December 31, 2008
The latest issue of Scripophily arrived this week. If you have not yet received your copy, it is because you need to take a few minutes to join the International Bond & Share Society at scripophily.org. Dues, which include your subscription to Scripophily, are £12 per year.
This issue is the stunning first product of Max Hensley, the new Chief Editor. The magazine retains its square format, but has moved to 40 pages in full color. The magazine is currently scheduled for three issues per year.
Please join your fellow enthusiasts in supporting the IBSS.
Posted by Terry Cox at 2:06 PM
December 26, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 12:24 PM
December 11, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:19 AM
November 25, 2008
There has not been a lot going on in stocks and bonds - unless you count insanity!
With the collapse of financial markets and an assured recession that will last one or more years, it seemed certain that prices for collectibles in general would soften. Prices in our hobby, however, have been at 10-year lows for over a year, so I am really quite uncertain how much further prices will fall.
So far, prices have not collapsed, but they remain soft. However, prices seem much less predictable than I think I have ever seen. Prices are all over the board! Price are both absurdly high and pathetically low at the same time.
In early October, I saw a bond from the Mexican Pacific Railway sell for a very strong $180! I had not seen the bond sell for awhile and was surprised at the strong showing.
Obviously, in live auction situations, it takes a minimum of TWO people to bid prices up. High prices don't happen in a vacuum. While the winner ultimately paid $180, there had to have been at least one other bidder willing to pay $160 to $170.
(Yes, high minimum starting prices are popular in European auctions and they often limit sales to single bidders. In that respect, "auctions" with high starting prices approach the definition of fixed-price sales. In those cases, sellers essentially take over the role of one bidder. By saying, "I'm willing to hold onto these item at these starting prices," sellers are putting in first bids. If no one is willing to pay more, then sellers' implied "bids" win. While there are few "absolute" auctions in the U.S., lower starting prices make U.S. auctions of certificates seem more competitive.)
Then this morning, I saw another example of the same bond sell on eBay for a mere $29 at a "Buy It Now" price. This is what I mean by insane prices. One certificate sold for six times! as much as a nearly identical one. How can we perceive a market direction when prices are so wacky?
In mid October I saw several U.S. certificates sell in the U.K. for what I considered borderline insane prices. Several lots sold for amounts two to five times more than reasonable collectors would have paid. Remember, it takes at least two to tango in genuine live auctions. Hopefully, they saw something in person that had been undescribed in the catalog. Maybe there were autographs. Maybe there were imperf revenues. Maybe there were multiples or undescribed extras. Without expending a lot of energy, there's no way for me to know.
All I can tell for sure is that prices are currently displaying crazy prices ranges right now. If you are a collector picking up certificates at the low end, good for you! Keep it up. If you are participating at the high end, then I sincerely suggest you step back, take a deep breath, and be sure you know what you're doing.
Yes, some of those certificates are quite rare. However, don't be too sure that you will get your money back out in any reasonable amount of time. Now may be the time for bargain-hunting, but it is most assuredly a time for caution.
October 24, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 6:44 PM
October 21, 2008
Spink Smythe's latest sale catalog #289 (mislabeled #288 in tiny numbers on the spine) arrived yesterday. This catalog presents a departure from previous stock and bond sales in that it is now in FULL color. I know that increases production costs, but I think the effort will be most welcomed by collectors around the globe.
The Autumn Stock & Bond Sale will take place at the company's New York offices at 10:00 am, November 7, 2008. The sale features 617 lots with 161 lots involving North American railroads. The buyer's premium is 20% of the hammer price per lot on the first $2000, and 15% thereafter.
Unlike European competitors, Spink Smythe's sales have always offered fair minimum bids. I cannot overstate the importance of this approach for the hobby. By setting reasonable minimum bids, collectors can "feel" the direction of prices, and therefore the direction of the hobby. Astute bidders can get a feeling for how to bid in future auctions and recognize fair versus unfair buying opportunities in fixed price settings.
Reasonable opening prices allow sales of items to develop "momentum" on their way to ultimate sales prices. This is especially important in down markets. Professional auctioneers always seek price momentum. When collectibles have price momentum, they usually achieve higher prices. One of the tricks is to start sales at fair opening bids and thereby allow bidders to generate emotion and enthusiasm, otherwise known as "auction fever." High opening minimums always stifle "auction fever."
I really don't know what kinds of prices we'll see in today's freaked out financial climate. I doubt we'll see any record breaking. However, I can testify that there are some great and rarely-seen certificates in this sale. In situations such as today, moneyed buyers can really clean up. I am NOT predicting, but ... I will not be terribly surprised to see a medium to high percentage of lots sold. (European auctions with high minimum starting bids always have low percentages of lots sold.)
Because of the turbulent financial news, last week's Las Vegas automobile auction was unenthusiastic and disappointing for sellers. However, those advanced collectors with money made some absolutely great buys! Those were the few people that recognize that buying collectibles in times like these can pay off very handsomely indeed.
I think this Spink Smythe sale represents a similar buying opportunity for stock and bond collectors with vision. The pros know that the best time to buy is when everyone else is running scared.
Be sure to contact Spink Smythe immediately for this handsome catalog. Thankfully, the catalog is already online and available for viewing. 147 of the 161 railroad-related lots are illustrated online.
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:28 AM
October 15, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:08 AM
October 06, 2008
For those not already familiar, Clinton Hollins is a long-time dealer in stocks and bonds. Clinton is a no-frills kind of guy who simply goes about his business selling certificates. Clinton has a huge web site that shows much of his vast inventory. Some of us have privately wondered where he gets all his certificates, month in month out.
Because Clinton goes about his business so quietly, it is easy for newcomers to under-estimate both the depth of his inventory and the frugality of his prices. When I frequently mention that "some dealers routinely offer certificates at prices below eBay," this is the guy I'm talking about.
Several times a year, Clinton sends out no-frills, unillustrated price lists. Each one is around 36 pages. He usually prices most items as single and multiples, depending on how many he has in stock.
If you don't already receive Clinton's lists, contact him and be sure to tell him what your specialty might be. The easiest way to contact him is at:
PO Box 2711
Springfield, VA 22152-2711
Posted by Terry Cox at 3:48 PM
September 29, 2008
The latest offerings from Scott J. Winslow Associates Inc will take place October 11. This is a mail, phone and live internet auction, meaning you can bid live via eBay. As always, in cases of tie bids, the earliest bid received takes precedence, so I always recommend bidding as early as you can.
This sale is 100% focused on stocks and bonds. The offering includes 847 lots, with 337 representing railroad companies. As usual, Scott will offer gobs of heavy-hitter autographs, with more than 80 lots involving railroad certificates. Among the autographed items are Gould, Harriman, Commodore Vanderbilt and several lots involving J.P. Morgan.
Winslow remains one of the few auction houses which has not hiked his commission structure. Winslow's rate is still 15% of the hammer price. Because of eBay fees, successful online bidders will pay an additional 5%. This should give you additional incentive to bid early.
I also applaud Scott for clearly stating his minimum acceptable bid - "60% of the low estimate." I really don't understand why many other houses find this concept so hard to understand.
I don't have time for a full count, but it looks like 85% to 90% of the lots are illustrated. Be warned that illustrations are in black and white in the catalog, which is one of the ways to control costs in order to keep commission fees affordable.
Contact Scott J. Winslow Associates immediately to receive a copy of the 102 page catalog. You may also see an Acrobat version of the catalog on the web site. Obviously, color images will appear for the online sale. (You must be registered in advance to participate in the live eBay action.)
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:54 AM
September 24, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:18 AM
August 25, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:31 AM
August 21, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 12:59 PM
August 15, 2008
The 8th annual Northern Virginia Stock and Bond Show will be Jan. 30 and 31, 2009 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Dulles Airport.
I am announcing this show early in case you want to reserve a table for selling certificates.
If you contact show promoter Bob Schell before September 25, you can save 9% to 16% off table rentals, depending on whether you reserve one, two or three tables.
As usual, Bob has negotiated special room rates at Crowne Plaze and there are free shuttles from Dulles.
Contact Bob as soon as possible at:
Posted by Terry Cox at 10:25 AM
August 06, 2008
Ken's nephew contacted me last week to tell me the sad news that Kenneth Holter had recently passed away in St. Paul. Minnesota. Details are sketchy at this time, but I knew Ken had been hospitalized a couple times in the last two years. He was a very private individual, so I knew little of any conditions he may have endured.
Some of you probably knew Ken through his online sales of railroad stocks and bonds at Scripophily Corner. I am positive that all of my newsletter readers recognize his name as a L-O-N-G-time contributor. After the first edition of my catalog appeared in 1995, Ken immediately became one of my heaviest contributors.
Except when on vacation, Ken contributed certificate images every single day. I just did a quick search and found he had reported over 10,500 pieces of information to the database, primarily serial numbers and images. I imagine he contributed another 1,000 pieces of information before I developed capabilities for recording information sources.
In the last couple of years, Ken contributed many new company names by searching through all sorts of railroad passes, books, timetables, brochures and ephemera he found listed on eBay and elsewhere on the web. Ken was seriously detail-oriented and was always on the lookout for errors in descriptions. Had he not contributed a single bit of other information, his error-checking alone would have proven tremendously valuable.
I will miss Ken's constant presence in my e-mail inbox.
Posted by Terry Cox at 8:10 AM
July 30, 2008
Michael Weingarten just sent notice that Hanseatisches Sammlerkontor für Historische Wertpapiere (HSK) will holds its 26th auction in Hamburg, Germany on August 30.
As always, certificates from North America are well represented. Of the 1,466 lots offered, 170 lots are from American companies. 92 lots are railroad certificates.
To make it easy on English speakers, all HSK lots are described in both German and English. Every lot is illustrated and available online at http://www.hsk-auction.com/
July 26, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 6:26 PM
July 14, 2008
Stack's will offer the next batch of 148 American Bank Note Company plates in its upcoming Samuel J. Bernhard sale at ANA's World's Fair of Paper Money in Baltimore. The sale will take place July 27 and 28.
The plates will appear in lots 4001 through 4147. This time, the vast majority of plates are related to paper money with only two plates directly related to railroad certificates.
Lot 4027 (starting price $60) is a cylindrical die of the main vignette and masthead portion of many popular certificates of the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railway Co. This die shows the company name and the vignette of a 4-4-0 locomotive facing l-r.
Lot 4038 (starting price $120) is a plate of a full stock certificate of the Morris & Essex Rail Road Co (MOR-735a-S-50). Of all the plates offered in all the sales so far, only a handful have represented full certificates. This is a very rare opportunity to acquire a full metal printing plate of a railroad stock certificate.
You may view and bid on all the lots online at Stack's web site. Contact Stack's at 800-566-2580 for a copy of the beautiful full color catalog.
Before bidding, I seriously recommend researching past sales prices for plates that have appeared in past sales. (I have a full listing of past Stack's and ANR sales that featured American Bank Note Company plates on my Coxrail site.) Fortunately, all those past sales and prices realized are archived on the Stack's site.
Posted by Terry Cox at 8:13 PM
July 06, 2008
Translation software is constantly getting better, but it is still a long way from perfection. This is especially true if you want to translate descriptions of U.S. certificates you find in German auctions.
I like the translations I get using Google Translate. There seems to be a moderately good sensitivity to context. In other words, it translates by considering surrounding words, instead of merely offering dictionary definitions.
I recently compiled a glossary of German words I most frequently see in certificate descriptions. I also added hints for improving your translation results. (German compound words often befuddle the best translation software.)
Why am I telling you about German auctions?
Because there are certain U.S. certificates that ONLY appear in German auctions.
You need to know that if you bid, you will compete with European collectors who typically bid more freely for rarities than Americans. And if you win, you WILL pay very serious premiums because the dollar has slid so much against the Euro. Nonetheless, the major German language houses speak excellent English and will help you bid if, like me, you do not speak German.
Posted by Terry Cox at 11:58 AM
July 03, 2008
The latest issue (July 2008) of the Numismatist has a great article about Gene Hessler and his winning the American Numismatic Association's highest honor. The honor is especially hightened by the fact that the recipient has worked tirelessly promoting paper money collecting in a hobby dominated almost entirely by collectors of metal coins.
From my earliest days collecting currency, Hessler has been THE towering force in the paper hobby. His works include:
- U.S. Essay, Proof and Specimen Notes
- An Illustrated History of U.S. Loans
- Comprehensive Catalog of U.S. Paper Money
- The Engraver's Line
- The International Engraver's Line
- Buy and Sell Guide to U.S. Coins
- Buy and Sell Guide to U.S. Paper Money
- Collecting Large Size U.S. Paper Money
- Collecting U.S. Obsolete Currency
His stack of awards keeps growing and you have to wonder how he possibly finds time for anything else. Never mind that he is a superb musician who's worked with the likes of Woody Herman and Buddy Rich and played in the orchestra pits of Broadway! He has yet another book coming out, a memoir of his music career titled, Hey Mr. Horn Blower."
I mean really! Does this guy sleep???
The announcement of the award appears in a nicely-done article in the Numismatist by Fred Schwan. (Fred is the guy who took the chance and published the first edition of my catalog.) You may read the article in its entirety online at http://thenumismatist.idigitaledition.com/. The article starts on page 50. Pay special attention to the 1974 picture of Hessler and NBC's critic Gene Shalit on page 53. If that picture doesn't convince you that Gene Hessler is a musician, I don't know what it will take.
Please note that Hessler's book, The Engraver's Line, is focused fully on the engravers and companies of the security printing industry that created paper money, stamps and stocks and bonds. If you don't already have the book, you really owe it to yourself to put a copy on your bookshelf. You can buy the book from Amazon, numismatic book dealers, and from me at Papermental.com.
I hope that every one of you will join me in extending congratulations, good will and appreciation to Gene Hessler, a true giant of the hobby. All you have to do is add a comment below and I will make sure that Gene gets the message.
Posted by Terry Cox at 4:34 PM
June 27, 2008
I just received Spink Smythe's newest sale catalog, The Frederick Forbes Angus Collection including other fine numismatic properties. This catalog is primarily an offering for paper money. However, there are around 230 lots of corporate stocks and bonds, both domestic and foreign. Of that number, 28 lots are rail-related.
Even though this is a minimal stock and bond sale, it marks the first under the new rules of management brought by Spink. Some are pluses; some are not.
First, this marks the first where stocks and bonds are represented throughout the sale in full color. Smythe often had a small color section in the front of its catalogs and black and white elsewhere. Full color represents a welcome step up to the model of auction catalogs pioneered by major coin houses and the major European stock and bond dealers. Not all of the certificates are represented with photos, and that simply represents the reality that stocks and bonds are not going to realize big money. Average certificates cannot pay for themselves in a slick catalog.
The second major change is the commission structure. Smythe's previous commission was 15% on all hammer prices. Some of us reasoned that with today's production costs, 15% commissions in U.S. auctions were not going to last much longer. Spink Smythe has moved to a commission of 20% on the first $2000 and 15% on amounts above that. As I have always advised, it does not matter what commission rates are as long as buyers factor them in and bid accordingly.
There are two other changes that I am under-thrilled with.
It seems Spink Smythe abandoned the catalog numbering system that stretched back for 279 sales to the old NASCA days. The company has moved to a verbal system of naming sales catalogs like Christie's and Stack's.
I hope the other change is merely an oversight. I could not find a spot anywhere in the catalog, nor anywhere on the web site, where minimum bids are discussed.
For a copy of this catalog, or for clarification on minimum bids, call 800-622-1880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The sale will take place July 16 and 17 in New York.
Posted by Terry Cox at 5:15 PM
June 23, 2008
My correspondants and I are really getting tired of inadequate packaging - and not just with eBay sellers. I do not have time to word this with great delicacy and politeness.
Personally, I don't think receiving damaged goods deserves politeness!
Get with the program. If you are selling certificates, then use rigid mailers. NEVER use padded envelopes or bubble envelopes.
Rigid mailers are readily available at the sellers listed below plus many more . They generally sell under the name of "Stay-Flat Mailers", "No-Bend Mailers", or "Rigid Photo Mailers."
Yes, they will cost between 60¢ and $1.50 each, depending on the size. But let me ask you which you would rather do - spend 75¢ on a mailer? Or replace a damaged certificate AND lose future business in the bargain? Besides, you can pass on the cost of the mailer to your buyer.
Here is a quick rundown on suppliers, with links to their web sites:
Uline - look for "Stay Flat Mailers"
Calumet Carton - look for "Stay Flat Mailers"
Packaging Supplies Co - look for "Stay Flat Mailers"
ShippingSupply.com - look for "No-Bend Mailers"
Associated Bag Co. - look for "No-Bend Mailers"
Argrov Box - look for "Stay Flat Mailers"
Amazon.com - look for "Rigid Photo Mailers"
Posted by Terry Cox at 5:19 PM
June 20, 2008
The June newsletter is ready for download.
In this issue, I continue the discussion about the relationship of rarity and price. The point I want make is that "desire" has a direct effect on price. Rarity is affects desire, but it is only one of many variables. Rarity, therefore, has an indirect effect on price.
My main article this time discusses where to find "new" certificates. With prices so very low, both here and in Europe, now is an excellent time to discover and acquire "new" certificates at terrific prices. Low prices will NOT last forever.
Posted by Terry Cox at 9:26 PM
June 17, 2008
I will probably have the June newspetter ready by the end of the week. If you are not already on my subscription list, let me know if you want to be notified when it ready for downloading from my newsletters page.
In the June issue, I will continue talking about the effect of rarity on prices as well as where you can go to find "new" certificates.
Why another newsletter so soon after sending one at the end of April? I just felt like it.
Posted by Terry Cox at 9:32 AM
June 10, 2008
Although the catalog will not be available for a few weeks, there are more ABN plates are slated to appear in Stack's sale planned for July 27-28.
The sale of plates from the American Bank Note Company archives began under American Numismatic Rarities and then continued under Stack's. All the sales have contained a good selection of plates on a wide variety of subjects. There is a little bit of everything there to satisfy just about any collecting interest.
So far, prices for these historic artifacts have proven very strong. If you're interested in acquiring any of these, make sure you do your homework. Don't go in with a lowball bid and expect to win anything.
To date, plates have appeared in two ANR sales and five Stacks sales. You can research prices by looking through Stack's auction archives. Each sale offered about 150-160 plates. Full color images and prices realized are still available online for all lots sold. See my special page on sales of the American Bank Note Company archives for a complete list of all Stack's and ANR auctions that contained plates.
Posted by Terry Cox at 1:00 PM
June 05, 2008
I just checked back with SpinkSmythe and found its upcoming June 18 autograph auction (#280) now online.
As expected there are a few autographs related to stocks, bonds, and railroads. They include signatures from Jay Gould (lots 120 and 121), Collis Huntington (lot 144), Mahone (lot 168), and J.P. Morgan (lots 177 and 178). One of the sleepers, from my point here in Colorado, is the Henry Teller autographed certificate (lot 240).
Teller was a heavy-duty lawyer who moved to Central City when gold was flowing out of the mountains like water. A fair amount of it stuck in his trousers and he somehow managed to build a fortune, an opera house, and a Senate seat. In return, the grateful citizens of this fair state pinned his name to a large county.
In trying to discover his autograph, you may find that Spink's web page mavens have been working overly long hours somewhere on the planet adding new goo-gahs, paint and varnish to the house of Smythe.
If you get to the page pertinent to Autograph Auction 280, you may encounter a minor road bump when the page tells you that you need to accept "cookies." Here's the simple fix...
Depending on which browser you use, simply go to the top menubar and find the part that deals with privacy. Typically, click something like Tools > Options > Privacy. Merely set your privacy settings to "low", refresh the SpinkSmythe web page, and then set your privacy back to where you had it. Once you have Spink's "cookie" on your system, you can browse all auctions.
Posted by Terry Cox at 10:26 PM
June 03, 2008
I just received George LaBarre's newest catalog, Wholesale & Rarities Sale 8. As always, George's catalogs are dramatic, full-color works of art printed on high quality paper. This latest one is 82 pages, with 62 pages dedicated to stocks and bonds. Contact George H. LaBarre Galleries, Inc. Email: email@example.com. 800-717-9529.
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:29 AM
June 02, 2008
Clinton Hollins' latest list just arrived here in Colorado today. For those of you not already on Clinton's list, his unillustrated lists contains hundreds of certificates and come out very frequently. You can view lots online at http://www.clintonhollins.com/. If you are an active buyer on eBay, then you owe it to yourself to check out Clinton's prices.
Posted by Terry Cox at 3:23 PM
May 30, 2008
Long-time certificate dealer David Beach recently told me of his upcoming publishing efforts.
Right now, it looks like his book on collectible cigar labels will come first. If you are not aware of these great collectibles, look at his huge collection online at CIGARBOXLABELS.com. (And, if you're visiting Disney World down in Orlando, be sure to visit.)
Yes, if you're wondering, there are quite a few rail-related labels, including artwork with celebrities such as Commodore Vanderbilt and Henry Clews.
David tells me he is under pressure to finish Cigar Label Advertising Art, so stay tuned. I'll give more details on price and availability as his schedule becomes better defined.
Posted by Terry Cox at 10:23 PM
Spink Smythe (previously R.M. Smythe) will hold an autograph auction of "World Leaders and Heads of State." The sale will take place at its 57th St. gallery in New York on June 18.
Lots are not yet posted online and I have not seen a catalog, However, if this sale is like previous ones, it ought to offer at least a few rail-related autographs. Call 212-943-1880 to order a sale catalog.
Please note their new web address at http://www.spinksmythe.com/.
Also note that some email addresses have changed. It might be a good time to re-connect with your old contacts to make confirm their addresses.
Posted by Terry Cox at 8:48 AM
May 27, 2008
Archives International and H.R. Harmer will conduct their third sale of specimens and proofs from the great archives of the American Bank Note Company in less than a week.
Bob Schwartz just sent a press release saying that IF you have not yet received your catalog, it is not too lates. You can get this 465-page monster catalog by 2-day express mail for $50, or by overnight express for $75.
Contact Robert Schwartz at ROBERT@ABNHARMERAUCTIONS.COM.
Posted by Terry Cox at 8:58 PM
April 29, 2008
April 28, 2008
Posted by Terry Cox at 9:55 PM
April 09, 2008
Today, I removed 32 electric companies from the database that did not have a rail-related keyword as part of their names. Yes, yes, yes, I know. Many electric companies from around 1900 to the mid-1940s operated street railways and interurbans. I would guess the total number probably amounted to 150 to 200 companies. I previously had these 32 companies in the database because they had reported their street rail operations to the ICC at some time. However, I saw no compelling reason to keep these companies in the database IF railroading was not sufficiently important to include as part of their corporate names.
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:30 AM
March 08, 2008
I just added a new page of several hundred deceptive names. These are names that sound like railroad companies, but aren't. This list includes shipping companies, bus companies, miniature railroads, model railroad clubs, and many other kinds of legitimate companies unrelated to railroading. As always, I solicit help adding to this list.
Posted by Terry Cox at 7:32 AM