Calling all coin collectors. Oklahoma Numismatic Association President Gary Parsons, an avid collector of historical coin and script, is working to organize other collectors in Southeast Oklahoma who share his passion.“We’re trying to get a club started in Southeast Oklahoma,” Parsons said. “McAlester just seems like a logical base.”Parsons has an extensive currency collection himself, and would like nothing more than to provide a new venue for coin collecting, especially in an area so rich in history.“It’s all about promoting the hobby and its clubs around the state,” he continued. “This is the only quadrant in the state that doesn’t have a club.”Parsons has been working on starting a club here for the past few months, calling people with contacts and trying to build a network.“At this point I’ve got about 10 people firmly committed,” Parsons said. “What we’re hoping is that we can get established and grow enough that we could eventually do a show at the Expo.” Currently there are two major shows in Oklahoma. One in Oklahoma City in May, and one in Tulsa in the fall. Clubs organize the shows to which they invite dealers, and collectors have the opportunity to expand their collections.“I’m a collector, not a dealer,” Parsons said. “I got involved in the hobby when I was about 11. I’m 66 now. It’s just a clean, fascinating, interesting hobby, especially if you like history – or even art. There’s an artistic side to the metals of the coins, and even the notes.”Parsons continued to say that Southeast Oklahoma, McAlester in particular, has an interesting history, especially where coins and currency are concerned, and he has examples to illustrate.“I have a Hailey Coal & Mining Co. 10 cent note from the Indian Territory,” he said proudly. “Signed by Mr. Hailey himself.”In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the mining industry issued its own paper money and tokens to be used as currency by the families it employed, according to Parsons.“Being in isolated areas, the mines had company stores for the families to get necessities,” he explained. “So they made their own notes and tokens. The note I have was circulated around the turn of the century, before statehood, in 1905 or so.”Parsons also owns tokens from the mercantile store owned and operated in North Town by J.J. McAlester, for whom the town is named.While Parsons is a serious collector with a significant investment in his hobby, he knows there must be people in the area who have valuable currency from days gone by that have been passed down through the generations.“I like to be involved in bringing some history to light,” he said. “I’d like to work with the Indian tribes, not for commercial reasons, but because it’s interesting history. What I’m interested in is the collecting of old money and money substitutes.“The Indian tribes had mediums of exchange, they bartered, but they had scripts, too, and tokens. I’d like to find out about what they’ve got, advise them on preserving it, and preserve the history. We’d like to see the historical society involved, as well.”An organizational meeting of the future club is scheduled for Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. at the McAlester Public Library.
By Mandy Carter