May 14, 2013

Spink Smythe sale 316, May 22-23, 2013

The latest Spink Smythe “Collector’s Series” sale catalog is now available online at For a copy of the physical catalog, call 800-556-7826 or email The auction will take place in Spink’s New York offices May 22 and 23.

As with other sales in the “Collector’s Series,” a wide range of collectibles are being offered. All told, 1277 lots are being offered with the bulk of the sale represented by 542 lots of coins, particularly stunning gold coins. Paper money (380 lots) is also well represented. Especially important is a wonderful collection of U.S Nationals (215 lots.) If there is one particular highlight, it is the second part of an unbelievable collection of George Armstrong Custer paper (59 lots.)

Stocks and bonds involve 149 lots, of which 51 are directly railroad-related. Unlike recent Spink Smythe sales, this sale is light (9 lots) on multi-item lots which I think should be an overall good move for collectors.

It is hard for stocks and bonds to earn their way in normal sales heavily populated with more popular collectibles. In this case, though, Spink is offering several very scarce and rare items that I have either not seen or have not seen in a long while. As typical of Spink Smythe sales, about a third of the railroad lots represent items signed by celebrities such as Belmont, Blair, Fillmore, Gould, Harriman, Huntington, Mellon, John Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, Ryan, Sage and the Vanderbilts.

Two items of note are rail-related autographs, although not signed on certificates. One is an 1882 document representing 80 acres of land sold by the Central Pacific in Yuba County, California. The document is signed by Leland Stanford whose autograph is nearly unknown on stocks and bonds. In my opinion, Spink’s estimate on this item is fair and probably on the low side. (Why the president of the railroad, let alone two corporate trustees, would have signed a sales document for $120 worth of ordinary farm land near Smartville, California is unknown.)

There is a similar situation (restrained estimate) with an 1873 proxy form appointing a man named Niven to vote for directors of the Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris Railroad Co. The item is a partially printed, generic form but is signed by Commodore Vanderbilt, William Henry Vanderbilt and Cornelius Vanderbilt II. All three signatures are clear and bold and the document fully uncancelled. Considering the prices fetched by “C Van Derbilt” autographs in the past, the current estimate of only $1000 to $1500 seems very fair indeed.

I won’t enter information about any of the certificates into my database until after the sale. However, it looks to me like all of the non-autographed lots are either scarce or rare, non-typical items or items not previously recorded. The downside (for Spink) is that there are so few stocks and bonds that they may not attract much attention in the shadow of more popular coins and currency. The upside (for collectors) is that prices might end up being rather reserved. Decide for yourself, but make sure you look over the sale as soon as possible.

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