December 28, 2015

Website changes


I hope you have noticed some of the new changes to the Coxrail website. These updates include:


Switch to "Responsive" design.


In computer jargon, "responsive" or "fluid" web designs allows pages to change placement of images and page parts depending on the sizes of devices used to view the website. This allow pages to be viewed on devices ranging from large desktop monitors to tablets to smartphones (as shown at left.)

Users can now view the Coxrail site without needing to zoom in and out or pan from side to side. This change now allows users to access the database anywhere they may encounter certificates.

There are over 550 pages on the Coxrail website that hold static information. The database allows access to over 100,000 pages of dynamic information that is delivered on-the-fly as users request searches. With that much information compiled in one place, there are bound to be errors and problems. I BEG users to report any and all problems and mistakes they might stumble across.




Coal database added.


I have been compiling information about certificates from North American coal companies for a few years. I have finally opened up the database and now allow anyone to search for certificates in the same manner as for railroads. As of this date, there are 1,638 coal company certificates described, compared to 20,411 railroad company certificates.

As most of you know, coal was crucial to the operation of railroads, so it was common for railroads to either mine coal for their own purposes or to own captive coal mines in order to ensure their supplies of fuel. Consequently, there are 138 certificates found in both specialties.

Users may search for coal certificates from the normal search page simply by clicking on the "coal" option within the yellow search box.

The coal company project is a minor project and will remain one simply because coal mining was never "big business" like railroading. That is not to say there weren't a few large companies. Still, the collecting of coal company certificates is a small specialty with few active participants. Prices tend to be low to extremely low, regardless of rarity. It is not at all uncommon to be able to buy unlisted certificates for less than $5 on eBay.


Image sizes enlarged. 


For several years, users have been able to view images of certificates in two ways: either as collections of multiple images or as single images. Up until now, I have restricted images sizes to 200 pixels wide (a little over 2" wide on average screens) in order to keep my website costs manageable.

I recently switched website hosts and uploaded as many larger images as possible. Almost 2/3 of the previous images were enlarged. The larger images are now up to 640 pixels wide which works out to about 6.7 inches wide on average monitors. Most images now consume 10 times more display area..

Larger images are available whenever users view images of individual certificates. The collections of multiple images are still restricted to 200 pixels so users can continue to view collections of all certificates known for whole companies.

Unfortunately, I do NOT have large images for every certificate. Currently, there are 14,807 certificate images available online (13,857 railroad, 950 coal.) Of that number, 9,382 are now available for viewing in at 640 pixels wide.

Of course, that also means that 5,425 images need enlargement and improvement! Moreover, there are 7,144 certificates – a full 1/3 of all certificates recorded – that still lack any sort of decent image, large or small !!

Consequently, if any of my readers own any certificates lacking images or needing improvement, please consider sending larger scans or acceptably good photographs for inclusion online.

October 20, 2015

Mario Boone Auction & Bourse #55


Yet another beautiful set of catalogs from Mario Boone in Deinze, Belgium. This time, Mario will offer 2000 lots, entirely scripophily. The first quarter of the sale is dedicated entirely to French (and French-related) certificates. As many of you already know, French certificates tend to be rather ornate, with many being highly artistic. There are huge numbers of intriguing certificates in a special 96-page catalog dedicated entirely to those certificates.

The remaining 1,500 lots represent the rest of the world, far too many to illustrate entirely in the printed catalogs. Thankfully, Mario illustrates ALL of his lots in full color online at Booneshares.com. Having said that, be aware that the printing and production of Boone's catalogs is always superb and I am honored to have them in my catalog collection.

(Note for non-Europeans. Prices are, of course, in Euros, but Boone catalogs are written entirely in English.)

Boone's offerings are most emphatically global in nature. That means you will find certificates from everywhere and anywhere. Certificates involve every kind of business imaginable. Obviously, my interests are North American railroads and the selection this time seems a little more subdued than normal. Nonetheless, I count 37 rail-related lots.

To me, the standout is a £100 bond from the St Francis Branch of the Temiscouata Railway.This bond was printed in London and issue from Quebec in 1890. This particular certificate is one of only two known to me. It last sold in Germany in 2007 and is the image I show on my website.

Paging toward American certificates, I will suggest Central American enthusiasts stop and take a look at a 1904 bond from the Vera Cruz & Pacific Railroad Company (issued from West Virginia.) While not nearly as scarce as the Canadian bond, this is a certificate that appears for sale only sporadically.

I count 29 American railroad certificates, the priciest being an 1870 £100 bond issued by the Maxwell Land Grant & Railway Company. This certificate (shown at left) is one of only six to appear and will represent a new variety (based on the imprinted revenue) when sold. Like the other five, this bond is signed by William Jackson Palmer (president) and Thomas Scott (trustee.)

For fans of the Vanderbilts is a signed but unissued bond receipt for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad (titled a 'Consolidation Certificate') signed by William Henry Vanderbilt. Although undated, I strongly suspect this certificate was signed in about 1874, shortly after he took over the reins of the company from the Commodore. The certificate is uncancelled, so the signature is in great shape.

There are numbers of other medium-scarcity certificates for sale, but I'd also recommend considering a 1906 $1000 bond from the Muncie & Union City Traction Co. This is what I'd call a 'sleeper.' The lowest sales price I've ever recorded is $125, but I've only recorded three certificates before this one. Admittedly, traction companies have never been as popular as mainline railroad companies in the U.S., but still, this makes only the fourth example to come to my attention.

Substantially more common, but always fetching a higher price is a brown preferred stock certificate from the Hupp Automatic Mail Exchange Company. This certificate and its green common stock companion are always popular items because of the huge custom vignette on both front and back.

Finally, I must mention the ever-popular 1873 stock certificate from the Harrisburg Portsmouth Mount Joy & Lancaster Rail Road. The one offered in Mario Boone's sale is signed by John Edgar Thomson who was president of the Pennsylvania Railroad for 22 years. Although I have recorded 96 of these certificates so far, and suspect there are double that number in collections, it remains one of the most popular American certificates around because of its ten(!) vignettes. I suspect this certificate was designed in 1845 or 1846 by Toppan Carpenter. That company was later consolidated into the great American Bank Note Company and you can spot the tiny "ABNCo" logo at the bottom right corner of Franklin's vignette on certificates dated 1859 and later.

Be sure to check out the catalog online, but you will need to act fast if you want a physical catalog.


.

October 13, 2015

Archives International Sale 29, October 24 and 29


It is hard to believe that Archives International Auctions is already up to sale 29! A tremendous number of items have already passed under AIA's gavel and another 1,300-plus lots are destined for sale later this month.

While my focus (of course) is railroad stocks and bonds, Robert Schwarz and his organization bring you much more than scripophily. The first session of the sale will take place on Saturday, October 24 at the Museum of American Finance in New York. AIA's sale takes place in conjunction with John Herzog's Wall Street Collector's Bourse, now in its fifth year. Being situated at 48 Wall Street, the main exhibition hall at the museum is the perfect place for a sale heavy in stocks and bonds.

Session One contains a large number of corporate stocks and bonds, Federal bonds and Confederate bonds, Also appearing for the first time are an interesting array of items from Herzog's personal collection.

Session Two will take place a few days later (October 29) at AIA offices in Fort Lee, New Jersey. That portion of the sale will offer over 300 lots of worldwide currency, many of which are specimens. Additionally, there are another 300+ lots of U.S. currency of all types plus a couple hundred more lots miscellaneous lots of coins, checks, printing ephemera and scripophily.

Of interest to my readers are 134 scripophily lots related to North American railroads (122 in session 1 and 22 in session 2.) As normal, Mr. Schwarz will offer a number of American Bank Note Company specimens, several of which are not yet listed in my database.

For those of you with interests outside of railroading, you will find several notable standouts too numerous to mention. Okay, I have to mention an 1865 Republic of Mexico bond, an 1889 Submarine Boat and Torpedo Co, stock, a Sierra Nevada & Pacific Coast Gold, Silver & Copper Mining Exploring Company & Land Association stock ( Is that a name or what?), a U.S. Battleship Maine Salvage Company stock and many, many more.

In terms of railroading. I suggest turning your attention to:

  • Colorado Central Rail Road Co. stock certificate boldly issued to Henry Teller. 
  • Denver Union Railway & Terminal Co. 1890 specimen bond
  • Chicago & Ohio River Rail Road Co 1886 issued bond
  • Maysville & Big Sandy Railroad Co 1888 specimen bond
  • Missouri Pacific Railway Co 1880 specimen bond
  • St Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad Co 1872 specimen bond

Having said that, I'll merely mention that you really need to sit down with the session 1 catalog and your computer. Search my database and you will find a number of certificates that are either very scarce or unlisted. MANY of those certificates are greatly more scarce than the Portsmouth Harrisburg Mount Joy & Lancaster Rail Road Co certificate offered as lot 248. Nonetheless, I'll bet lot 248 will attract more bidders than several other items you will not see again for ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years. So put in your bid by mail, fax or phone. You may not win, but I'll guarantee that if you don't bid, you're 100% sure not to win.

The catalog is online at Archives International Auctions. If you prefer a physical catalog, contact the AIA office by email or phone (201-944-4800.) You may also reach AIA by an online contact form.

September 28, 2015

HWPH auctions 39 and 40


Matthias Schmitt and his company, HWPH (Historische Wertpapiere AG) has two upcoming auctions on October 17 and 19. The majority of the lots involve German certificates, but there are still significant numbers of items from North America, Asia and elsewhere.

HWPH catalogs are among the most well-produced and well-illustrated catalogs for the stock and bond hobby. HWPH catalogs show all lots in full color which is essentially the European standard. The thing that separates HWPH from its global competitors is its awareness that it can use the web to show details that no printed catalog ever can.

By going to the HWPH website, collectors can see online images of certificates that are over seven inches across! I do not know of any other catalogers in the stock and bond specialty who show their lots in the same manner.

By my count, HWPH is offering 40 lots related to North American railroading. Standouts include the ever-popular Harrisburg Portsmouth Mount Joy & Lancaster Rail Road Company stock certificate with ten distinct vignettes (lot 101.) Another interesting offering is lot 103 which features an 1865 Illinois Central Rail Road stock certificate. This certificate is one of only four known to me and fetched an historic high price of $581 (counting commission) in Germany in 2013.

Many of the remaining lots are seen with some frequency in the United States and would not cause much excitement if offered here. However, as always, there are a few very rare items that might go unnoticed.

One is a $1000 second mortgage bond from the Columbia Electric Street Railway Light & Power Company from Columbia, South Carolina. This item is one of only two to have come to my attention and both of those sold on eBay in 2014.

Another item sure to escape attention is a Canadian-Pacific-Railway-Company share supposedly issued in Montreal in 1911. This particular variety was the subject of a November, 1991 article in the International Bond & Share Society Journal. According to the article, the Canadian Pacific testified that it never issued such certificates. On the other hand, the author suggested (and I concur) that the company might very well have been mistaken. These certificates are so well-engraved that it seems unlikely they were entirely fraudulent. At any rate, this certificate makes the fifth to be listed in my database and is historical by its confusing nature. (See a reprint of the IBSS article on my website at http://www.coxrail.com/IB&SSJ.asp.)

There are another couple deserving of attention. One is a stock certificate from the Kinniconick Freestone Railroad Company. This certificate is not horribly rare (six in my database), but is still infrequently seen. Another is a generic Goes certificate for the Madden Silent Wheel Corporation (four known to me.) The certificate being offered is one that previously appeared in a George LaBarre catalog from 2006.

These two sales will take place on the third weekend in October, so collectors still have time to acquire catalogs if they desire hard copies. Otherwise, interested collectors go to the HWPH site and browse the catalog online.

September 15, 2015

Spink Collector's Series Sale, Sep 24-25, 2015


It's tough to promote auctions when I receive catalogs with less than two weeks' notice. I can only hope that my readers receive their copies in time. If you are not on the Spink mailing list, then please act today!

At any rate, the latest Spink sale will take place in New York on September 24 and 25. You can find details at Spink's site along with the capability of downloading a PDF version of the catalog.

There is a lot to like in this sale. I count 126 lots of railroad-related certificates. One of the things I especially appreciate is an increased emphasis on telling collectors that certificates are NOT cancelled. Thank you Spink!

As all of you are aware, coins and currency tend to sell for substantially more than scripophily and, consequently, are more profitable for auction companies to sell. Still, Spink has dedicated quite a lot of space in this catalog for scripophily illustrations (40 by my count) and I am sure collectors will enjoy that costly decision. Nonetheless, I continue to warn collectors to to pay special attention to non-illustrated lots. There are some gems hiding in the shadows, so be sure to take your time with the catalog and use my web site to see more illustrations.

(The majority of the small lots are well-described. Used with my online database, you will generally be able to tell precisely which certificates are being sold in the non-illustrated lots.)

One such non-illustrated gem is a Rio Grande Southern Railroad stock certificate signed by Colorado narrow-gauge pioneer Otto Mears. This is one of eight certificates that I have recorded, although I suspect several more exist. This particular example last sold in 2005 for $259.

Other notable lots include:

  • South Pacific Coast Railway specimen bond; last sold for $900 in 2007 and illustrated on the back cover
  • Denver & Boulder Valley Rail Road stock certificate; only seven known to me and this particular certificate was last offered 18 years ago
  • Nevada Central Railway proof bond (with typical accessory impressions); I agree with Spink's suggestion that this is 'probably unique'
  • Columbia & Klickitat Railway stock certificate; non-illustrated; while I can not possibly see every sale that takes place, I have not encountered another example since 1996
  • Dakota Pacific Railroad bond; yes, friends, it IS scarce
  • Northern Pacific & Puget Sound Shore Railroad specimen bond; I have never encountered before
  • Ferrocarrilles Unidos de Yucatan specimen bond; another example previously unknown by me
  • Pachuca Zacualtipan & Tampico Railway Ltd, specimen bond; I suspect this item is unique; last sold by Spink in 2009
  • Tehuantepec Inter-Ocean Railroad Co; yet another specimen I suspect of being unique; last sold in 1997
  • Maryland & Pennsylvania Rail Road Co, bond; this is a sleeper I hope collectors will notice; while there are almost certainly other examples hidden in American collections, I know of only two other examples; both of those are in Germany with little likelihood of returning to the U.S. anytime soon.

Forty-five of the lots being offered are multi-item lots, 13 of which contain from 100 to 1000 certificates each. A few of those large lots show that the great Penn Central/New York Central hoard is still being liquidated twenty-nine years after its release! If you have need for Pennsylvania Railroad certificates, you can probably pick up a thousand for less than 50 cents apiece. New York Central certificates? Probably a dollar apiece or less.

The point I want to make is that there should be something in this sale for everyone. Just make sure that you understand the sale will take place the fourth week in September. There is no time to dawdle.

August 30, 2015

Recycled Securities


Jim Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Currency & Coins sent this email on August 29, 2015


Was advised to send you these images  - I collect Texas Civil War County Scrip, and alwasy interested in the paper that the printers would scrounge up in order to complete an order - it "appears" this two note sheet of 25 Cent notes is printed on the back portion of a Eastern Texas Rail Road Company bond - as it was also payable in Nacogdoches.

I'll check with some other collectors to see if there notes are also on the back of this company's bonds.



Nacogdoches County  25-cent fractional currency (note the bond image showing through from the back)


While only "The Easte" is visible on this fragment, it is reasonable to conclude this item was part of a bond from the Eastern Texas Railroad Company. It turns out, however, the Mr. Fitzgerald had previously spotted an unattributed stock certificate from the company on a site titled "CSA Railroads", maintained by David Bright, at http://www.csa-railroads.com/Images.htm. (See below)


Note that the vignette and the text style are identical between the stock certificate and the bond fragment.

My reply:


Thanks for sending me images of both the fronts and backs of these fractional notes from Nacogdoches County. Back when I sold paper money, I used to see quite a few obsolete notes from southern states printed on the backs of recycled bonds. Normally, it was hard to determine what the original bonds might have been because it was rare to see more than a small part of a bond at any one time.

This particular railroad company was incorporated in 1856 and was sufficiently successful to have laid over 50 miles of track. The company lasted until about 1863 when its equipment was raided to fortify Fort Sabine, so I’m not entirely clear why its bonds were recycled into currency for Nacogdoches County. Nonetheless, it was a common practice in the Civil War South.

Followup for my readers:

Before we go any further, let me stress that:

  • I have no conclusive evidence that any complete bonds for the Eastern Texas Railroad Company survive. At the present, we have no existing documents with which to compare this fragment.
  • Records are not exact, but it is possible a bond from this company might reside in the collection of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (box 4-3/442). If anyone has access and can check out this source, I'd appreciate knowing. (See http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/10220/10220-P.html.)
  • Other than a passing reference in the source mentioned above, I can find no evidence that the Eastern Texas Railroad issued bonds. However...
  • Few railroads could have been constructed from the proceeds of stock sales alone. It was a near-necessity for railroad companies, large or small, to borrow money by selling bonds.
  • The majority of railroad companies seem to have issued bonds soon after incorporation.
Decent paper was in short supply practically everywhere across the Confederate states and grew worse as the Civil War wore on. It is extremely common to find obsolete currency printed on recycled documents of all types. Many of the notes of the time were uniface. Flip the notes over and you will often find evidence of invoices, receipts, stock certificates, bonds and, most commonly, other currency. Without a lot of work, it is usually impossible to identify the origin of the recycled documents.

In this case, it appears that Nacogdoches County needed to print fractional notes for local circulation because coins had all been hoarded after the outbreak of the Civil War. The County probably reached out to local businesses for any kind of usable paper and discovered that the railroad had a stash of bonds that it had been unable to sell.

Mr. Fitzgerald's example is HIGHLY unusual in that his uncut pair of 25-cent notes is large enough to be able for him to speculate about the company name on the original bonds. Look at the top image of the uncut pair of Nacogdoches notes and imagine if the two notes had been cut apart. There would have been NO possible way to identify the source of the printing on the other side!

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Fitzgerald's conclusion about the origin of the paper. Outside of the Eastern Texas Rail Road, I doubt there were any companies near Nacodoches large enough to attempt to sell corporate bonds.

In an attempt to learn more about its bond issues, I looked a little more into the company. It appears that my source of the company incorporation date was wrong. In my experience, finding wrong dates in railroad literature is the rule, not the exception. So, let me clarify with more research. Also, let me warn my readers that any and all derivative sources of date information are open to suspicion. Unless you are looking at original documents, you must suspect every date and every so-called "fact" you find. 

According to the Texas State Historical Association (Handbook of Texas Onlinehttps://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eqe04), the first incarnation of the company was the Henderson & Burkeville Railroad Company, chartered in 1852. That company changed its name to Mexican Gulf & Henderson Railroad Company in an 1856 charter amendment. The Eastern Texas Rail Road Company was chartered in January, 1860 and took over from the MG&H RR. The full text of the January 27, 1860 company charter appears in a section titled Special Laws of the Eighth Legislature Convened Nov. 7th, 1859 that appears in the General Laws of Texas.

Is the history of the company as clear as that? Of course not! 

According to the Transactions of the Texas Academy of Science for 1906 (published 1907), the Eastern Texas Railroad was chartered in 1858. Support for that earlier date is partially substantiated by a 2-page document, dated Jul 26, 1858, at which time Texas Governor Hardin Richard Runnels appointed commissioners for the Eastern Texas Railroad Company. The earlier date is further referenced in the Analytical Index to the Laws of Texas (1906) under legislation named 4-1239-1858 that chartered the company in 1858. Nonetheless, I have been stymied to find more robust clarification of the 1858 charter through online research.

So with this meager information in hand, I will guess that the company would have tried to sell bonds after both the 1858 and 1860 incorporations. 

My proof? None. So I will continue with my speculations.

There seems to be no evidence that the Eastern Texas Railroad (of 1858) laid any track in either 1858 or 1859, probably because of the lack of money.  

On the other hand, we know from numerous sources that the company had laid 15 to 20 miles of track from Sabine Pass to Beaumont by 1861. Obviously, it had acquired money from somewhere.

It turns out that the State Gazette (Austin) reported in its July 7, 1860 issue that investors had already subscribed to $301,000 in stock, presumably issued by the 1860 version of the company. As I said earlier, companies could rarely lay track without borrowing substantial amounts of money through the issuance of bonds. Therefore, it seems probable the source of 1861 construction funds came from 1860 or 1861 bond sales. 

In conclusion, if the company issued bonds in 1860 (or 1861) and they were still extant in 1861, there would have been no reason to recycle them into currency in 1862. It seems much more likely that Mr. Fitzgerald's Nacogdoches County notes were printed on recycled bonds that had been printed in 1858.




August 29, 2015

Autographs from Minor Celebrities


email from "M.S", January 13, 2015 —

I am a German collector of famous autographs on historic shares/bonds. Some month ago I contacted Matthias Schmitt from HWPH with a question about the Frederick Weyerhaeuser signature (junior or senior). He told me he mailed with you and finally we solved the issue. In the meantime I checked my whole database against your webpage, "Known autograph occurrences on collectible certificates“ and I found some in my opinion missing autographs (railway related) which I would like to provide you. I hope the information is helpful and I am happy to provide more information or copies from auction catalogues. If you are still interested in signature samples I can provide as well some signatures which are still missing on your page, just let me know.

My reply —

I finally found some time to work on the list of autographs you sent. It was impossible to add information about certificates from several companies (North American Co and Northern Pacific Railroad Co, for instance) because I could not determine specific varieties.

Still, I was able to add about 70% of the entries on your list to the database..

I must stress that I do not create separate listings for autographs of minor celebrities unless those autographs add at least $25 and 25% to the value of certificates.

It is my experience that autographs of all types, including minor celebrities, attract higher bids in Germany than they do in the United States. With some exceptions, autographs of minor celebrities attract little attention in the U.S.

It is equally apparent that German collectors place much higher values on rarity than average American collectors, especially if certificates have plain appearances. This was not always true, but the fascination for vignetted certificates is currently very high (in the U.S.).

Note to blog readers —

I always ask contributors to send images when contributing information. Without images, I usually cannot ascribe information to correct varieties.

August 16, 2015

Printer/engraver for Baltimore & Ohio certificates


G.A. is a long-time correspondent and contributor and asked another great question on August 15. I spent an overly long time on trying to answer his question, so decided to share it here.

Hi Terry - I picked up an 1846 B&O stock certificate recently (BAL-662a-S-25) and it's been bugging me that there is no imprint by the bank note printer anywhere on it. Your database lists the very first B&O stock (a proof, actually) as printed by Stacy & Richardson of Boston. However, that's appears to be a different certificate and doesn't include the "maidens" on the later stock, or a photo to compare.

Do you have any further information? I was able to locate an image of a fractional banknote with one of the same "maidens" as the stock -- however, it has no printer's imprint either. This one of those mysteries that OCD collectors should stay clear of, but alas, it's too late for me. And since this is might possibly be the earliest issued railroad stock, it would be nice to nail it down.



There is little I can add, other than to correct the printer name. This listing was among my earliest listings, at a time when I merely recorded printer/engraver names as three-letter abbreviations. I later went back and tried to clarify all abbreviations, but it was such a monumental job that I had to give up before completion.

At any rate, according to Smythe catalog listings, the real printer on the certificate was Edward Stabler (hence the ‘Sta’ abbreviation). Please note that Gene Hessler (in The Engraver’s Line) failed to make any mention of an Edward Stabler.

I then searched censuses and found an Edward Stabler as head of a 13-member household in Washington DC in the 1830 census. That man probably died in January, 1831.

The 1840 census shows two Edward Stablers and one E. H. Stabler, all of whom were heads of households in Baltimore. Unfortunately, neither the 1830 nor 1840 census elaborated any crucial details. Interestingly, ‘Edward Stabler’ has never been a popular name in the United States, so it appears possible that one of these men was a printer/engraver.

The 1850 census was the first to list occupations and family members. By that time, two of the earlier Stablers had died. One Edward Stabler, age 55 was found in Montgomery County, Maryland, but was listed as a farmer. I suspect this man died in 1883 and is buried at Sandy Spring, Maryland. A few additional Edward Stablers had appeared by 1850, but all were too young to have been a printer/engraver in the early 1830s.

As for Stabler's proof certificate, small images appear in two R.M. Smythe sale catalogs. (Sale 102, lot 127 and sale 172, lot 1081.) The later image is slightly larger than the first. I have included a 600 dpi scan of the image.


By comparing the image for the S-15 proof with the earliest issued B&O certificates (S-25b), you will notice that the top half of the certificates are nearly identical down to the company name in the middle. The only obvious differences are the two medallions on S-15 are later occupied by vignettes of two females on S-25, S-25a and S-25b.


In 1992, Smythe described the S-15 certificate as “probably the earliest American railroad certificate proof known.” I fully agree. It appears this certificate was offered for sale again in 1998, with its origin suggest as “ca. 1930.

It appears to me that the earliest certificates issued by the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road were slight modifications of Stabler’s proof. At this time, the earliest issued B&O certificates (starting with #51) come from July, 1835. The B&O issued over 1,200 certificates that year, so I strongly suspect the first certificate was issued in July, 1835 possibly June.

Based on the large number of serial numbers now recorded for early Baltimore & Ohio certificates, I think I would push the date of engraving forward to either 1834 or 1835. We must observe that Mr. Stabler’s vignette and certificate was extremely well-executed and quite advanced for such an early effort.

In my first edition, I lumped all the certificates that resemble Mr. Stabler’s proof into one variety named S-25. Since that time, I subdivided S-25 into three sub-varieties dependent on a notification that indicated how many dollars per share had been paid. The numbers of available images has increased dramatically, so I now can attribute serial numbers to sub-varieties fairly well.

Based on your question, I went back through all the images of B&O certificates I could find, both in my digital images and those in catalogs. It now appears there are clear demarcations between dates and dollars per share notification. I had always assumed a better relationship would emerge and that now seems to be the case.

The earliest variety now appears to be S-25b, the variety that reads, ‘on which $75 have been paid.’ Those all seem to date from 1835 and 1836.


No dated certificates have yet been reported to me for certificates dated between September 29, 1836 and November 17, 1837. Missing are serial numbers 1815 through 2142. Sometime during that period, the company switched from S-25b to S-25a.

S-25a is the variety that allowed variable payment per share. Those all now appear to date from 1837 to 1844.


Bringing up the late-date variety is S-25, the variety that states, ‘on which one hundred dollars have been paid.’ Those now seem to occupy the period from 1845 to 1853.


Other than the dollars per share notification, I can detect absolutely NO differences when comparing images of the earliest reported certificates to the latest. Nowhere can I see any hint of printer/engraver names on the front of any certificates.

G.A. followed up with another email on August 16.

Armed with the name Edward Stabler I did a little Googling and discovered on Wikipedia that there was a postmaster by that name in Sandy Spring, Maryland, who went on to engrave the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 and the U.S. Senate in 1831. And I must say, the style looks very similar to the maidens on my B&O stock.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate

It gets better. According to an article in Smithsonian, Stabler also helped design the presidential seal in 1850:
"...Born in Maryland in 1794, Edward Stabler was self-taught and began his career engraving jewelry at the age of 16.  By the time he retired in 1863, Stabler had designed seals for nearly every department in the Federal Government, several states, cities, and many businesses."
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/who-designed-the-seal-of-the-president-of-the-united-states-5162560/?no-ist

This is quite a treasure hunt! I still would like to definitively tie one of the B&O vignettes to Stabler's work. I wonder how Smythe made the connection.

As a post-script, did you notice the text on the little flag over the locomotive boiler? "Praesto Et Presto" -- roughly translated "Here is the Pressure"
 



To answer your question, no I had NOT seen the flag.

I checked further into the meaning of the “praesto et presso” phrase and strongly suspect there is another meaning. Yes, I did see reference to the translation in Cointalk. And yes, “praesto” can be used as the adverb “here.” However, I’m afraid I prefer to view the two words as verb forms. My guess is a simpler and less strained translation, something like, “I excel and press” or more likely, “Excel and Press On.” If we only had a genuine Latin expert make the call.

As for the Smythe reference to production by Edward Stabler, I can only assume that the inscription was on the original proof certificate and later removed for the subsequent production runs.

And then, another followup from G.A.

I do know a Latin teacher and I will ask her. But I like your interpretation.

You know, the more I think about it the more I believe Stabler only did the vignette engraving.  To produce that entire certificate you would need a geometric lathe, a platemaker, a letter engraver and a skilled intaglio printer. In short, a bank note printing house. There must have been one nearby in the Baltimore or DC area. 

... Always more to research. 

August 03, 2015

Adirondack Company bond payout


Longtime contributor BB sent this inquiry by email on August 1, 2015

Quick question, I purchased a ADI-100-B-40 Adirondack Company today at a flea market and noticed the payment marker stamped on the front for $30.82, 10 years after the certificate was issued in 1872. What is strange is that the coupons pay $35 in Gold. So was it a partial payment on the principle or a partial coupon payment?

Another interesting fact was the vignette at the top is attributed to Manhattan Engraving Co. New York. yet the certificate is listed as being printed by the Continental Bank Note Co. New York. So, is this an instance where Continental used artwork from Manhattan? This is a first for me.

My answer -------

The Adirondack Company printed and issued 6,000 bonds in 1872, but was essentially insolvent from the beginning. It failed to make any payments on any coupons and was forced into receivership on December 15, 1874. The court appointed Thomas Clark Durant (yes, THAT Thomas C. Durant of Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier fame!) After some period of time, the company was sold and reorganized under the same name for some undisclosed amount. The proceeds of that sale were apparently quite meager and seemingly amounted to only $30.82 per $1,000 bond. Theoretically, (based upon 6,000 bonds being issued) after all liabilities were paid, the company’s entire assets were worth only $184,920, or LESS THAN THE VALUE OF A SINGLE COUPON.


Please note that I mentioned Thomas C. Durant was the receiver of the Adirondack Company. With the possible exception of Durant himself, I don’t think anyone during his lifetime — or since — has held him up as a shining beacon of propriety. Regardless of what the defunct company might have truly been worth at the time, it seems clear that only $30.82 was ever paid to any owner of these Adirondack $1,000 bonds. If Durant proved nothing else in his life, he showed that he could manipulate finances in companies like the Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier for his own benefit.

On the other matter of two engraving company names appearing on this bond, I could find no solid evidence of a relationship between the two companies. It appears that Manhattan Engraving Co. was often on the financial edge. I can find evidence of bankruptcies in 1871, 1882 and seemingly another around 1902 or 1903. I cannot tell whether those three incarnations of the company succeeded each other in business or that they were three separate companies with the same name.




I cannot remember ever seeing two unrelated engraving company names on the same certificate, I definitely cannot recall ever seeing an engraving company name featured so prominently on a vignette. Lacking access to better records, I will suggest a couple of possibilities.

Perhaps Continental bought the steel plate for this vignette during Manhattan's first bankruptcy. In a company like Manhattan, its assets would have been presses, plates, on-hand supplies and outstanding contracts. Continental would not have needed presses or supplies, but it might have wanted to add to its inventory of plates. The problem with that logic, though, is that there would have been no reason to post Manhattan's name on this bond at all, let alone so prominently.

An alternative thought is that Manhattan had contracted to supply 6,000 bonds to the Adirondack Company in 1871, but ran out of operating funds before it could complete its job. Perhaps the receiver for the Manhattan Engraving Company sub-contracted with Continental Bank Note Company to complete the Adirondack job and possibly others. In that case, the insertion of Manhattan's name under the vignette would have made promotional sense.

It is interesting to note that Stacks sold a steel plate engraving of Robert E. Lee in 2006 that also bore the imprints of two companies: the National Bank Note Company and the Manhattan Engraving Company. The date of the engraving was probably unknown because it was not reported in the sale catalog. However, considering Lee died in 1870, it is possible that the plate dated from the same period as the Adirondack bond.

July 25, 2015

Features that deserve separate listings



Question sent by D.P. via email on July 19, 2015 after he had contributed scans of several certificates for listing in the database. His inquiry concerned a small inscription he found on the left side of a bond from the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad (shown below.)


Question on the ATSF one. I noticed a slight difference between this one that I just sent and one that I had sent previously.  The most recent one has a completed stamp, "This bond bears interest from" along with a stamped date and the other one has a printed "This bond bears interest from" and a printed 189_. Would this be enough to qualify as a different variety or is the variation too small to consider?



My answer ----------

This gets into a gray area. In your case, I did create a new sub-variety.

Deciding whether to create new listings is sometimes very difficult. There is often no easy answer and I fight this battle EVERY time someone reports new and minor variations.

It is hard to create a fail-proof system for deciding what variations to consider as sub-varieties and which ones will fail. In general, I usually ask a series of six questions. In order to qualify as a new variety or sub-variety number, a new variation must receive three (preferrably four) positive answers.

1       Is the variation visible on the front of the document?
2       Are we able to spot the variation in average images we see online or in catalogs?
3       Are there any price ramifications of the newly-reported variation?
4       Are the majority of today’s collectors likely to care about the observed variation?
5       Was the original plate altered to print the variation?
6       Would the alteration have had any effect on the investment characteristics of the security?

Questions 1 and 2 are my most important considerations. “No” to either of these questions kills the deal. Collectors must be able to see and identify variations easily. Period. End of story. No exceptions.

Question 3 is obviously important. If a variation affects price, it definitely gets a new catalog number. However, in the interest of realism, the minor variations we spot on certificates ALMOST NEVER affect prices. Granted, they might affect prices in the future, but not right now. The answer to this question is usually, “No.”

Question 4 is almost as important, but again the answer is usually “No.” In my experience, average collectors never care about minor variations until they find something new for themselves and want to report it. I think we all enjoy finding features that everyone else missed, no matter how small. It is like treasure hunting and panning for gold. Discovery is a distinct pleasure offered by every collecting hobby. Never mind that our discoveries probably have no monetary significance.

Question 5 is one of my original requirements for determining “varieties.” If variations were not part of original document printings, I am hesitant to create new listings.

Question 6 is my final filter and is highly important. If any variation changed ANY feature that an original investor might have cared about, then it almost always gets a new catalog listing. For instance, if the capitalization of a stock certificate was changed by hand, then that minor maneuver would have changed the perceived value of that company’s entire stock offering. If a rubber-stamped impression extended the redemption date of a bond, then an investor would almost certainly have perceived a decrease in the bond’s value.

You spotted a variation in the 1889 general mortgage bond issue of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. At first look, the variation seems terribly minor and not worth wasting time on.

From a corporate perspective, that little one-line alteration actually represented the discovery of a mistake that could have proved very costly to the AT&SF. No doubt, the mistake originated with the person or committee who composed the text of the bond.

This is a registered bond. It SHOULD have been printed with a space for the issue date. Instead, it carried a static issue date of July 1, 1889. THAT oversight was the mistake.

By not indicating a variable issue date, the bond mistakenly indicated that interest would have been paid from July 1, 1889 instead of its actual issuance date. In other words, had a particular bond not been sold until July 1, 1890, the company legally would have been obligated to pay an extra $40 in interest on a $1000 bond or $200 on a $5,000 bond. It appears the company caught the mistake in 1889 and quickly added rubber stamp notices to the left side of its bonds. The company added printed notices when it reprinted $1000 and $5000 bonds in the early 1890s.

I cannot tell exactly how large this particular bond issue was. It seems to have been authorized for around $175 million to pay off its costs of corporate reorganization in 1894. The dates on the bonds in my database suggest the issue did not sell particularly well. Had the company not caught the mistake and had only 25% of the bond issue remained unsold until July 1, 1890, the mistake would have totaled $1.75 million. 

An aside ---------

The AT&SF issued its registered general mortgage bonds of 1889 in five denominations. Prior to this new report, there were five variety numbers for this bond issue. With the new discovery, I added "a" and "b" to variety numbers to indicate the different variations of rubber-stamped and printed inscription. A single $500 specimen is known that lacks the inscription shown above. All the rest show some form of the crucial inscription. No printed variants of the $500, $10,000 and $50,000 have been reported yet.


$500 B-30 no inscription at left
B-30a rubber-stamped inscription at left
$1,000 B-31a rubber-stamped inscription at left
B-31b printed inscription at left
$5,000 B-32a rubber-stamped inscription at left
B-32b printed inscription at left
$10,000 B-33a rubber-stamped inscription at left
$50,000 B-34a rubber-stamped inscription at left

July 22, 2015

'The Crossing'



The Crossing is one of the most iconic vignettes you will see on railroad certificates. The original version of the vignette first appeared in 1861 on bank notes produced by the National Bank Note Company, Several variations are known, but common elements include a passenger train crossing a bridge over a small creek. In the creek are five cattle and a boy holding a cane pole. A fence at the right outlines a trail where a man on horseback drives seven more cattle down toward the stream. At the point where the train crosses the track, a third man holds a sign. Two trees appear on both sides of the creek and lean inward to frame the scene.

The original version of The Crossing is about 3.4 inches wide. The earliest known use in 1861 include appearances on a $1 bank note printed for the North Western Bank (Warren, Pennsylvania) and on a $500 Confederate States of America bank note (printed in Montgomery, Alabama.). Throughout the 1860s and 1870s, the original engraving plus many imitations appeared on numerous checks and bank notes, both in the United States and worldwide.

Records are frustratingly vague, but it is clear that National Bank Note Company paid an engraver named Robert Hinshelwood to create a vignette called The Crossing in 1859. What is not clear is whether the famous version of The Crossing was actually Hinshelwood's or his brother-in-law, artist and engraver James Smillie. Hinshelwood was married to Smillie's sister and the two were close. Hinshelwood produced engraved versions of several of Smillie's paintings and drawings, and for a short while both co-owned a company named Smillie & Hinshelwood.

Expert engravers contend the version we know as The Crossing was Smillie's. Non-engravers who have seen and appreciated Smillie's other engravings contend this is largely Smillie's work. In my opinion, the borderline fanatical attention to detail is certainly a hallmark of Smillie's work like few others. Unlike other engravers, Smillie also liked to use trees and rocks to 'frame' and direct attention to important features.

One such Smillie-like detail can be found on the small sign held by the man at the right end of the bridge. The sign itself is only 0.083 inches (2.1 mm) wide. On that sign is the warning, 'Look Out For Bell Rings.' The letters are incredibly tiny, hard to see and even harder to reproduce. It is uncertain whether the warning sign referred to bells on trains, cattle, or both.

The enlargement of the sign at left was scanned from one of the Peruvian bonds mentioned below. The paper used for the printing was heavy and tough, so even though I scanned an original NBN engraving at 12,800 dpi, the lettering is still hard to decipher.

It was extremely common for steel-plate vignettes to be altered, expanded, trimmed down or re-engraved over time. The Crossing is certainly among that number. The version shown at the top of this article (5" wide by 1.8" tall) is one that appears on 1872 bonds from the CompaƱia Nacional del Ferrocarril Mineral de Pasco (Peru), The bonds were printed by NBN, so we know the image is genuine. This vignette, however, was expanded from the original version to include two additional passenger cars, a man, a dog and steep, snow-capped mountains in the distance. Other versions are known with a rural station at the right side.

American Bank Note Company combined with National in 1879 and thereby acquired all of NBN's steel plates. At present, legitimate NBN/ABN versions of The Crossing can be found on certificates of these North American railroad companies.

Burlington & Lamoille Rail Road Co
Carolina Central Railroad Co
Central Rail Road Co of Iowa
Des Moines & Fort Dodge Railroad (Rail Road) Co
Elizabethtown Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad Co
Milwaukee & Northern Railroad Co
Nevada Central Railway Co
New York Ontario & Western Railway Co
Texas Central Railway Co
Virginia Midland Railway Co

Certificates printed by NBN and ABN were not cheap, but The Crossing vignette proved very popular. In efforts to copy their prominent competitors, numerous local engraving companies created their own versions. Of course, the quality of those imitations ranges from excellent to poor, Although variations of The Crossing are plentiful, it would nonetheless be a huge challenge for a collector to compile a complete collection of all variations. So far, I know of lithographed imitations of the vignette on certificates of these 17 railroad-related companies:

Arkansas & Louisiana Railway Co
Baltimore & Drum Point Railroad Co
Calvert Waco & Brazos Valley Railroad Co
Cedar Rapids & Missouri River Rail Road Co
Cleveland Indiana & St Louis Railroad Co
Kansas City Leavenworth & Atchison Railway Co
Kansas & Southeastern Railroad Co
Lexington & Southern Railway Co
Poughkeepsie City Rail Road Co
Rock Island & Mercer County Railroad Co
Rock Island & Peoria Railway Co
Solomon Valley Phillipsburg & Northern Railroad Co
St Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road Co Arkansas Branch
Sussex Railroad Co
Timber Hill Township of - in aid of Kansas Nebraska & Dakota Railway Co
Warren & Ouachita Valley Railway
Western Tie Co

Speaking strictly for myself, I consider the cattle in the creek, the boy and the horseman driving cattle to be crucial features of the vignette known as The Crossing. Be aware that NBN (and later ABN) used a vignette as early as 1873 that lacked a tree and all those signature visual elements. Admittedly, the train appears more prominently. While obviously related to The Crossing, this vignette (shown at left) is a completely different creation. You may see this particular image on certificates from these two companies:

Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad Co (ABN, shown here)
Michigan Midland & Canada Railroad Co (NBN)

(There is no possible way of knowing, of course, but the slightly cruder details and the fuzziness of the trees at the left edge make me wonder whether this vignette is an earlier rather than later engraving. Could this vignette be closer to Hinshelwood's original 1859 version of The Crossing before Smillie added his substantial artistic touch?)

For even more information, you may find an excellent biography of James Smillie and a discussion of the vignette in an article by Arlie Slabaugh titled The Crossing' vignette migrates through notes and securities. (The Bank Note Reporter, January, 1991). I strongly suggest you acquire a copy of Gene Hessler's book, The Engraver's Line (hardback, BNR Press, 1993, 437 pages) if you want to learn more about Smillie, Hinshelwood and hundreds of other engravers. I have two brand-new copies left in stock, so please contact me if interested.

July 21, 2015

Corrections requested


"P.A." sent this correction by email on May 5, 2015.

You have HAM-836-S-30 as "not signed by president." It should be "not signed by the treasurer." Image attached.




My reply —

HAM-836-S-30 iu, Hampshire & Worcester Street Railway Co; BLACK, odd sh. no vignette, clouds behind title, $100 par, '1902'. Changed to 'treasurer.' Thanks.

An observation —

I suspect that 99.9% of stock certificates show the president's signature on the right side. This is one of the very rare exceptions.

And my permanent request for help from readers —

I have descriptions of over 26,000 certificates available online supplemented by 13,900 images, 122,500 serial numbers and over 400 static pages. I'm guessing I have around a million words on my web site. The probabilities for errors and mistakes are staggering. There is no possible way I can find every error. I BEG for corrections.

While website users see errors all the time, only a microscopic number ever report errors. Believe me, those of use who put information on the web beg for corrections. Whether you find mistakes in my website or some other website, please take the time to report your discovery.

I say that, "If you can't find mistakes, you're not trying."

July 14, 2015

Transcontinental railroads - completion dates


Another bit of info from my "Arcane Knowledge Department," stored here so I won't need to research it again.

Union Pacific / Central Pacific — completed May 10, 1869

Southern Pacific — completed December 15, 1881

Northern Pacific — completed September 8, 1883

Canadian Pacific — May 11, 1885

July 12, 2015

Virginia Central Railroad and the Virginia Central Railway


Question sent by "S.B." April 16, 2015, via email.

I have been digging into these two railroads and looked in your second edition to see if you had both listed. I noticed that you have the VC Rwy listed on page 517, with two different pieces identified. The first is a bond dated 1852 which must be the VC RR, successor to the Louisa RR, which operated from 1850 until 1868 when it merged with the Covington and Ohio and became the C&O RR in 1868. The second piece is dated 1896, a stock certificate that I own, entitled the VC Rwy: BUT according to Wikipedia, the VC Rwy did not come into existence until l926. So I think you need to split these two and I will continue to find out how I can have an 1896 stock of a railroad that was not supposed to exist until 1926. My Poor's Manual of 1901 does not list either railroad. When I find out I will let you know.

My reply —

Thanks for your email. Regrettably, I have no information to help you straighten out this problem.

I will begin by suggesting you use the online database to keep track of current information. While I have been trying to get the third edition into print for several years, it might be delayed yet another year. That means the paper edition is now about 12 years old. However, EVERY bit of information is kept current in the online database.

The web site has around 400 pages of information about certificates and collecting. It also has an active database that is updated every two weeks.

As for this particular rail operation, you can start searching by going to:

http://www.coxrail.com/database/private.asp

and enter the text "vir cent" in the search box. The search routine will find every company containing the words "Virginia" and "central" regardless of order.

As for the "Virginia Central Railroad Co," The bond listing you see in the book remains the only one known to me. Obviously I moved the bond into the "Railroad Co" designation at some point in the last decade. That particular listing was contributed by a German collector and I have never seen a picture or a listing of the certificate anywhere.

If you then look at the listing for the Virginia Central Railway, you will see the listing for a stock certificate. When you view the listing, you will be able to view an image of the certificate by clicking on the word "photo." If you click on the "#" symbol, you will notice that two serial numbers reported for this variety.



Now the question about WHY this company was in existence a quarter century before the dates reported in the general literature, I have no clue. I can absolutely testify such disagreement is NOT terribly unusual.

I would normally recommend checking Poor's Manual of Railroads. However, I just checked Manuals for 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1897 and was unable to find any mention of the Virginia Central.

I tried to check the Virginia Secretary of State for business listings, but that site was under maintenance. So you might check the site, or even better, call the business department directly and ask if they have any records for the company.

Good luck on your exploration.

SB's response — 

Thanks so much for the quick reply. I hope that Tom Dixon, the founder of the C&O Historical Society in Clifton Forge, VA will be able to find his one VC RR stock certificate so that I can get a copy for our new local museum. If so, I will forward a copy to you. You know of course that I, along with many others, await with baited breath the third edition of your publication. I will do anything I can to help. If there is anything there that I can do, just ask.

My overly long reply —

Back in the late 1990s, my partner and I had the opportunity to scan and index about 13,000 line maps for the Union Pacific tax department after the UP took over the Southern Pacific. In the course of doing that, I encountered corporate organizational charts that showed all the various small companies involved in the SP. Because of my interests, I noticed several inconsistencies between the charts and information recorded externally in normal library literature. To make matters worse, I even found internal disagreements between documents that mentioned "official" dates of organization.

In the case of the Southern Pacific, a company named Southern Pacific Railroad Co. had been incorporated in Texas in 1852. Sometime after its second organization in 1856, it lost its corporate identity through consolidation into other southeast Texas rail lines. The 1852-1856 company had absolutely nothing to do with the large Southern Pacific Railroad Company of West Coast fame that formed in 1865. That later company of the same name ultimately grew into a giant corporation through a series of five successive reorganizations. As it turned out, the later California version of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. ultimately acquired trackage of the Texas company, but only through merger.

A similar situation can be found with the Union Pacific. There were at least three companies that shared the "Union Pacific" name: Central Branch Union Pacific Rail Road Co., Central Branch Union Pacific Railway Co. and Iowa Branch of the Union Pacific Rail Road. None were part of the original Union Pacific company and in fact, didn't even connect to it. The Iowa Branch probably never operated, but the Central Branch ultimately became part of the UP system through various corporate marriages.

In your case, it is possible that the Virginia Central Railway represented by 1895 certificates might have had absolutely nothing to do with the later incorporation of the same name. Theoretically, the solution of the problem SHOULD reside with the Secretary of State. It will be an interesting mystery to unravel.

SB's followup reply —

Thank you for the interesting response. I will dog this one down and let you know what I find. 

July 08, 2015

Tap railroads


Question sent by "J.S." May 24, 2015, via email

Houston, Tap and Brazoria Railway Company - I have an undated, unissued and unnumbered stock certificate for the subject railroad. And I have lived in Houston since 1981, and traveled and worked in Brazoria County. But I have never heard of any place called Tap.  I have been curious about this since purchasing this certificate some years ago. Do you, by any chance, know what Tap is or was? Thank you for your consideration.

My answer --

I’ve always wondered why no one has ever asked this question before. You are the first!

“Tap” railroads were tiny branch railroads off more established companies. In this case, the route was a few miles long, intended to “tap” the plantation business. There are only 11 companies in the database with the word ‘Tap’ and ALL are from Texas. Certificates from the Houston Tap & Brazoria are the most common among that small group. The only other company represented by surviving certificates is the Acme Tap Railroad Co and they are rare and costly.









Consolidating inquiries


June and July are normally slow times in paper collectibles. Every year at this time, correspondence from readers slows substantially. I know correspondence will increase in August and peak between November and April, but between now and then I have a bit more free time.

I receive images, prices and serial numbers almost exclusively from email. Within a few days, I enter that info into my personal database and then transfer it to my online database twice a month. Information about specific certificates rarely ages more than 15 days before appearing online.

My most interesting correspondence, however, involves questions about certificates.

Questions about certificates and the hobby come from five primary sources: email, this blog, my personal Facebook page, the Coxrail Facebook page and regular physical mail. LinkedIn contributes very little correspondence.

The truth is, many of my answers already reside somewhere on my Coxrail site, but with over 400 pages, people sometimes have a hard time finding that information. It is simply easier to write.

Answering person inquiries is usually fun, but I am always frustrated by the fact that others would probably like to ask the same question and don't. After consideration, I have decided to start posting significant questions and responses in this blog in hopes that more people will benefit.

However, waiting for new questions to come in is highly inefficient. After, all, I often answer the same questions many times a year. Therefore, I think I will begin by taking advantage of the summer slow period and start re-posting earlier questions and answers here.

Don't expect me to get in a big hurry. My time is still extremely short. But I promise to start going back through old emails and pulling conversations that might help others enjoy this hobby a little more.

Be patient. Re-posting will not be immediate, so feel free to ask questions in the interim.

If concerned about privacy, I want you to know that I will eliminate names of collectors when I re-post their letters here. On the other hand, if anyone already uses his or her own name or internet "handle" in correspondence in this blog, I will leave it here unless instructed otherwise.