McGraw enjoys large collection of coins

Published 12:26 am Monday, June 20, 2011

Evelyn McGraw, 59, holds a book filled with buffalo nickels outside of her house on Martin Luther King Avenue in Vidalia Saturday afternoon. McGraw has been collecting coins for 10 years, and her collections continue to grow. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA — Friends, family members and colleagues who enter Evelyn McGraw’s house know they may be asked to empty their pockets.

McGraw pulled out her extensive coin collection when The Dart landed on Martin Luther King Avenue in Vidalia Saturday.

Statehood quarters, which began circulating in 1999, first got McGraw’s attention.

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McGraw said she started collecting the quarters in 2009, and the coin obsession took over.

After McGraw filled up her first book of statehood quarters, she moved on to collecting quarters from the U.S. territories. Now she is working on a national parks quarter collection.

McGraw’s collection also boasts Morgan silver dollars, Eisenhower silver dollars, Susan B. Anthony dollars, buffalo nickels, peace dollars and many more. She also has limited edition currency, including a coin depicting President Obama.

Besides searching pawn shops for specific coins, McGraw sifts through the pocket change of everyone she knows — including the inmates at the Concordia Parish work release program, where she is employed.

“The inmates helped me fill the books so fast,” McGraw said. “They’d say, ‘I have a 1946 nickel,’ and I would swap them out for a regular nickel.”

McGraw said she had to educate herself about coin collecting.

“At first, I really didn’t know what to do,” McGraw said. “So, I bought some books and started reading. You’re really supposed to find what you want to collect and narrow it down, but I collect everything.”

McGraw pointed out that coins are marked with a D or P for the mint where they originated — Denver or Pennsylvania. She said her dream coin is a 1936 D buffalo nickel.

“That one has the bison with three legs,” McGraw said. “He’s really worth something. That’s what you want to find.”

McGraw’s coin collection is so important to her, that when she found out Vidalia could be underwater because of the historic Mississippi River Flood in May, she temporarily sent the collection to Texas where her daughter lives.

McGraw said her collection, which is kept under lock and key, will continue to grow as long as friends let her dig through their loose change, and as long as the U.S. mints continue to stamp commemorative coins.