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Old Money Finds New Home in MSU Libraries After Being Discovered in COB Safe

10-22-18 - Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—When Kathleen Thomas became the department head for Mississippi State’s Department of Finance and Economics this summer, she accepted the challenge of giving MSU students everything they need to thrive in a 21st century economy. However, she quickly discovered a collection in a closed office safe that contained unique insight into the Mississippi economy of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The unopened safe, it turns out, contained hundreds of pieces of antique money dating back to before the American Civil War. In the 1970s, the money was gathered by College of Business faculty, including George Verrall, to create a display on economic history in McCool Hall. After re-discovering the collection this summer, Thomas and the College of Business donated the old money to MSU Libraries. At Mitchell Memorial Library, the money will be stored and made available to those interested in using the collection for research.

“MSU Libraries is most fortunate to receive this excellent collection of coins and bills from this particular area of history,” Dean of Libraries Frances Coleman said. “Each item appears to be representative of some specific event of that particular time. Students, researchers and historians will greatly benefit from this gift provided by the College of Business and Dr. Verrall.”

MSU College of Business Dean Sharon Oswald said the antique money helps tell the story of Mississippi’s economic history.

“During his decades of service at MSU, Dr. Verrall left a substantial legacy in the College of Business and the university, including this significant collection,” Oswald said. “I am glad that this collection will be in the excellent care of MSU Libraries and that others will be able to learn from this tremendous resource.”

Also a university administrator, Verrall worked to establish the money collection in the mid-to-late 1970s. By late 1978, Verrall and former dean Gaines M. Rogers had established the “Currency and Coin Museum” in McCool Hall.

“It became obvious to me that Mississippi had a rich history in money,” Verrall said. “In 1850, Mississippi’s economy was roaring, but it was limited by the amount of gold, silver and copper coins that were available. Banks and railroads began to issue their own money. I figured somebody ought to assemble a representation of early paper money in Mississippi. I wanted to gather that history, if we could.”

Through donations and acquisitions, the College of Business was able to acquire Mississippi-based currency from before, during and after the Civil War, as well as from the Great Depression. The collection contains money issued by private companies, money issued by the state, and money for specific cities, which was issued during the Depression.

“During the Depression, the federal government authorized national banks to print their own money, so we have banks like the First National Bank of Columbus issuing money,” Verrall said. “It was federal money, but it had ‘Columbus, Mississippi’ printed on it, just as cities all over the state did. Starkville had a national bank in those days and it did issue some money, but I could not find one to buy from Starkville.”

After the Depression, the federal government began to standardize paper and coin currency, resulting in the cash system currently in use across the country, Verrall said. Once the collection was established, it was put on display in McCool Hall for several years before eventually being stored in the safe.

“After I retired and others retired, they just left the safe in the department head’s office,” Verrall said. “Until Kathleen moved in and asked, ‘What’s in the safe?’ Now is the right time to transfer it to the library, since the library is now the holder of many objects of significant value. They’ll know what to do with it.”

From left, MSU Dean of Libraries Frances Coleman, College of Business Dean Sharon Oswald, former faculty member and university administrator George Verall, and Finance and Economics Department Head Kathleen Thomas, pose with the safe that contained a collection of antique money Verrall collected in the 1970s. (Photo by Emily Daniels)

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