September 29, 2016

Spink Auction in October

"When it rains, it pours." That is an old, old American idiom that means when things happen, for good or for ill, they tend to happen all at once. Well, I wish I could shout, "It's raining, friends!" but I can't. It's barely a sprinkle, but at least there is another auction of stocks and bonds coming from Spink in mid-October in New York. Don't blink. The sale will pass very quickly.

This particular sale is one of the continuing series of Spink's "Numismatic Collector's Series" sales that offers a little bit of everything, from coins to currency to documents to rare, rare, rare financial books. Truth be told, coins take up over 60% of the sale of 1,453 lots. Of the remainder, Spink is offering 83 lots of scripophily. Sadly, only six (!) lots involve American railroads.

But let's talk about those six lots.

Four of the lots are somewhat forgettable. They are certainly worth acquiring if you don't have them, but nothing to cry about if you miss them.

On the other hand...

Lot 1411 is a stock certificate from the Colorado Monorail Company. It is a generic certificate, but quite atypical. In underprint is a line drawing of the company's support structure with a single guide rail that the car rode on. And then, in the bottom left corner where the company seal normally goes, is a photo of the monorail system and car. This particular certificate is from the collection of John Herzog, previous owner of R. M. Smythe. This certificate is one of only three known to me, all of which were sold by Smythe back in 1998. Spink is estimating this issued and uncancelled item will sell for $100 to $150. I would expect a much larger bid IF this sale offered scripo items. Because the sale is so lean in that department, someone is going to walk away with a terrific buy.

Now the star of the meager offering is actually a more serious rarity. I have only encountered one other such certificate and it sold on eBay in June for a whopping $20. (That's another story. I wish I had been the winner.)

The certificate is from the Chartiers Railway Company dated 1885 and issued for 120 shares, You can find it listed in my online catalog as CHA-613-S-45.

What makes this certificate special is not its rarity, per se, but that it was issued to and signed by Henry Clay Frick. You can look up Frick's biography, but suffice it to say that he was the hardcore anti-union chairman of Carnegie Steel Company in a time when unions were just coming into their own. He was so hated for his policies that he was was the subject of a failed assassination attempt in 1892. (Which included, by the way, two gunshots and multiple stabbings!)

Frick's notoriety, magnified by his close association with Carnegie, makes his autograph highly collectible. In fact, back in 2000, another certificate signed by Frick from the same company sold for $4,250 in a Scott Winslow auction. Spink is estimating this item (Lot 1409) will sell in the range of $1,000 to $1,500 and I agree, .

If you have bid in any of Spink's sales, you probably have already received this catalog. If not, contact Spink at Or call 212-262-8400. Or download the catalog in PDF form. Or simply bid online.

September 26, 2016

HWPH auctions in October

At the end of last week, I received catalogs for two upcoming sales by HWPH (Historisches Wertpapierhous AG). As usual, there is a healthy offering of railroad certificates from North American railroads. 92 lots to be exact plus a couple more multi-item lots.

In the last couple years, the supply of scarce and rare certificates has dried to a trickle as sellers seem anxious to hold back their better material, apparently waiting for prices to improve. I, for one, am sick of seeing unissued certificates sold day after day, with many being promoted as "rare." Come on!

So, I truly enjoy a breath of fresh air when Herr Matthias Schmitt sends new catalogs. And this time is really different. There are numerous lots offered with ONE EURO starting prices! Yes, friends, you heard it here. German auctions with €1 starting prices. Unheard of!

Now I am not going to yell and scream that there are a ton of new certificates here, because there aren't. However, warm up your charge cards for bidding on a entirely new certificate from a previously unknown (to me) company named the Los Angeles, San Diego & Yuma Railway Company. This is a two-color (green and red) stock certificate issued from San Diego and dated 1890. The starting price on this item is €400 and I expect it to go at least 50% higher.

Representing another new company is stock certificate #30 from the Syracuse & Eastern Railroad. This certificate was written for 2,955 shares of the 3,000 authorized.

Another nice item is an 1839 stock certificate from the Williams Valley Rail Road & Mining Company, one of only five known to me.

Although I doubt the winning bid will originate in the U.S., an item likely to draw attention in Europe is a stock certificate from the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Co. in Nebraska. That certificate was issued to and signed by Horatio Hathaway and items signed by him are almost unknown in the U.S. Hathaway was the namesake of Hathaway Manufacturing Company. Although Hathaway died in 1895, successive managers of the company ultimately merged with Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates in 1955 and created Berkshire Hathaway, a company now managed by Warren Buffet.

There is a substantial collection of less exotic items, many of which will be familiar to advanced collectors. Most of you know I am drawn to the more obscure. Consequently, some of the items that caught my eye are certificates from the California-Western Railroad & Navigation Co, the Chicago Iowa & Dakota Railway Co, the City & Suburban Railway Co (Memphis, the only issued example known to me) and the Galveston Houston & Henderson Railroad Co.

Thankfully, there are many more that are sure to attract your attention. Especially those with one Euro start prices.

The sales will take place on October 15 and October 17 in Wiesbaden. See the catalog online at To receive your own physical copy, please contact