April 27, 2023

Mario Boone Sale 70, the 40th Anniversary Sale

I just received Mario Boone's huge, 360-page full-color catalog for his auction, number 70 he will hold in Antwerp May 6 and 7, 2023. For the last forty years, Mario and his father Erik before him have been selling certificates from most countries across the globe. This catalog continues that tradition and I count about 140 lots related to railroads in North America plus a few coal companies. 

I wanted to get notice out as quickly as possible, so have not had time to look closely at every lot, so let me hit the highlights.

The auction is divided into two parts, live and internet. The live auction sale contains the lion's share of scarce and rare certificates. Those items will cross the block May 6 and 7. The internet auction for the remained will take place on Invaluable.com on May 8 and 9. 

Roughly half of the North American certificates are rarities and scarcities that are rarely seen for sale on either side of the Atlantic. Many of those are arguably unique. With the exception of one-of-a-kind proofs, I don't call any certificate "unique" because I do not know what hundreds or thousands of collectors may have hidden in their basements. But I can tell you, there are many items in this sale that I have only seen offered once.

Lot 687 is a March, 1832 (joint) stock certificate of the Delaware & Raritan Canal Co and the Camden & Amboy Railroad & Transportation Co. This was one of the earliest operations we can legitimately call a railroad, and this certificate was issued about six and half months before the line officially opened for traffic. It was issued to Robert Stevens and signed by Edwin Stevens as treasurer. (The certificate was cancelled with two pen marks and neither touch the signature.)

Another very early item, by California standards, is a $1,000 bond of the California Central Rail Road. This bond (#108) appears as lot 694 and is one of only two examples known to me. To my knowledge, this item was last sold by Scott Winslow in 1995 and has been hiding out in Germany since. Another example later appeared in Germany nine years ago.

Although issued three years after the previous bond, a very rare stock certificate from the Sacramento Valley Rail Road will be offered as lot 697. That company was incorporated in 1852 in California and ultimately became part of the Central Pacific in 1865.

Scarcer is lot 690 from the Chicago St Paul & Fond du Lac Railroad, dated1855. Its design is quintessential of certificates engraved by Wellstood Hay & Whiting. I have recorded only one occurrence of this variety of stock certificate offered in lot 690. I cannot find any record of other appearances before this item sold in a Fred Holabird auction in 2020.

Another serious rarity is an 1877 stock certificate from the Ralston Rail Road & Coal Co from here in Colorado. Ralston Creek was one of the first drainages prospected for gold by men heading to the California Gold Rush. They found only hints of gold there, but coal was later discovered at the base of the foothills and a railroad was planned to enable extraction. Mario is offering certificate #11, the only example I have encountered. It last sold in Germany in 2014.

Boone is also offering another equally rare stock certificate (lot 708) from the Alabama & Chattanooga Rail Road, dated 1871. I last encountered this single certificate (#41) in a 1997 Smythe sale.

Old Union Pacific Railway stock certificates are essentially unknown except in proof form. Lot 722 is a 50-share proof by American Bank Note Co and was dated 1881 in crayon pencil. These come up for sale only rarely and they are highly sought after.

To save the best for last, I purposely skipped over eight lots (678 to 685) of Gould-signed certificates from seven different companies. We're not talking about the well-known and ever-popular items from the Missouri Kansas & Texas Railway. Gould's signature on seven of the eight lots are terribly hard to find and thus have starting prices in excess of 2,000 Euros. The standout, at a €12,000 minimum bid, is Gould's signature on an uncancelled $1,000 bond of the New Jersey Southern Railroad Company. Even the custom vignette on this bond is a keeper. I recorded this potentially unique bond from a Smythe sale in 1992 and it has been hiding somewhere for the last thirty-one years.

At more affordable levels are certificates from the second half of the sale offered to be over the internet on Invaluable.com. Most of those lots have starting bids in the range of €80 to €200, with a few cheaper and a few more expensive. While none are in the collectibility class of the live auction items, there are several notable scarcities waiting to be acquired by discerning intermediate to advanced collectors.

As always, I suggest two things. First, don't dawdle. Try to acquire a physical catalog while they are still available. At 360 pages, this is the largest Boone sale ever. Start by going to Booneshares.com.

The second thing I recommend is viewing items on Boone's site, even if you're going to bid on Invaluable. Mario has a new website design and his online catalog displays 100 items per page. Click on any item for a full description, and once there, click again on images to see scans larger than any of his competitors. 

Again, please don't dawdle.


October 20, 2022

Mario Boone auction 69

 Mario Boone's 69th Auction and Bourse will take place at the Antwerp Crowne Plaza Hotel on November 5, followed by and internet/mailbid auction the following day. You may view lots large scale images 1) online at Booneshares.com, 2) in the physical full-color catalog or 3) on Invaluable.com. I want to make collectors aware of this sale because it will offer 163 lots, the largest Boone selection of rail-related certificates from North America since 2008. In fact, only two sales have ever had more such certificates offered.

The are so many lots in this sale that it is hard to narrow the selection for review here. There are numerous items that I have not seen in ten or fifteen years, with some even further back. Let's start with an unissued stock certificate from the Erie Railway Co. (Lot 570.) The last time I encountered this certificate was in Smythe sale 14 (lot 3034). It is an unissued, but cancelled certificate printed by Henry Seibert & Brothers Co. Smythe noted the item was used by ABN as a model for later issues. It fetched $744 in that sale including commission. To my knowledge, no other examples have appeared in thirty years.

An 1872 second mortgage bond from the Cayuga Lake Rail Road Co. (Lot 567, serial 34) is one of only two examples known to me.

Lot 603 is a proof of a certificate of deposit from the Central Pacific Railroad Co. of California for Extended Mortgage bonds deposited with Speyer & Company. It is printed on thick paper with no printed border. There is no printer name, but the vignette is one that was used frequently heavily by American Bank Note Co., so I strongly suspect this item is of ABN origin and is probably unique.

An example of a stock certificate from the Twin City & Lake Superior Railway Co. appeared on the cover of the first edition of my catalog. I don't know where that image came from, but I have never encountered any of these in person. In fact, I have cataloged only four unissued and six issued (and uncancelled) examples ever. Lot 613 is serial #273.

Another interesting certificate is a stock from The Alton & Upper Alton Horse Railway & Carrying Co. (Lot 562.) It has somewhat of an odd name, but is otherwise not terribly outstanding as far as horse railroads go. This item is serial #15 and last appeared (to my knowledge) in Smythe sale 242 in 2004. Like the above certificate, this lot makes a total of six serial numbers recorded, but it has historically fetched high-than normal bids (median = $185.) 

Lot 559 is an offer of a Troy Salem & Rutland Rail Road Co. certificate signed by Jay Gould as president. At a €200 start price, this would almost seem like a giveaway for a previously unrecorded Gould-signed item. (I had heard of one like this before, but did not have sufficient particulars for listing.) I have recorded only two other issued serial numbers (#3 and #73), so this one (#2) is new. I think Mario's low start price reflects that this issued certificate, like the other two, is heavily pen cancelled through officers' signatures. Nonetheless, it may be a LONG wait before another example with Gould's signature appears.

I first saw serial #10 of the Weems Electric Railway System in 2002 from a copy sent by one of my earliest contributors. It later appeared in an FHW sale ten years later and is now offered by Mario Boone another ten years further on. It remains the only example I have learned of. Please look at a picture of Lot 598 to see the large blue underprint that sets it apart from almost all other stock certificates.

In addition to certificates from the United States are numerous rarities from elsewhere in North America including Barbados, Jamaica, Bermuda, Cuba and elsewhere. Like I said at the start, there are just so many, I cannot do the sale justice. You will need to view for yourself. And if the ones I mentioned seem above your normal price point, please see for yourself. There are many affordable scarcities, too numerous to mention.

April 13, 2022

Mario Boone 68th Auction and Bourse

Many of you have probably already received Mario Boone's latest auction catalog – number 68, scheduled to take place April 30 and May 1 in Antwerp, Belgium. 

This sale was a real pleasure to review because of the abnormally heavy concentration of stocks and bonds from North American railroads: 126 lot in all.

While Mario usually features rarities and rarely-seen items, he has outdone himself this time. Many items must have lived in old collections because there are several items I have not seen offered for sale in twenty years. A few specific serial numbers last appeared for sale in the early 1980s. I try very hard to avoid using the word "unique" because no one on the planet can possibly know what certificates may be hiding in old collections and dealer inventories. I will, however, say that ten items are possibly unique. Two certificates represent one of only two that I have seen in records going back to 1979. Five items represent companies that are new to me. While new company names are found frequently, they are rarely represented by certificates.

One of the curiosities that caught my attention is an 1869 bond from the Burlington Cedar Raids & Minnesota Railway Co (lot 1116). It is a dual denomination bond ($1,000/£200) probably intended to be sold in both the U.S. and Europe. It is the first certificate known from this company (the one incorporated in both Iowa and Minnesota.) 

The bond was handsigned in three places, apparently in the same hand, over the printed words "cancelled." I could not find a serial number. Instead, I found and engraved inscription in the bottom left corner that says, "Sample Bond." Its true purpose is unknown, but I am listing this item as a specimen because it was clearly not intended for issuance. Except for the three "cancelled" words and the "Sample" inscription, it is a legitimate printing from Henry Seibert & Brothers. This bond issuance is definitely referenced in the 1870-1871 Poor's Manual, although under the incorrect listing of "Railroad." 

Another highly interesting item is an 1872 $500 bond from the New Egypt & Farmingdale Rail Road (lot 1124). Not only is the bond the first and only certificate recorded for this company, it is also uncancelled and signed by Jay Gould as president of the New Jersey Southern, the guarantor of the bond. European collectors are especially fond of celebrity autographs, so I expect this item to attract bold bids.

I had known of the Choctaw Coal & Railway Co. since the mid-1990s and I had found reference to its bonds being foreclosed in 1894. However, This lot 1157 is the first time I have seen any of those bonds offered as collectibles. I warn collectors that if this bond is not unique, it is nearly so. The bond was engraved by New York Banknote Co., probably in 1889. It shows two vignettes; one of miners filling mine cars behind a mule and another of a fireman stoking a locomotive boiler. Both these vignettes appeared on bonds of the Columbus Shawnee & Hocking Railway Co., known for possibly the most fanciful vignette on railroad certificates. Bonds of both companies were issued Jan. 1, 1890.

Another item I want to bring to the attention of collectors is lot 1150 featuring a serial numbered specimen bond of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. Only a tiny number of issued bonds of this variety are known and have historically sold for around $700 apiece. This is the first one I have encountered in specimen form and the starting price is offered for about half that amount. My records suggest there have not been many opportunities to bid on this variety.

Among the many other scarce and rare certificates is a bond from The Northern Pacific Terminal Company of Oregon (lot 1142) featuring the typical N.P. image of Mount hood. The starting bid is €200, a price the belies the fact that I have not encountered any public sales of this variety since 2001. I am not saying there are not more examples out there; I'm saying that they are going to be hard to find.

There are many, many more examples of items I would like to have time and space describe, but I suggest you check for yourself. If you do not already receive Mario Boone's auction catalogs, then go online at https://www.booneshares.com/Home.aspx and check out all the certificates offered in this sale as soon as possible. Bidding is conducted in person, by mail or via the internet on Invaluable.com. Commissions are 17% for low-priced items (€100 and below and only 10% for sales above that value. VAT applies to European buyers and 3% is added to successful bids made through Invaluable.

Really. If you're a serious collector, you need to check out this sale.

October 15, 2021

Mario Boone Auction 67 - Short notice

Mario Boone's (longtime dealer and auctioneer headquartered in Belgium) next sale will take place October 16 and 17 in Antwerp. Unfortunately, I did not receive his catalog until October 14, so I apologize to him and my readers that I did not get a chance to review sooner.

Unlike his last few sales, this one has a great selection of mid-grade railroad (77 items) and coal (7) certificates. I just checked every item offered and found that 80% of his advertised lots have minimum bids BELOW my price estimates. All but one of the remaining lots are priced reasonably above my estimates, well within the amounts European bidders are familiar with. And that includes commissions and VAT. (But not ever-shifting Euro-dollar exchange rates.

I unfortunately do not have time to describe lots except to say that if collectors are scared of bidding in Europe, they are going to miss many certificates that they do not see in the U.S. with any frequency. Moreover, they need to consider that European and American bidders tend to focus on different kinds of certificates. To be sure, American bidders will encounter competition, but large numbers of recent sales have taken place at starting bids. 

Be aware that only a handful of certificates being offered in sale 67 are ever seen on eBay. I don't have time to do a deeper dive, but it looks like the majority of these certificates appear for sale with a frequency in the range of once every three to ten years.

Think European sales are always expensive? Think again. 77 of the 84 lots have starting prices of $100 or less. Moreover, 56 of the 84 have minimum bids of $50 or less. Remember, I am counting both commission and VAT.

If you want a few to look at quickly, I will suggest lots 1164, 1243, 1332, 1338, 1343 and 1357. Collectors of coal mining certificates should peruse lots 1258 and (especially) 1288.

Oh yes, I forgot. Six items are new to me.

Again, I apologize for not being able to review this important sale earlier, but mail from Europe has been taking an unusually long time to reach me. If political news is anywhere near accurate, those times are only going to elongate.

March 31, 2021

Time for another Boone auction!

In only a few days, Mario Boone will be kicking off his 66th auction. Because of the ongoing coronavirus threat, bidding will be a combination of mail bidding and online bidding through the Invaluable.com platform. Please check out listings and images on the Booneshares.com website as soon as possible. Then, if interested, fax or email your bids by April 9th or make sure you are registered with Invaluable.

In this auction, you will find 34 certificates from North American railroads plus 7 from coal companies. There are standouts in both categories, so I will mention a few.

Perhaps the most important is Compañia de Caminos de Hierro de la Habana (lot 847) from Cuba. It is a 1-share dated 1853. I recorded this sole certificate from a 2003 Boone sale, but Mario says he knows of three. It last sold for the equivalent of $1,967 and if it reaches the minimum asking price will beat that earlier sale slightly. I know of only two or three earlier railroad certificates from Cuba.

Entirely new to me is an 1872 bond from Sociedad Anónima de los Ferro-Carriles del Salvador (lot 850.) I don't know how many El Salvador collectors there might be, but I'm pretty sure they are not going to see another one of these certificates for a long while.

There aren't many coal mining collectors are out there, but a 20-share certificate from the Mount Carbon Coal & Iron Company is most assuredly worth looking at. That is, if you want to see a stock certificate with a vignette all the way across the top and down the left side.

Lot 958 is a stock certificate from the American Rail-Way Manufacturing Company featuring an unusual monorail. I know of only four like it.

An issued bond from The Duluth Street Railway Company is offered in lot 1020 and represents one of only two issued examples I've encountered. (There is also at least one specimen. The next lot (lot 1021) is a stock certificate and perennial favorite from the Weir Frog Company featuring six vignettes of its hardware in red underprint.

I think railroad collectors will be checking out the ones I've mentioned, but there are six that I bet a LOT of collectors are going to overlook. They are bonds from the New York Central and the New York New Haven & Hartford Railroads. All LOOK familiar, but only because everyone has seen the vignettes on many other railroad bonds. In truth, the $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 registered bonds from the NYC are each represented currently by 2, 12 and 4 examples respectively. (See lots 1028, 1029 and 1030.) I would never say there aren't more extant; I'm just saying I've never seen them.

The NYNH&N bonds (lots 1034, 1035 and 1036) are also registered bonds denominated as $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 and are also easy to overlook. If someone knows of more out there, then please tell me, because I've only recorded 1, 1 and 4 issued examples respectively. 

Please examine the full listing of 1,117 lots at Booneshares.com and please do it quickly because the sale will take place April 10, 2021.

March 20, 2021

Fifty. No, twenty. No, Fifty

This reminds me of one of those ink spots that looks like a dog at first and then like a World War I tank a few seconds later.

A curious handwritten denomination on a Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway Company certificate from 1879. that first looked like a fifty-share, then a twenty and then a fifty.

Images courtesy Dr. Thomas O'Shaughnessy.

November 13, 2020

Origin of the word "Scripophily"

In case you missed it, I transcribed the following from the "Business Diary" section of the Times (of London), May 9, 1978, page 25.

Business Diary: Scripophily: is our word your bond?

Ross Davies, Business Diary's Editor, reports on the outcome of Business Diary's name-the-hobby competitions.

The winner of our competition to find a name for the hobby of collecting old bonds and share certificates is Arthur Howell, of Brighton.

He suggested "scripophily," a word effectively half-English and half-Greek, combining scrip (a provisional certificate as for shares, share certificates, or shares or stock collectively – an abbreviation from subscription receipt) with philein (to love).

He wins a price of £10-worth of bonds offered by the originator of the competition, Commander Donald Ross. The Commander is a keen collector and is secretary of the Vintners' Company.

Howell will also receive a collection valued at £100 from Colin Narbeth, a joint managing director of dealers Stanley Gibbons Currency Limited. They weighed in with this offer on reading of the competition in the Business Diary.

The winner will receive his prizes at a luncheon in his honour which Gibbons is throwing in London on Monday week.

Left to his own devices, Howell would probably lose little sleep if he never saw a bond or a share certificate again. He is a retired solicitor who spent much of his life handling clients' and it has not left him much of a "phile" – he neither collects the things nor is a habitual competition entrant.

Howell oh-so-narrowly beat Mrs. J. J. Santilhana of Bristol, who pulled up the same roots but suggested using them in reverse order as in "philoscripy".

Commander Ross and I sat down to puzzle through the postcards and came to a gratifyingly quick and painless agreement. We reconsidered over a bottle of Château Malescot St. Exupery Margeaux 1971, but remained unshaken in our resolve. Howell and scripophily it was.

The commander had his way of reaching a conclusion and I mine. He had chosen four criteria, each carrying five marks.

One criterion was whether or not the word conveyed the sense of bonds or certificates and, if possible, deadness. The chosen word would also have to signify love of collection; it had to convey a picture and, lastly, it had to come trippingly off the tongue.

My choice, thank heaven, the same a my companion's, was made because it seemed a good idea at the time.

Mrs. Santilhana and her philoscripy, we decided, had to give way to Howell and his scripophily, as the latter was just that much easier to say. I do hope Mrs. Santilhana will not stop reading the Business Diary.

She, I trust, will reflect that the commander and I had also seen our suggestions bettered. Some weeks ago I had suggested "bondaphily" in print whereupon the commander wrote in to say that my choice "smack of cheese" and then offered to fund a competition to thrash out the matter.

Postcards, some covered in entries, came in from England, Scotland and Wales. There was even a delightful view of Lulworth Cove, which came to us from R. G. Holloway in Brussels of all places. He suggested "bonditry."

Perhaps the most elegant entry , again a multiple one, came from Bernard Slater, the senior classics master at Bradford Grammar School. I quite liked his "promissophily", but found his "syngraphophily" and "philosyngraphy" a little chewy.

Mrs. D. Bryden of Melrose, Roxburghshire, enlisted Shakespeare, quoting thus: "I'll have my bond; speak not against my bond. I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond."

What else could she then suggest but "Shyloxsis"? Mmm, thought the commander and I, we'll let you know.

Stanley Gibbons Currency Limited, which is to hold a first British auction of bonds and share certificates in November, declares our choice of scripophily "most apt." Robin Hendy, its advisor, has already been rechristened "scripophilic expert."

Yesterday I spoke to Mr. Robert Burchfield, the editor of Oxford English Dictionaries. He says that Howell's word could be in volume three of the supplement to the OED which is to appear in two years' time.

Commander Ross, meanwhile, plans to start a scripophiles' club: we will give the address to write to shortly.

Webster Dictionaries
[Terry Cox note:  For those of us who spent three long years in Mrs. Lanham's Latin class, I suspect the word scrip needs a bit more explanation. It certainly goes back further than "subscription receipt." 

According to the esteemed Noah Webster, LL.D., in the George and Charles Merriam's 1852 edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language, scrip comes from the Latin noun, scriptum, the perfect passive participle of scrībō (“to write”). Part of 1852's definition explained A certificate of stock subscribed to a bank or other company, or of a share of other joint property, is called in America a scrip. 

The latest edition of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary carries the essential parts of that earlier definition and etymology and suggests the first use of "scrip" in this context appeared in 1590.]