn's 10,000 Club." To belong, a member remitted $1. Seventy-five cents of it covered a discounted five-year subscription, and the remaining 25¢ was for four 25¢ coupons good to buy Linprint products or advertising in Linn's.
Linn's switched to printing on wartime paper with the issue of Nov. 1, 1941. In the same issue on page 1 Linn explained the discontinuance of Linprint products: His own Linprint products competed unfairly with those of advertisers and potential advertisers, his critics said, and he failed to attract dealer representatives for his products.
Linn blamed Linprint's troubles on Adolf Hitler ("a second rate paper hanger by the name of Schickelgruber," Linn called him, using Hitler's father's mother's name).
Linn wrote that he lost $15,000 in the venture, which was turned over to a trustee. With $300 in his bank account and a note for its purchase, Linn and his wife bought the rights to Linn's Weekly Stamp News from the Linprint trustee, as of the issues of March 1942.
Friend Bill Amos agreed to print Linn's Weekly Stamp News for Linn out of the Sidney operation, and the Amos family's Sidney Printing and Publishing operation kept George Linn going through the war years. Payment to the Amos firm for the weekly printing job was by cash.
Linn editorialized in 1942 how Bill Amos and Cecil Watkins had made it easy for him to produce a tabloid-size stamp newspaper, just like the papers in the big cities. Over the years, Sidney Printing linotyped or typeset, composed, printed and mailed Linn's Weekly Stamp News for Linn, but the companies were completely separate until 1969.
The March 26, 1942, issue of Linn's Weekly Stamp News, dated on a Thursday, whole No. 699, was the first one printed in Sidney, on South Ohio Street, and it was the first tabloid issue. The previous issue was dated March 14. Linn brought paid advertising back to page 1 effective with the issue of April 16, 1942.
In 1942, Linn still published out of Columbus, from 3008 Sunset Drive, until he and his family moved to Sidney on April 6, into a home a few blocks north of the square.
Through the war, most issues were eight pages or 12, but after the war the paper quickly grew to 16 pages. Linn made history with his 76-page issue of Nov. 28, 1946, which included 60 pages of advertising by Gimbels stamp department, managed by Jacques Minkus. The issue circulated to 23,000 subscribers, and Gimbels ordered 30,000 reprints for its customers. In late 1944, Linn's daughter Hazel Linn Morgan had begun to work with her father. After the war, Linn also resurrected a line of stamp-hobby products, calling it Linn Philatelic Products (later Rueth Philatelic Products).
The Towle history: "On April 1, 1947, Linn's became a corporation, George W. Linn Co. Inc., with George W. Linn, president and treasurer, and Carl P. Rueth, vice president." At the same time, the subscription price increased to $1, up from the rollercoasting 25¢ or 50¢ of years past (the $1 included Latin America; Canada increased to $1.50 and foreign to $2.50). Rueth was a mechanical engineer, Dayton businessman, Dayton Philatelic Society president and a stamp show chairman and judge. He became associate editor of Linn's in April 1947. He wrote the weekly U.S. Notes column from Oct. 20, 1947 (not bylined), until July 7, 1969. Linn's first wife, Mayme Julia Linn, died March 11, 1948. He married Marie Blasius Oct. 6, 1948 (she died April 20, 1985).
Special editions (with national societies providing most of the editorial matter for the issues) began with the issue of May 28, 1951. By October 1953, Linn was bragging of an annual average paid circulation of 38,225, and said that he had been planning for five years to retire to Florida, to Howey-in-the-Hills, in Lake County on Lake Harris. He said he planned to fish.
The transition seems to have been a tough one for Linn, and the titles used in the masthead over the next 10 years reflect this. Although in Florida, the feisty Linn maintained firm editorial control. Rueth called himself managing editor in the issue of Nov. 9, 1953, but the masthead still called him "associate editor." This lasted until he and Linn were both called "editor," beginning with the issue of Nov. 23, 1953. George Linn became "senior editor" in the issue of Jan. 11, 1954, presiding from Howey-in-the-Hills. In January 1955, Linn bragged of having 45,000 subscribers.
Six months from age 80 in August 1963, the Linn's masthead abruptly began referring to George Linn as editor-in-chief, and Rueth became an associate editor along with Robert L. Jones and Manfried W.R. Kirchner. Rueth was in Europe when it happened.
The history: "In March 1965 with his health failing, George Linn announced his retirement from the stamp publishing business. He sold his majority interest in the corporation to Carl P. Rueth, former vice president and editor." The sale date was March 15. Linn was 81. He died March 27, 1966, in Eustis, Fla.]
"In 1969, the publication was acquired by the firm that had printed it since 1942, Sidney Printing and Publishing Co., now Amos Press Inc." The new owners took over on July 1, 1969.
The subscription price had been raised to $4 in March 1969, up from $3.50. The sale of what had become Rueth Publications was announced in the issue of April 21, 1969, by Rueth and J. Oliver Amos, president of Sidney Printing, publisher of the weekly Coin World and Gun Week, the monthly World Coins and Numismatic Scrapbook, and the Sidney Daily News.
Rueth said that at times he had had offers to buy Linn's from what he called "individuals and companies which would have used Linn's for selfish interests, such as giving play to . . . wallpaper labels which the promoters thereof attempt to foist on the philatelic public." He added that he and Sidney Printing had never had a contract to do business, only a gentlemen's agreement.
The new owners proclaimed in the issue of July 14, 1969, that the collector was king and that the firm prospered by treating readers and advertisers fairly. J. Oliver Amos wrote: "You cannot publish a successful newspaper without readers very long . . . and readers who do not trust your newspaper will not patronize the advertisers." Under the new owners, advertising disappeared from page 1.
Effective with the issue of Aug. 4, 1969, publisher J. Oliver Amos and co-publisher William T. Amos offered new lower classified ad rates and 128 new classifications. Robert Jones was the paper's philatelic editor, with John Crull and Richard Wachsmuth as editorial staffers. Bill Amos served as editor as well as co-publisher.
Circulation grew to 80,000. Edwin O. Neuce was named editor of Linn's in June 1972, succeeding Bill Amos. Neuce had been news editor of Coin World for 11 years and a daily newspaperman before that.
In February 1974 Neuce appointed Stanley Durnin as executive editor of Linn's Stamp News. Durnin was an Air Force veteran and an editor at Western Stamp Collector when he joined Linn's. Elaine Durnin, his wife, became a Linn's staffer in 1978 after Durnin's death in 1977, and she was Linn's managing editor during 1987-97, marrying staffer Fred Boughner in 1980. In mid-1974, Sidney Printing moved into its new building at 911 S. Vandemark Road. Jeanne Mears, a Linn's staffer since 1969, became news editor in 1972 and managing editor in 1975. She retired in spring 1987. Full-color ads appeared as early as the mid-1970s, but similar editorial use of color did not come regularly to page 1 until the early 1980s, although it started to be used in the mid-1970s. Inside editorial color began to appear regularly in February 1996, although it had been used on occasion in the early 1980s.
Neuce served as Linn's editor until 1982, when he became special projects editor. He retired in 1983 and died in 1987. Neuce edited the four editions of Linn's World Stamp Almanac published in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. Until an editor was hired for it, Neuce also edited Cars & Parts for one year after Amos Press purchased the magazine in 1978. The first decade of Amos ownership also brought new editorial features, among them Trends of Stamp Values (in imitation of Coin World's Trends) and a rough beginning to a U.S. Stamp Market Index (in May 1982). Michael Laurence, 42, replaced Neuce as editor in September 1982. In October 1983 Laurence became editor-publisher, a newly created position. Laurence had been a vice president and publisher at Playboy Enterprises and a former newspaper reporter.
Laurence began to change Linn's almost immediately. A new logo graced the front page in the issue of Nov. 15, 1982, and one of its front-page stories announced the addition of the new Postal History column by Richard B. Graham. Others new columnists followed in the early 1980s, among them Les Winick, John G. Ross, Dale Pulver, Varro Tyler, Allison Cusick and the pseudonymous E. Rawolik. Laurence was the first editor of a consumer stamp publication to pay his regular freelance writers. He also invented what became the paper's Collecting Made Easy feature (named by Fred Boughner), now in its 10th edition as a booklet and nearly 500,000 copies in print. The first Linn's Yellow Pages dealer directory was published in 1987, and the fifth and sixth editions of Linn's World Stamp Almanac appeared in 1989 and 2000.
Some Linn's editorial staffers from the early years of Amos ownership are still on the job today at Amos Hobby Publishing, including Scott catalog associate editor Donna Houseman, who began in 1972. Linn's senior editor Denise McCarty has been with the publication since 1981. Other former Linn's staffers with Amos Hobby Publishing today are Charles Snee, Cathy Morrow, Linda Homan, Patti McGowan, Mary Smith and Phyllis Stegemoller.
Laurence arrived at Amos Press in the immediate aftermath of the bursting of the speculative stamp market that had buoyed Linn's circulation and advertising linage upward in the the mid-1970s through 1980-81. Linn's advertising linage peaked in the late 1970s and its circulation peaked in 1978 at a paid average of 91,797, two years after the successful Interphil 76 international stamp show in Philadelphia and a Publishers' Clearinghouse offer. The similar Ameripex 86 and Pacific 97 shows, for which Linn's staff published, respectively, a daily edition and a daily program update, failed to spur the market upward.
Circulation moved down to 75,000 in the mid-1980s and held there until the early 1990s, when it fell below 70,000. It fell almost steadily to 65,000 and 60,000, then 55,000 and in spring 2002 hovers at 50,000. The trend has been that fewer new collector-subscribers are replacing the generations of new adult collectors that came into the hobby in the 1950s through the 1970s.
Linn's page size decreased to just under 15 inches effective with the first issue of 1989, a more pleasant-to-look-at page, one fitting standard advertising units and a saving in paper and postage. New low-rub ink began to be used effective with the issue of April 21, 1986. As of June 1, 1988, Linn's subscription price increased to $28 from $25. Soon it was $34. It went to $39 as of January 1995 and $45.95 as of late 2001.
Laurence spurred major dealers and market players to provide the data for Linn's four-ring model of U.S. stamp market, first published in 1995 and the first published figures to gauge the overall U.S. market in dollar volume and number of collectors.
Linn's line of books grew under Laurence and book director Donna Houseman, from the previous few titles to more than 40 titles through 2002. Linn's Internet presence began in late 1995, when selected stories were posted. Linn's electronic products team (the first such group at Amos Press) included Donna Houseman, Denise McCarty, Bill Jones, Michael Baadke, Phyllis Stegemoller and various webmasters, among them Rich Wolff.
Michael Laurence was named Amos Hobby Publishing editorial director in 2001. After 23 years with Linn's, he retired in 2005. After several years as managing editor, Michael Schreiber became Linn's editor in 2002, and retired in 2008.
Linn's editorial space was fully electronic as of the issue of March 1, 1999. The advertising space followed as of the issues of October 1999 (except for a few ads stripped in for a short time).
Linn's issue of Nov. 12, 2007, was the last to be published in-house on the eight-station offset press in Sidney. The issue of Nov. 19 debuted a new full-color format, printed at Quebecor World in Lebanon, Ohio, and introduced the current editor, Michael Baadke, who began with Linn's in 1993 as a staff writer.
Today's Linn's staffers and the years they began working at Linn's are senior editors Denise McCarty (1981) and Rick Miller (2001), and associate editor Jay Bigalke (2005).