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.]

October 24, 2020

Mario Boone sale 65 at the end of October

 Unlike most of the recent sales from Mario, North American railroads are under-represented in this sale with only lots in the railroad and coal specialties that I track. Nonetheless, there are a few items I hope collectors will view with an eye for participating in their first non-American auction. Only five items have start prices above 50 Euros. Considering we are currently in an abnormal Fall slump in the market, I think American collectors should have a good chance of bringing several rare certificates back to this continent. 

The first I will mention is a $500 specimen bond of Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Company (lot 1189.) While not everyone's cup of tea, I've always been fond of coal company issuances from Nova Scotia. These are mines accessed coal reserves inland from the Atlantic, but which followed coal seams eastward out under the ocean. I have only encountered this certificate once before in a Boone sale seven years ago.

Another Canadian item is a 1914 $1,000 bond specimen from the Canadian Pacific Railway (lot 1193.) This is only the third example of this bond variety and a new color previously unknown to me. All three examples are recorded only from Europe. Let me remind my American readers that specimens are not currently popular collectibles in Europe. 

Lot 1212 is a another previously unrecorded Bradbury, Wilkinson specimen of a £500 scrip certificate from the  United Railways of the Havana & Regla Warehouses, Ltd. (Cuba.) This rarity has a €50 start price, reflecting the current reality that Cuban certificates are still not collected widely. (And this has always baffled me!)

Surprisingly, another Bradbury, Wilkinson specimen is listed as lot 1245 with the same start price. This rare 1909 certificate represented £100 invested with the London-based Corporation of Foreign Bondholders for the purchase of Republic of Nicaragua bonds dedicated for completion of an unspecified railway from the Great Lake of Nicaragua to the Atlantic Ocean. (I admit this is somewhat oblique to the collecting of railroad certificates, but tell me when another one of these is going to appear.)

A distressed example of an 1839 2-share certificate of the Williams Valley Rail Road & Mining Company is offered in lot 1257. This is one of eight currently recorded and desirable primarily for its 1839 date.

Scarcer is an 1880 stock certificate from the Pennsylvania & Ohio Coal & Mining Co. (lot 1270). from Columbus, Ohio, one of only four currently known to me.

Almost certain to be overlooked by North American collectors is lot 1323, a 1992 specimen fund certificate issued in the Netherlands to hold shares in the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation. This company was a descendent of the Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp, an aborted attempt to merge the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe with the Southern Pacific. Dutch fund certificates are rarely seen in the United States, but were highly important in funding many major American rail ventures. (See Slow Train to Paradise: How Dutch investment helped build American railroads for details.)

Unlike Mario's normal sales, this is offered entirely remotely by internet, telephone or advance bidding because of Coronavirus concerns. Please visit Booneshares.com to view all lots and see the rules for bidding. 

March 26, 2020

Boone auction 64, April 4-5, 2020

Like sales elsewhere, Mario Boone's next auction will take place entirely online due to the global coronavirus epidemic. See current auction rules online at Booneshares.com and be sure to register early.

Unlike many of Mario's sales the last few years, the number of North American railroad certificates in sale 64 is somewhat abbreviated, numbering only 18 lots out of 1,653. Nonetheless there are several intriguing certificates.

None of us have a crystal ball to predict how the global coronavirus outbreak will affect participation and prices. My opinion is worth only as much as the next person, which means not much.

I can say one thing for sure, however. Like so many Boone sales before, there are a few items in this sale that are genuinely rare or very scarce. I will not quibble about definitions, but will say with certainty that some of these certificates will not be seen again in the next ten years. Maybe longer. If collectors desire any of these certificates and refuse to bid out of fear of buying in Europe, they better not come crying to me.

Nuff said!

Lot 1570 is a familiar certificate from The Chesapeake Ohio & Southwestern Railroad Co, but this certificate is signed by Collis P. Huntington as president. This lot has a very reasonable start price compared to American sales.

If someone is a fan of the AT&SF, I advise they look at the 1888 certificate of the Rio Grande Mexico & Pacific Railroad Co. issued in the New Mexico Territory (lot 1575.) This certificate was for 69,360 shares issued to the AT&SF and signed by AT&SF president William Barston Strong.

Another rarity can be found in lot 1578, representing an 1891 guaranteed stock certificate from the Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac Rail Road Co. Mario is offering a low start price on this lot also, even though I have recorded only one other similar certificate in thirty years. Call it anything you want; I'll call it rare.

Lot 1579 is an 1880 $1,000 bond from the Missouri Pacific Railway and features a vignette of its main 4-story terminal building engraved by Homer Lee Bank Note Co. This item is an unnumbered specimen and I suspect was last offered in an R.M. Smythe sale in 2001. While it is impossible to know for certain, I suspect this is one of only two, possibly three, bonds of this design and all are specimens.

The oldest certificate in this Boone sale is an 1832 stock from The New Castle & French Town Turnpike & Rail Road Company (lot 1581.) I have recorded only six similar certificates.

Lot 1584 is the same certificate that last sold in 2012 for $2,277. It is an 1864 Staten Island Rail Road stock certificate signed by Jacob Vanderbilt, both as stock holder and president.

For collectors of rapid transit companies, I recommend Inter-State Rapid Transit Railway Company (Consolidated.) This 1886 certificate is is a $1,000 bond and most observers would instantly confuse this bond with a nearly identical certificate from the Inter-State Consolidated Rapid Transit Railway Co. Notice the slightly different name? I barely did. This is a new-to-me company.

Most certificates in the sale are illustrated in the full-color physical catalog and all certificates are viewable online at Booneshares.com/. Again, be sure to register before the sale date (April 4-5, 2020.)