A collector’s collector Retiring Cason Schaffer still seeking elusive postcard

Published 11:59 pm Saturday, December 25, 2010

Anglers call it “the one that got away” — the prized catch that wasn’t meant to be.

For Cason Schaffer, it’s a postcard. And on this day he cannot find the closest replica he has to it.

Flipping through a bound volume of Vicksburg postcards — all vertical and all either city or Vicksburg National Military Park scenes — hundreds of pages thick, he shifts back and forth looking for the prize.

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“There it is,” he said before pulling a copied picture of an original postcard featuring Lincoln Savings Bank, the first black-owned bank in Mississippi.

The bank opened in 1892 and lasted until 1911 on Washington Street. Schaffer has a token from the bank that, when presented with 50 cents to a bank teller, would open a savings account worth a dollar.

Although the bank has been closed coming on a century, Schaffer knows somewhere an original postcard of the bank exists. He located it once — on Internet auction site eBay — but the bid got too high.

“The bid got up to $117,” said Schaffer, 83. “I didn’t want to go higher than that.”

He has been kicking himself ever since.

He can show visitors volumes of Vicksburg-area postcards in the room his wife of almost 59 years, Frances, calls the “junk room.”

“She’s always sending me there,” Schaffer said with a chuckle.

Or he could open the curio cabinet to reveal hundreds of medicine bottles, each engraved with the name of a Vicksburg pharmacy.

“Can you imagine that now? Having the name of the drug store engraved in a glass bottle?” he asked.

Interested in sales tax stamps or tokens from the 1930s? Schaffer will dig out another album and roll his fingers over the pages, describing each piece in detail.

It’s the coins, though, and his involvement in the Vicksburg Coin Club and Mississippi Numismatic Association that had a group of about 30 gathered to honor Schaffer. He is retiring his post as secretary-treasurer of the VCC after, well, he doesn’t really know how many years.

“Cason, on behalf of the Vicksburg Coin Club, I want to say thank-you,” said Mark Richter, VCC president. “Cason would handle all the little details, and we would pretty much ride his coattails.”

Coin shows in Vicksburg — there are usually three a year — began, likely in 1968. The shows are considered some of the best the state has to offer, and Schaffer has been a huge part in that, members of the MNA said. He was responsible for setting up tables, collecting money and everything in between. The first one to arrive and the last one to leave became his calling card.

“I’m almost 84 years old,” Schaffer said. “It got to be too much. It’s time for someone else to take over.”

In 2011, he will continue to have a role in Vicksburg shows and plans to remain active in the VCC, just not as active.

“There will never be another one like you,” Darrell Beeson, president of the MNA, told Schaffer as he presented a Cross pen set. Schaffer also received a 2010 Silver Eagle coin with a personalized message and a plaque from the VCC.

His collecting obsession began long ago.

At 14, he penned and edited a story about sales tax tokens in Stamp and Hobby News. His father worked for the railroad and coached a local baseball team. Schaffer graduated from Carr Central High School and then Mississippi State. He served in the military, then spent most of his life working as a social worker and for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Association.

Both Cason and Frances (Currey) Schaffer attended Carr Central High School, but they didn’t meet until they were in college — he at Mississippi State and she at the current Mississippi University for Women.

“I never knew who she was,” Schaffer said with a chuckle.

Almost 59 years later, the two have spent the majority of their married life in Vicksburg.

Their four sons are carrying on the tradition as collectors.

Two are bottle collectors, another is a stamp collector and his fourth collects postcards. Even Frances Schaffer is quick to lead a visitor into the back of their three-acre plot of land to show off the “bottle dump” — a shed filled with old glass bottles with even more spread on the surrounding ground.

For Cason Schaffer, though, like any dedicated fisherman, he knows that the big one is still out there somewhere. He knows the next time opportunity presents itself, he will jump.

He has enlisted the help of friends and collectors nationwide, and even has his postcard-collecting son on the hunt. Being as Saturday was Christmas, he even wondered if maybe that same son might have found the elusive Lincoln Savings Bank postcard and has been holding a secret that he might deliver today when the family has Christmas together.

“I don’t know if he could keep a secret like that,” said Schaffer, his eyes showing a bit of hope that maybe today he will finally land the big one.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545 or smurphy@vicksburgpost.com.