The Big Piney Morgan Collection
Big Piney Bank 1915
State Bank of Big Piney, Wyoming, circa 1915. (Photo courtesy of Helen Atwood)
by Joe Gerdom
September 17, 2007
Coin collections always start somewhere. An old coffee can that caught spare change, a small coin purse found at the back of a desk drawer; the beginnings are almost as numerous as the collectors themselves. This is a short story about one of those collections.
Dode Gerdom, a Casper native – but frequent Big Piney visitor - collected Morgan silver dollars throughout his life. Most came from a small mountain bank in western Wyoming, The State Bank of Big Piney.
Periodically, one of my dad’s old University of Wyoming college friends – “Buzzy” Wassenberg, then bank president – would call him and let him know that the bank would be getting a shipment of silver dollars. That’s all it would take. Off we would go, from Casper to Big Piney, for a day of “treasure hunting.”
The State Bank of Big Piney, Wyoming, was a small town bank with a very small vault. In fact, there was just enough room in the vault for two chairs, a small table, and a father with his eight year old son. He would hand me a list of dates, mint marks, and grades to look for [keep in mind, in the late fifties and early sixties, there weren’t seventy different grades!]. I was a fair hand at grading and looking for details, but I knew that I was almost assured of a soda from the next door drug store if I spotted any quality Carson City’s.
We would work through as many bags as we could before Buzzy closed the bank. When he gave the “last call” notice, my dad would peek through the remaining bags, select two, and then, in a process I only came to appreciate later, handed the bank president a check for two thousand dollars. We would then – on good days – stop by the drug store for a soda, then off to Casper. That evening and through Sunday, friends and family would carefully examine and compare coins from the final two bags. By Sunday night, everyone had decided on some of the coins and given my father cash or checks.
As I mentioned, it wasn’t until later that I understood why Monday mornings had to start early. My dear father would take the remaining dollars, cash, and checks and wait at the front door of the Casper bank so that the two thousand dollar check written on Saturday could be cashed on Monday.
And so, the collection grew to its present state. With the exception of the 1895, the Big Piney collection covers the entire mintage of Morgan’s and features numerous mint state coins. But most of all, it captures Saturday afternoons in Big Piney.
For more information, please contact: Joe Gerdom, firstname.lastname@example.org; 970-222-6090