Monday, May 13, 2013

Chet Krause dies at age 92.


Chet Krause died on June 25 of complications from a fall he suffered in February, 2016, and a stroke in January 2014.

For the entire second half of the 20th Century, the name of Chet Krause was well-known throughout the numismatic hobby; first nationally, then globally. This recognition resulted from his life's work focused on providing coin collectors with authoritative reference books, accurate price guides, hobby news and entertainment and trustworthy marketplaces to bring together buyers and sellers.

Chester L. Krause was born Dec. 16, 1923, in rural Waupaca County, about six miles east of the village of Iola in central Wisconsin. He was the youngest of six children. His education began in a one-room schoolhouse that had been built by his father next door to the family farm. From an early age, Krause learned the building trades working with his father who was an accomplished stone mason. He attended high school in Iola, graduating in 1941.

At the age of 19, Krause was drafted into the U.S. Army in February, 1943. He served as an auto mechanic with the 565th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, part of Patton's 3rd Army, in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany through the end of World War II. He was among the first U.S. troops to witness the concentration camp at Buchenwald the afternoon after it was liberated in May, 1945.

Following his release from the Army in 1946, Krause returned to Iola where he worked on the family farm and set himself up as an independent builder. Through the early 1950s he constructed two dozen houses, two churches and a 105-foot ski jump in the Iola area.

In October, 1952, Krause published the first issue of Numismatic News. The one-sided 11" x 17" sheet was meant to fill a niche Krause identified to serve the buying, selling and trading needs of coin collectors nationwide who were far removed from metropolitan areas where numismatists enjoyed coin shops, clubs, shows and conventions. He was the prototypical customer for his new venture: a serious coin collector who was geographically cut off from that hobby's mainstream.

For the next five years the publication grew in advertising volume and circulation as Krause nurtured it on evenings, weekends and when inclement weather kept him away from current construction projects. In 1957, Krause finished the last building he would ever construct, a 40" x 40" brick and glass office a block off of Iola's Main Street. That would remain, with occasional additions as expansion dictated, the offices of Krause Publications for nearly two decades.

Numismatic News grew throughout the 1960s and Krause Publications expanded through acquisitions and start ups of periodicals to fill needs Krause identified in the coin collecting community.

When the coin collecting hobby suffered a serious downturn in the mid- 1960s, almost forcing the demise of his publishing business, Krause recognized that diversification was key to insure its survival. In 1971 he founded Old Cars, a virtual clone of the contemporary Numismatic News, and began to develop a parallel line of periodicals for antique auto enthusiasts.

His involvement with the car collecting fraternity led to one of the most significant contributions he would make to his hometown. In 1972, in conjunction with a pig roast and donation auction fundraiser sponsored by the  Iola Lions Club, Krause invited two dozen area vintage car owners to display their vehicles at the cookout. That was the first Iola Old Car Show, an annual event that draws tens of thousands of spectators to the village to view more than 2,000 collector cars and do business with 1,500 swap meet vendors. The event has raised millions of dollars with profits benefiting the dozens of area civic organizations that provide volunteer staffing for the largest collector car show in the Midwest.

The car show is only the most visible of the philanthropic activities that Krause has been engaged in over the years. Both personally and through a family foundation that he endowed, millions of dollars have been spent in such projects as village park improvement, street renovation, the removal of dilapidated buildings and the provision of assisted living housing for seniors.

Less visible support of the community has been ongoing for decades, often unbeknownst to the general public. He has been instrumental in drawing resources into the community such as medical practices, outdoor winter sports facilities, housing for seniors, day care operations and other amenities not usually found in similarly sized rural Wisconsin locales.

Besides providing financial impetus for such improvements, Krause consistently gave of his time to the community. He was a member of the local volunteer fire department, a member of the Iola Village Board of Trustees for eight years and a member of the Waupaca County Selective Service Board during the Vietnam War era.

Though most of his philanthropy has been focused locally, Krause has been a major benefactor over the years to the Rawhide Boy's Ranch for at-risk youths, the Badger State Winter Games, the Melvin Laird Center medical research facility at the Marshfield Clinic and the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee.

Through much of his publishing career, Krause devoted time and money to further the growth of the hobby fields in which he published. He testified frequently on coinage related matters before Congressional committees in Washington, D.C., lobbying the U.S. Mint and Treasury Department on behalf of the interests of his coin collecting readers.

He is a lifetime member of the American Numismatic Association and has been recognized by that organization with every major award it can bestow. In 2007, when the ANA was struggling with financial and operational issues, Krause ran for and was elected to the association's board of governors at the age of 83, bringing his decades of business acumen to bear in creating new leadership and direction for the ANA.

Krause guided the growth of his publishing company through the 1980s, expanding into more that a dozen collectible hobbies including sports cards and memorabilia, postcards, comic books, records, stamps, firearms, knives, toys, and general antiques, producing dozens of periodicals and more than 150 book titles, with revenues exceeding $50 million annually.

At the age of 63 he stepped down as president of the firm in late 1986, remaining as chairman of the board. In 1988, he converted the company to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, eventually vesting the company's stock in the hands of its 400+ employees. When he had completed the transition of his shares to the ESOP in 1992, Krause retired from active participation in the company, though he maintained an office in the company headquarters.

While the ESOP was intended to insure that Krause Publications would remain in the hands of its employees, and thus in the Iola community, in 2002 a group of its largest shareholders voted to sell the company to an outside investment capital group.

Krause severed all ties with the company at that point. He set up a retirement office from which he oversaw the disposition of his lifelong collections of numismatic material, vintage autos and a large personal collection of World War II U.S. Army vehicles.

Now, as he nears the age of 90, Krause spends much of his time writing monographs on subjects ranging from family and local history to a compendium of places named Iola throughout the U.S.

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