POMEROY — An assemblage of collections captured the attention of history buffs and novices alike at the Pomeroy Library on Saturday. Billed as a coin show, the event, organized by Bob Graham, turned into an eclectic group of collectors.
Graham’s collection of photographs, tokens and coins, along with Jason Arnold’s bottles, Wayne Wilbur’s coins, and Jeff Morris’ stoneware told the story of local history in a tactile way, with everyday objects and photos. The Meigs County Historical Society was onhand to encourage awareness of their organization and to share resources with those who want to know more about the county’s past.
Graham’s interest in the history of Meigs County and the area in Mason County, West Virginia, from Letart to West Columbia, has led him to amass hundreds of well documented photographs of historic sites.
While researching the photos, he found corresponding tokens, know as “a promise to pay,” and issued by merchants to promote trade at their establishment and to extend credit to customers.
Tokens became popular in small stores in rural areas and usually had the merchant’s name or initials, the town and state, and a value printed on the piece.
They were also used by “company stores,” a retail store owned by a company such as a coal mine, that sold necessities to employees of the company. Instead of paying employees in cash, workers were given tokens that could only be used at the ”company store.”
Graham observed banks and financial institutions had their own system for transactions know as National Bank Notes. State and chartered private banks could issue these notes that could be circulated as legal tender and included the issuing bank’s national charter number and a serial number assigned to the note by that bank.
The notes contained a wealth of historic information, and were soon added to his collection, along with post cards and coins.
“I probably have about 4,000 photographs and over 100 tokens,“ Graham said.
Graham himself is a wealth of information, never needing to refer to notes when asked about specific memorabilia. He casually picks up a photo book, flips to a page, points to a token, and begins telling the story, where he found it, and why it is an important piece of history.
He said he finds most of his items at auctions, and it is rare for him to find something not in his collection.
“I just enjoy finding old photos,” he said. “And sharing them with anyone who is interested. I have so many it’s hard to find something I don’t have, but when I do, it is really exciting.”
Graham is very generous when sharing his collecti0n, and said he only charges for copies of the photos to cover his cost for the purchase.
“Some of these photos are very expensive, I’m not interested in making money, I want everyone to look at and enjoy them, and if they want a copy, I just cover my cost.”
The other collectors at the event shared Graham’s view, and said they also collect “a little bit of everything,” and enjoy getting together and sharing their finds with others.
The next opportunity to see Graham and other collectors will be Sunday, April 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Quality Inn in Gallipolis, admission is free.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.