December 29, 2009

Dec. 2009 issue of Scripophily mailed to members

The latest full-color issue of Scripophily arrived a couple days ago. (See my announcement about the August issue for more information on supporting the International Bond and Share Society.) As before, I ask you to join me in supporting this organization which is now almost 42 years old.

Major articles to be found in this issue are:

  • Mexican Gold Bond Explosion
  • The Belga Demystified
  • The Thams Highway
  • United We Stand, Divided We Fall (tobacco war)
  • Adolph Had a Tunnel (Sutro Tunnel)
  • The Santa Fe Saga, part 2
As always, there are numerous shorter articles including reviews of worldwide auctions as well as my latest article in Cox's Corner.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this issue is the report of a Republic of Mexico £100 bond that Belgian dealer Mario Boone sold on eBay for a staggering $60,100! Why ANYONE would pay that amount is unknown. It is possible that the buyer and two other bidders all saw something that everyone else missed. Boone was unable to spot any significance with the autographs.

But that's not all. Archives International sold a similar bond (£250 denomination) on Dec 2. for an even more staggering $80,100!, also on eBay. What's up?

The article discusses the possibilities for such outlandish bids. The most reasonable suggestion involves the outstandingly mis-informed possibility that the buyers are somehow expecting to be able to redeem them for gold. While that is just plain silly (see my discussion of gold bond scams and hypes), it may also involve taxation through a series of convoluted twists.

Read all about it in the lastest Scripophily.

December 09, 2009

Prices on the Rise?

I update my online database twice per month. Before uploading the database, I run a series of “cleanup" procedures. One cleanup step makes sure I display the most current record-high and record-low prices.

Only a few new record-high prices have appeared in recent years. In fact, there has been a steady procession of record-low or near-record-low prices ever since I started recording eBay sales.

My last database update was December 1 and the situation was different. This time, the numbers of new record-low and new record-high prices were nearly identical.

At first, you might think dealers would applaud this unforeseen uptick in prices. But not so fast!

On closer examination, I noticed that all new record-high prices occurred in Germany and almost all new record-low prices occurred in the U.S. Not meaning to sound alarmist, this is not a good trend for either American collectors or dealers.

Heavy selling by amateurs on eBay continues to depress prices in the U.S. EBay has effectively trained collectors to expect bargain basement low prices, even for scarce and rarely-seen certificates. Yet even with online auction prices at fifteen- and twenty-year lows, 50% to 60% of eBay certificates still go unsold. Never mind that prices are at levels that would have been considered insane a few years ago.

If we look to Europe, we see the Euro trading at a 50% premium to the dollar. Combine the weak dollar with eBay-induced low prices and European collectors have no choice but to view American certificates as dirt cheap.

At the end of November, FHW (Freunde Historischer Wertpapiere) offered 70 North American railroad certificates in its large auction #96 in Berlin. FHW's minimum starting bids are very high by American standards. Nonetheless, collectors bought 47% of North American railroad certificates offered. Some of those lots sold at prices that would scare the Hell out of most American collectors. After accounting for commission, value added taxes and the dollar-Euro conversion penalty, lots sold for 100% to 500% (!!!) of my estimated catalog prices!

(An example of the Wildwood & Delaware Bay Short Line Railroad certificate shown above sold for $50 on eBay in May. The certificate shown just sold for $258 in Berlin.)

American certificates fetched significant prices in Europe throughout 2009. Even if high prices can be blamed on the weak dollar, the disparity SHOULD be a wake-up call to American collectors. It is obvious that significant numbers of non-American collectors genuinely appreciate rarity and are willing to pay for it. If the dollar continues to weaken and if American collectors continue to ignore rarity, they will wake up some day in the future to find many rare American certificates gone.

Price disparities for collectibles will always exist. Prices always depend on where, when and how collectibles are sold. It is completely normal to see 2X price disparities in our hobby; 3X disparities are not uncommon. The price disparities we're currently seeing, though, are abnormal and 5X price differences are unlikely to linger. Nonetheless, the fact that there are such huge differences of opinion in regard to prices should concern hobbyists on both sides.

Regardless of where they live, collectors can argue that European prices are too high or that American prices are too low. They can argue that European collectors over-value rarity and second-tier autographs. They can argue that American collectors don't value rarity at all. They can argue any way they want.

They can even argue that the one inviolable law of collecting does not apply to them.

But they will be wrong.

Simply put, collectibles always move toward money.

December 04, 2009

Helmut Lange Collection for sale

The massive collection of German collector Hemut Lange is coming up for sale starting December 19, 2009 in Wolfenbüttel. A second part will appear in April, 2010.

The sale is being offered by DWA (Deutsche Wertpapierauktionen GmbH), a subsidiary of FHW (Freunde Historischer Wertpapier.) I just received the 96-page catalog yesterday, meaning the sale is only two weeks away.

The catalog for the auction was put together by long-time dealer Vladimir Gutowski and Fabian Palic. Because of the size of the offering, the catalog has a different appearance than typical FHW catalogs. Everything this time is in black and white with pictures of only parts of the collection.

There are currently 865 lots in the auction, virtually all representing stocks and bonds from railroads. American railroads comprise the bulk of the collection: 610 single-item lots plus 39 multi-item lots. Many lots represent seriously rare certificates. Nine more lots represent other rail operations in North America.

The downside is that the collection is so vast that only 27% of the lots are illustrated in the catalog. I have not yet been able to find any online listing. (I will modify this blog if I hear back from Herr Gutowski). Meanwhile, there are two offsetting features I heartily applaud.

1) Several multi-item lots are illustrated. (I do not know why more auction houses don't show multi-item lots.)

2) Unlike normal European auctions, DWA's starting prices will be 80% of its lower price estimates. (I think this is a REALLY good idea.)

Again, the sale is only two weeks away. There are no listed contacts for DWA, so I heartily recommend you contact FHW immediately if you are thinking about participating in this sale. You can email FHW (, or call (05331/9755-33) or fax (05331/9755-55). This may not be the best way to get the catalog, but it should work.

(American collectors: don't forget the multi-hour time difference. You can find the current time at

November 27, 2009

Telling Collectors About Your Sale

Want me to tell collectors about your upcoming sale?

Send me a copy. (Address here.)

My only requirement is that your sale or fixed-price catalog include at least a few stocks and bonds from North American railroads.

Please let me know if there are special items you think collectors need to know about.

And please make sure you send your catalog with sufficient time for my readers to write, call, or email you for their copy.

November 17, 2009

E-mail failure rates

People seem to think that ALL email gets through. It doesn't!

In fact, the U.S. Post Office, for all its problems, actually has a dramatically better delivery rate.

Research by Microsoft and others estimates that only about 99% of legitimate, non-spam email gets through. At first blush, that sounds pretty good.

In fact, it means that in a normal week, someone sends me a message about stocks and bonds that does not reach me. Unless that unknown contributor contacts me again, I won't even know the message was lost. Last week, I learned that two genealogy-related messages failed to reach me.

Obviously, many losses are due to aggressive spam filtering somewhere along the email transmittal path. Normally, the most aggressive spam filtering takes place at the last step before final delivery.

However, I used to have one contributor who could reliably get mail to me only by sending to my private Comcast account. After detective work, my ISP tracked the problem down to an overly aggressive spam filter on a single bank of servers on the East Coast. That filter was blocking all email from my correspondent's ISP which operated in eastern France and western Germany. The person who owned those particular East Coast servers refused to budge on his overly-zealous spam filtering protocol. Fortunately, email sent to my Comcast account avoided that self-appointed hall monitor.

The good thing about spam filters is that recipients can usually request their ISP (Internet service provider) to "white list" email from specific sources. I periodically make sure my correspondents are "white listed" in order to assure their email gets through unimpeded. Having problems with specific email not getting through? Tell your ISP.

Unfortunately, there are non-trivial numbers of losses caused by accidental infrastructure failures between sender and recipient. This would be the equivalent of real-life postal trucks driving into rivers every few days and losing all their letters. While everyone expects redundancy and data backups would prevent the problem, losses still occur.

Like I said, about 1% of email is lost.!

I bring this up simply to alert you that if I (or any other correspondent) do not respond to you in a reasonable amount of time, it is possible your message got lost. It happens. Why not ask if I got your message?

October 16, 2009

Help with Blank Generic Certificates

I've been cataloging railroad certificates for twenty years, but have encountered only a handful of blank certificates. Why so few?

A large number of printing companies produced blank stock certificates. I call them "generic certificates" and they were usually adorned with images that might have been used by different kinds of start-up companies. Typical images included railroads, mines, oil wells, eagles, and flags.

A long-time German correspondent just sent me this lithographed example with a freight train moving right to left. Collectors have no doubt seen images like this a thousand times.

This certificate got me wondering how many more blank certificates might be out there. I simply don't know. I'm guessing that most were discarded a century ago.

I would appreciate hearing from you if you own ANY completely blank generic certificates. (With the possible exception of certificates with oil-related vignettes, all varieties of generic certificates were used at one time or another by railroad companies.) Please send 200 dpi scans to my regular email address reachable via the Coxrail web site.

October 01, 2009

Mario Boone's 43rd Auction

I received Mario Boon'es wonderful new catalog a couple days ago. This will be the 43rd Boone auction and will be held in Antwerp, Oct 24 followed by Europe's largest stock and bond bourse the next day.

This sale will again feature a nice selection of U.S. railroad issues (about 55 certificates), including several certificates not commonly seen. My particular favorites include:

The Gilpin Tramway Co. (Historic Colorado line near Central City and very hard to find.)
Staten Island Rail-Road Co (Featuring a signature by Jacob Vanderbilt.)
Union Pacific Railway Co. (1880s 10-share proof.)
St Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway Co. (Another hard-to-find issue with a great vignette.)
Niagara Falls & Lake Ontario Rail Road Co. (1853 bond featuring a view of Niagara Falls.)

Contact Mario at The Scripophily Center (0032-(0)-9-386-90-91) for a copy of this full-color catalog as soon as possible. I am not convinced that prices for these rarities is going to get any cheaper.

September 17, 2009 2010 calendar available

Thankfully, a calendar available well before the end of the year!

Bob Kerstein has again published a beautiful 13-month calendar for 2010 featuring a classic stock or bond for each month. Like last year, the new calendar is priced at $9.95, but you will receive one for free with any purchase.

As always, contact Bob at or at 1-888-STOCKS6 (1-888-786-2576).

August 28, 2009

August Newsletter Online

Two newsletters within a month? What's up?

Well, I had a lot more to say about the concept of rarity and how it relates — or doesn't relate — to price. This time I try to point out several serious flaws in The Myth is that says "rare is valuable."

The basic idea is that just because a collectible is scarce or rare does not mean it is automatically valuable. Someone needs to have the desire to own it. And not just one or two people, but a bunch.

I was talking with one of my car-collecting buddies the other day about the concept of demand. I pointed to a one-of-a-kind bond and asked, "So how much would you pay for this baby?"
"A dollar."

"But you collect old cars and you play golf. You can afford more."

"Okay, two dollars. I don't want to piss you off."

"What if I told you it was unique? One-of-a-kind. Only one on the planet. A whole lot rarer than those old junk heaps you collect."

"Great. I don't feel so bad about upping my offer to two bucks."

This tongue-in-cheek conversation illustrates a concept we agree on 100%. And yet so few collectors fully undertstand. If a collecting hobby is small and only a few people want something, exceedingly rare items might not be worth much at all. It does not matter what a cataloger or seller thinks collectibles should be worth. And it certainly doesn't matter what collectors originally paid. Value is determined strictly by how much future collectors want things. It does not matter whether collectibles are rare or common; prices can be very flexible.

In this issue, I examine five certificates that have historically sold for about $75. I show how many serial numbers are known and I estimate how many examples might exist. I think you'll find the numbers enlightening.

This deeper examination of rarity shows a pardoxical twist.

No matter how much we understand about the flawed and indirect relationship between rarity and price, I actually don't think it is possible to change our behavior or thinking. Not even one little bit. I suggest that the very next time we evaluate a collectible for purchase, rarity will be the first thing we will think of. No matter how much we know better, I think all collectors, including myself, unconsciously believe The Myth that "rare means valuable."

Download the August 2009 Coxrail newletter.

August 25, 2009

9th Annual Stock Certificate & Bond Show approaching

I just received announcement of the next Stock and Bond show coming up in January. As before, the show will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel two miles from Dulles Airport in Herndon, Virginia, Jan 29-30, 2010.

I strongly suspect that most dealers are already informed, but if you want to set up a table at the show, you need to contact Bob Schell as soon as possible. Early bird savings end September 30.

For those of you wanting to stay at the hotel, contact Crowne Plaza at 800-227-6963 and mention the code "BON" for special rates. Again, you are advised to make reservations as soon as possible.

August 06, 2009

July 2009 issue of Scripophily mailed to members

The latest issue of Scripophily is out and is better than ever. The latest issue is 36 full-color pages chock-full of news of the stock and bond hobby. Scripophily is the publication of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS).

The publishing schedule is now three issues per year, which I think is good. Issues will be sufficiently frequent to keep readers interested in the hobby of collecting stocks and bonds, but not so frequent as to run out of stories.

Major articles this time are:

  • Australian Breweries

  • The Railway to Nowhere

  • London's River Crossings

  • Where Did All Those Cancelled Certificates Come From?

There are numerous shorter articles including:

  • How Does the Crisis Impact the Scripophily Market?

  • D-Day Discovery

  • Award for John Herzog

  • Puzzler (about a Pacific Mail Steamship printing plate)

Recurring columns include:

  • Society Matters

  • Cox's Corner

  • The Traveler

  • Auction News

  • Auction Reviews

  • Events Calendar

You will receive Scripophily with your membership which is a meager $25 per year. I know that $25 does not sound like enough. I'm pretty sure you can contribute more without receiving any major complaints.

The IBSS has honored me most graciously by naming me a member of its editorial board. Nonetheless, my opinions are my own.

I hold an extremely serious conviction that all of us take huge amounts from our hobbies. We all build collections on the countless years of experience and wisdom of collectors, dealers, researchers, authors and catalogers who have preceeded us. That means that all of us — collectors and dealers alike — owe our enjoyment and appreciation to people we can never possibly repay. Since repayment to our benefactors is impossible, our only option is to pay forward to all those unseen collectors who will follow. No, not all of us can contribute articles, research and excitement. But we can all support our hobbies through membership in organizations.

The hobby of collecting stocks and bonds is microscopic by comparison to hobbies like stamps, coins, automobiles and art. That means small organizations like the IBSS are greatly dependent on our membership. I'm not talking only about monetary involvement. I am saying that members like you and me are seriously crucial to the health of the hobby by our mere presence.

I personally ask you to please consider adding your voice and your presence to this enjoyable hobby. Join us in the International Bond and Share Society today. And receive your subscription to Scripophily in the bargain!

July 28, 2009

July newsletter - Play fair...with your heirs

Collectors have this nagging habit of dying and leaving the task of selling their collections to their heirs. I've never been so lucky, but I've heard inheritance can be a good thing. On the other hand, it can be unpleasant to inherit a collection you know little about and then need to sell it. And we're not not even getting into the emotional issues.

Selling collectibles is not necessarily easy, even for the pros. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.

The difficulty can be compounded, sometimes quite dramatically, if collectors give their heirs inflated expectations of value. In this issue, I talk about why it is so crucial for collectors to be honest with their heirs. They must go to great lengths to avoid exaggerating values.

You may see the latest issue at (Or download to your computer by right-clicking on the link and choosing "Save Target As".) You may see all back issues at

July 21, 2009

(The number of) Sales on eBay are up

I have noticed a marked increase in the number of successful stock and bond sales on eBay in the last two or three weeks. Within this observation, I can imagine seeing a few possible indications. (I'm not saying they are there; it is merely a way to interpret activity.)

1) There seems to be a pent-up demand. Collectors seem determined to buy. Never mind that no experts are claiming an end to the recession. Never mind that the unemployment rate has not improved. Never mind that business managers say they expect more layoffs in coming months. Regardless of somewhat dismal news, collectors are buying.

2) Prices are NOT up. They remain flat to somewhat down.

3) There are substantial numbers of eBay offerings relative to the number of successful sales. Unsold lots outnumber successful sales by two to four times. This suggests sellers are still setting minimum prices above actual market prices. However, the high number of offerings suggests we may be approaching capitulation. The stock market encounters a point of capitulation when stock holders give up and decide they can no longer afford to sustain further declines. At that point, they sell regardless of price. When they capitulate, they show they are no longer willing to wait for an upturn. We may be seeing that happening among weaker eBay sellers. While bad for those sellers, the market cannot genuinely improve until a definite bottom is reached.

4) There has been a most definite shift among the days that sales close. Probably 60% to 80% of the sales of collectible stocks and bonds used to close on the weekend. Sales are now closing in almost equal numbers throughout the week. I think that is a very good trend for sellers, but I have absolutely no idea why it is happening. (By having the majority of sales close almost simultaneously on the weekends, sellers were previously forcing buyers to ration their bids. Sellers never seem to understand that buyers try to avoid winning too many sales at once.)

5) This same trend (no discernible price improvement but more sales) is happening in two other areas of collectibles I track.

July 10, 2009

Third Edition Schedule

Because publishing schedules always have a tendency to slip, including mine, I will NOT divulge plans for the third edition until I feel very confident things will move forward without delay. The text and cover design is finished, but I cannot afford the publishing risk right now.

My daily recording of prices unquestionably proves that average collectors are simply not spending much money on collectible stocks and bonds. Prices have been dropping for several years, and every time I think prices have hit bottom, I'm proven wrong. Demand for the rarest and most desireable items seems okay. Not strong, but okay.

It is the vast middle ground that has me concerned. Demand for all but the most desireable certificates seems very soft. Rightly or wrongly, this is my guidepost. My theory is that if average collectors aren't buying certificates, they probably have little desire to buy catalogs.

I think it unwise to risk a substantial amount of money on a new edition right now. Conceivably, if I can find compelling evidence of recovery - both in the economy and in prices of collectibles - I can issue a new edition in the spring or summer of 2010. Economists always disagree more than weather forecasters, but I am hearing few predictions of early recovery. Most predictions seem to indicate a longer recovery period. While I am aiming for a publishing date next year, I am giving only it a 50-50 chance.

I discuss this issue in more detail at Third Edition Schedule on the Coxrail site. In the meantime, I continue to collect prices and new information about certificates as I have for the last twenty years. As always, I update the online database every two weeks. That means that EVERY new certificate and every new serial number is listed online within no more than two weeks of discovery. Similarly, every new price is factored into my price estimates in the same schedule.

June 24, 2009

The Great West Exposition Train Co

Certificates from this "mystery" company began appearing in March of last year. While the purpose of the company had been a mystery, the more perplexing mystery was how little evidence of its existence it had left.

Certificates are currently known only in unissued form. The company was incorporated in Colorado and its certificates were printed by A.S. Carter Stamps, Seals and Printing of Denver.

David Adams, one of my three big contributors of obscure information, finally discovered this company in a magazine that had recently been scanned and indexed by Google Books.

An article about the company appeared in the November 1903 issue of Business Woman's Magazine. It appears the company intended to carry exhibits that promoted the western states and western immigration. Seemingly, the promoters of the project considered the Chicago and San Francisco World's Fairs had suffered moral lapses.

Thanks to Ed Lewis for an image of this certificate.

June 19, 2009

New York state revenues on bonds

Michael Mahler, one of my contributors, just finished a HUGE article on revenue stamps applied to bonds held by New York residents.

You can find parts 1, 2 and 3 of Mike's article on the American Revenue Association website. Unfortunately, part 4 of Mike's article exceeded the capability of the association's small website. He will post the final part once the association acquires more server space.

Mike tells me he has seen New York revenues on bonds dated as early as 1847 and as late as the 1920s. The revenue stamps he talks about in his article are most common on bonds of the 1890s to 1900s.

His article is titled, New York Mortgage Endorsement, Secured Debt, and Investment Stamp Taxes, 1911-1920. I will bet that most collectors who own more than a few railroad bonds have one of the stamps that Mike is interested in.

That is NOT to say that they are common. Quite the contrary. Some are quite hard to find. Collectors of stocks and bonds generally do not pay premiums for revenue stamps, but philatelists do. Mike points out that, "Some seen as common by scripophilists become rarities to philatelists!"

When you get to the research page of the American Revenue Association, you will find a previous article by Michael Mahler that you might also be interested in: Robert Schuyler's 1853-4 Stock Fraud on the New York and New Haven Railroad: the paper trail.
Mike sent two more stamps for illustration. You may find them on my Facebook page. (You do NOT need to be a member to see them.)

June 10, 2009

The Assassination of Colonel James Fisk, Jr.

(This article and accompanying woodcut images appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Jan 20, 1872. James Fisk was Jay Gould's partner in his early railroad empire adventures, especially his takeover of the Erie Railroad. The Gould and Fisk era is probably best described in Maury Klein's, The Life and Legend of Jay Gould. Fisk was a larger than life character, ultimately undone by his behavior. In contrast, Gould preferred the shadows.)

WHEN in an article in our editorial columns we commented upon the lapse of time that had intervened since our city had been visited by any­thing like a genuine " sensation," it was not dreamt by us that even before that article should reach the eye of the public such an appalling tragedy would occur as that which, on the evening of January 6th, produced an excitement in our midst rarely equaled by the simple announcement of the death of a single member of our vast community.

The facts connected with the tragedy; as far as we have been enabled to collate them from the most reliable sources, are as follows :
On the morning of Saturday, January 6th, a hearing had taken place at the Yorkville Police Court before Justice Bixby in the matter of the charge of libel prepared by Mrs. Helen Josephine Mansfield and Edward S. Stokes against risk. After the conclusion of the examination for the day, Stokes, accompanied by his coun­sel, Hon. John McKeon and Assistant District Attorney Fellows, repaired to Delmonico's, at the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street, and there partook of a lunch. While there, it is said, it was announced to Stokes that the Grand Jury had found an indictment against him for a conspiracy to extort money from Fisk. Immediately, upon hearing this, he left the party, but without making any remark which would lead any of those who were in his company to suppose that he was bent upon such a deed as assassinating a fellow-being.

Stokes, on leaving Delmonico's, at once proceeded to the Grand Central Hotel, where by some means he had ascertained Colonel Fisk was to call. He was observed by the attachés of the hotel lounging around the corridors and barroom of the place, apparently unconcerned and without any care. He seemed in good spirits, and noticed several acquaintances who met him there.
At a quarter past four Fisk drove up to the ladies' entrance, and stepping out of his carriage, inquired of the door-boy, John Redmond, if Mrs. Morse and her daughter wore in. This Mrs. Morse is said to be the widow of the man who gave Colonel Fisk his first start in the world. The hall-boy answered that he thought Mrs. Morse and her eldest daughter had gone out, but that the younger Miss Morse was in her grandmother's room. Colonel Fisk re­quested the boy to show him up, and the two started, the colonel leading.

At that moment, and before Colonel Fisk had mounted more than two steps, Stokes suddenly made his appearance from some place of concealment, and a shot rang out, which struck Fisk in the abdomen, two inches to the right of the navel and three inches above it, passing downward, backward, and to the left, inflicting a terrible wound. Fisk fell, shouting, " Oh !" and immediately scrambled to his feet again, when Stokes once more leveled his revolver and fired another shot, the ball passing through and out of Fisk's left arm without touching the bone. The latter turned to run, but fell a second time, and slid down to the bottom of the stairs, where he was picked up by the crowd, who had gathered on hearing the re­port of the pistol, and carried up-stairs to an adjoining rum, where he was laid upon the bed, and the house physicians summoned. Stokes appears to have made little, if any, attempt at escape, but walked quietly down­stairs through the main public staircase, and was about leaving the hotel by the rear en­trance when he was stopped by Mr. Powers, the hotel proprietor, and some of his employes. The pistol (a four-barreled one) with which the deed was done was shortly after found, with two chambers discharged, under one of the lounges in the ladies' parlor, where it had evi­dently been thrown by the assassin before descending the stairs.

The police were summoned, and upon their arrival Stokes quietly submitted to arrest, and was escorted to the Mercer Street station, where he was detained until the arrival of the coroner, who, about half-past six, repaired to the hotel, and there, having impanneled a jury, proceeded to take the ante-mortem deposition of the victim. Upon Stokes being brought before him, Colonel Fisk fully identified him as the person who had fired the shots.

Dr. Tripler, the hotel surgeon, was in Fisk's room within a few minutes of the shooting, and probed the wound in the abdomen without success, for the purpose of finding the ball. He made him as comfortable as possible, and awaited the arrival of the other surgeons, who had been sent for before proceeding further.

Soon after this Police Surgeon Beach made his appearance, quickly followed by Drs. Sayre, White, Folsom and Wood. Upon the arrival of Dr. Wood a consultation immediately took place, when it was decided to hold an examination, and extract the ball, if possible. Jay Gould, James Irving, William M. Tweed, John Chamberlain, Jay Gould's clerk, Mrs. and the two Misses Morse, Colonel Hooper and wife, Colonel Fisk's brother-in-law and sister, and several other relatives, were present, having come in response to telegrams stating the colonel a condition.

At about seven o'clock his counsel, Mr. Shearman, who had been sent for, proceeded to draw his will, which was soon accomplished, and the document was signed by Fisk in a firm and distinct band. It has since been announced, that by this will he leaves all his property to his wife, subject to a legacy to his sister, Mrs. Hooker, of $100,000 ; an annuity of $3,000 for the support of his father and mother, and annuities of $2,000 each in favor of the two Misses Morse, until their marriage.

The surgeons were obliged to administer chloroform before they could proceed with the examination. The hole was large enough to have been made by a minie ball. Very little hemorrhage was found, and it was therefore concluded that none of the large vessels had been penetrated. It was feared, however, that the ball had gone through the liver, which lies in a direct line with its course through the body. At eleven o'clock the physicians held a consultation. Dr. Carnochan was called in to assist. It was decided that nothing more could be done for Mr. Fisk until Sunday morning, and as he was doing at the time remarkably well, no attempt to extract the ball was made.

The night dragged wearily its slow hours along at the hotel, while the watchers in the room where Fisk was lying, disregarding the faint lightening of the approaching dawn, waited with intense anxiety in the short spaces that elapsed between each opinion given by the attending physicians about his condition. The circle of thoughtful faces looked at times strangely wan and haggard, as the features, relaxed in involuntary forgetfulness, betrayed truly the nature of the thoughts that were driving one another through each brain. For, despite the common expectancy and the commoner hope that death would not at least come very speedily, a foreboding, inexplicable but not less depressing, seemed to have settled upon all. This could not have been from any betrayal of feeling by the medical attendants, for their faces wore studiously cheerful looks, especially whenever the prostrate man showed any signs of consciousness of his surroundings.

At seven o'clock Sunday morning, it was announced that he was fast sinking, and that the danger of a sudden ending of his intense agony was very great. His pulse was at this time 130. Dr. Fisher went down-stairs in a hurried manner and asked something of the night clerk ; then went back again. He looked very anxious.

Immediately after this, when the hand of the clock pointed a quarter after seven, a carriage driven very rapidly, the horses, wet and dappled with the foam that flew from their nostrils and congealed in the cold air, stopped short at the door. The coachman sprang from his perch, pulled open the door and helped out a lady in a dark traveling-dress, who stepped wearily to the ground. She walked quickly into the por­tico. This was Mrs. Fisk. She bad come from Massachusetts, in obedience to a telegram from her husband, announcing his condition. She displayed great agitation and distress upon reaching his bedside. He continued to sink gradually, remaining in an almost unconscious state until about eleven o'clock in the morning, when, in spite of all that medical skill could accomplish, the irrevocable summons came, and he who on the previous afternoon had been in the full enjoyment of life and health, was now a lifeless corpse, surrounded by a band of mourning relatives and friends.

At two o'clock in the afternoon the body was placed in a casket, and borne in a hearse from the hotel to Mr. Fisk's late residence on Twenty-third Street, in the rear of the Grand Opera House ; there the remains were placed in an ice casket in Mrs. Fisk's private chamber.
Visitors began to pour in, and Twenty-third street, in front of the house, was almost blocked with carriages.

The post-mortem examination of the body was held on Sunday night at half-past nine o'clock, at his late residence in Twenty-third Street. Drs. Janeway and Marsh conducted the examination. Drs. Wood, Sayre, White, Phelps, Tripler and Fisher, with Deputy-Coroners Beach, Marsh and Shine, were also present to assist if necessary. The result of the examina­tion, which was somewhat lengthy, was, first : The wound in the left arm was a flesh wound, the ball passing directly through the arm, entering one inch below the elbow-joint, passing through the inner border of the biceps muscle, and making its exit through the poste­rior aspect of the arm. The fatal wound in the abdomen entered six inches above the umbilicus, and one inch and a half to the right of the median line, passed downward into the left through the omentum and mesentery, piercing two loops of the small intestine, and was found in the left inguinal region, about twenty-two inches below the point of entrance.

There was little or no hemorrhage. All the organs were examined, and the brain, the heart and the kidneys being found in a very healthy condition. A great deal of fat was observed in the omentum and parietes of the abdomen. The examination was concluded at half-past ten.
The funeral obsequies in the city took place on Monday, the 8th inst. The remains reposed in the entrance-hall on the west floor of the Erie building at 11 o'clock. The casket was appropriately decked with wreaths, crosses and cut flowers. All persons were admitted to see the body.
At half-past one o'clock the remains were escorted by the Ninth and other regiments to the New Haven Depot. Thence the cars bore the body away to the quiet New England town of Brattleboro', Vt., where it will be interred.

Short funeral ceremonies were held at Colonel Fisk's residence in Twenty-third Street. The Rev. Dr. Flagg, chaplain of the Ninth Regiment, officiated. The remains were for­warded by the New Haven Railroad.

The Grand Opera House was closed Monday evening.

Shortly after nine o'clock Sunday morning a carriage drove up to the Tombs entrance on Franklin Street. From it alighted Captain Burns, of the Mercer Street police, Stokes, the murderer, and two officers. Stokes looked nervous and sorrow-stricken, but he assumed an air of indifference as he passed the portal of the prison. He said to Captain Burns : " It's just about a year since I've been in this office." The prison being quite full, Stokes was confined temporarily in the same cell with Haggerty, who is charged with stealing the city vouchers. He is said to have expressed to Haggerty a confident expectation that he would be out in a few weeks ; but this remark, if made at all, was probably before he had been informed of the fatal result.
(The text below the woodcut does not indicate who the people watching over Fisk's death bed may have been. The woman on her knees weeping was almost certainly his wife. I strongly suspect the beaded man standing a few feet right of the bed was Jay Gould.)

June 07, 2009

Rarity (again!)

Readers, I BEG you. I mean that I am sincerely begging you, in the strongest possible way, to understand the meaning of the word "rare".

If the word "rare" is being used to describe an item for sale, then "rare" is being used primarily as a marketing term.

I have argued time and time again that every seller using the word "rare" is trying to convince you that there is a direct connection between rarity and value. There is not. Value reflects desireability. There is a 100% direct connection between desireability and value. Sellers desparately want you to believe that rare items are desireable. Many are. But sadly, many rare certificates are hardly desireable at all.

June 03, 2009

American Bank Note Company security printing

Here is a view of the printing department at American Bank Note Company in the late 1860s. There are probably 30 workers visible in addition to the guard at the top of the center stairway.

This factory scene took place in the penthouse of the Merchant’s Exchange Building at 48 Wall Street in Manhattan (55 Wall Street under the later street numbering system.) This location had been the previous headquarters of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson Co. You can see the penthouse in the view of the building’s exterior.

These images appear in The Story of the American Bank Note Company by William H. Griffiths (1958.) The engraver of the exterior view is unrecorded. The bottom right corner of the interior view is signed "A. H. Jocelyn", probably Albert Higley Jocelyn (1827-1900), an engraver covered briefly in Gene Hessler’s The Engraver’s Line. Albert Jocelyn’s uncle was Nathaniel Jocelyn, one of the founders of the American Bank Note Company in 1858.

It appears that ABNCo occupied its rented space at the Merchant’s Exchange Building between May 1860 and sometime in 1867.

During this period, the vast majority of ABNCo’s business was printing money for both the Federal government and private businesses. Its money printing endeavors increased throughout the late 1860s with increasing numbers of orders coming from other countries.

During the time ABNCo was located in the Merchant's Exchange, its printing of stocks and bonds was probably minimal. My database can identify only 36 extant varieties of railroad stocks and bonds that ABN had printed between 1860 and 1867.

Unfortunately for ABN, the Federal government took over all much of its own currency printing in 1874. By 1877, the government was printing all its own money. This move forced ABN to shift to printing stamps and money for foreign governments as well as stocks and bonds for domestic businesses. This switch can be seen in the number of certificates printed by ABN after 1870.

No one knows how many certificate varieties ABN may have printed during the last decades of the 19th century, but it must have been huge. Counting only railroad certificates, my database shows 277, 1,041 and 725 distinct varieties printed during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s respectively. Assuming that the surviving population of certificates is only a fraction of what ABN may printed, the company probably created two to five new varieties of certificates each week. Throw in all the security printing for non-railroad businesses as well as all its foreign business clients and we can see its engraving endeavors were truly staggering!

May 26, 2009

Cherrelyn Horse Car in Denver

This was apparently the last horse car used in Denver and survived at least into the 1900s. I do not know what system it may have operated on nor whether it was officially incorporated.

This favorite photo appeared on the cover of Happy Home Chats from Feb. 10, 1936. (Happy Home Chats was a weekly 4-page promotional newletter from Denver's Happy Home Bakers.).

The horse would pull the car and passengers to the top of a gradual hill near today's Englewood. On the downhill trip, the horse would stand on the rear platform and ride down in comfort.

April 30, 2009

11x17 scanners

I receive numerous requests asking me to recommend scanners capable of imaging stocks and bonds in one pass. You can always scan certificates in two or three passes and then stitch images together. However, if you go that direction, your images will look pretty scuzzy unless you invest in good (by that I mean Photoshop) image software. For the average non-techie collector, I strongly suggest it is easier and dramatically more time effective to try buy a large scanner.

Yes, there is the price issue. While letter-size scanners are almost disposable items, 11 x 17 scanners can be very pricey.

To be useful for collectors, scanners need to be

  • flatbed (flat glass surface)
  • capable of scanning 11 x 17 (officialy designated "A3" size)
  • affordable
  • have acceptable software
Stay away - far away - from multi-function scanners or scanners with document feeders. Unless you like living dangerously, never let machinery grab your certificates.

Here are the large flatbed scanners currently available.

  1. 1. Epson Expression 10000XL. This is a serious, serious workhorse. and the one I use. It has proven extremely reliable. This scanner comes with good scanning software.

  2. 2. Epson GT-20000. I don't know anything about this machine, but if it's anything like the 10000XL, it ought to be great. Let me know if you're familiar with this scanner.

  3. Mustek ScanExpress A3 USB 1200 Pro. One of my correspondents bought one just to scan certificates. His images look good and he says he's very pleased with his purchase. These are extremely affordable machines, so probably perfect for the hobbyist.

  4. UMAX Powerlook 2100XL. I cannot speak to this device, but we used an ancient UMAX for years. Dollar for dollar, it was a terrific investment.

  5. Avision FB6080E. Unlike any of the other scanners, this one has glass almost to the edge of the scanner body. This allows you to scan book pages very easily.

  6. Plustek Optibook A300. Another large format flatbed scanner primarily designed to make it easy to scan large books face down without trashing the binding. The list price on this scanner is higher than the other scanners in this list.
Several other companies (Ricoh, Xerox, Bell & Howell) offer large format "flatbed" scanners heavily adorned with document feeders. They are expensive machines intended for large businesses, so not considered here as appropriate for collectors.

It appears that most large companies like HP, Canon, Microtek, Kodak and Fujitsu have abandoned the 11 x 17 size flatbed scanner market for us ordinary consumers. If a big fan of those companies, you can still buy older and discontinued models online. However, be warned that you never know how much useful life is left in the bulbs. Repairs are often possible, of course, but frequently more expensive than replacement.

April 25, 2009

Arguing against jargon

I think we should all applaud our hobby for using very, very little jargon. I think this is especially amazing when you consider that every collectible certificate came from the world of finance, a profession inundated with arcane and obscure terminology.

I just did a search in the current issue of Scripophily, the quarterly publication of the International Bond and Share Society. I saw no jargon whatsoever.

Now, that is not to say that every single word would be immediately understandable to a novice. Words like "specimen", "proof", "vignette", "preferred", and even "scripophily" (the official name of the hobby) can be confusing. However, I classify those words as necessary terminology and fully recognize that the boundary between terminology and jargon can be fuzzy.

Most collectible bonds are "first mortgage coupon bonds". A novice may not know what a first mortgage coupon bond is, but the term cannot really be simplified. Besides, the words appear on bonds.

However, if a description were shortened to "1885 7% 1st", we would be solidly in the realm of jargon. Even experienced collectors might not know the description referred to a 7% first mortgage bond issued in 1885.

To me, the test is often simple. If a simple word can be substituted for a confusing one, then the confusing word is probably jargon.

Take "recto" and "verso", for instance.

These are Latin words for "right" and "back." With the exception of a handful of people in the teaching and clerical professions, no one really understands, let alone speaks, Latin. "Front" and "back" don't sound terribly professional, but their meanings are crystal clear. "Recto" and "verso" are therefore jargon words. (In truth, "recto" refers to the right hand page in a book meant to be read first. Its use in describing certificates is, in my opinion, a little misguided to begin with.)

In some cases, jargon is used to make writers or speakers sound professional and educated. It is a time-worn rule that if you spout off a little Latin, you sound like a pro.

And then, there are terms that serve definite purposes in one profession or hobby and somehow get stolen and cludged onto another. They are not really jargon so much as "Frankenstein words."

One of those ugly monsters is the term "mint condition". Here was a perfectly good term used in the coin hobby in years past. Coins are minted, so the term "mint condition" had its place. The term was abandoned when collectors accepted the fact that coins came from mints in wide ranges of conditions. Today, coin collectors refer to those conditions as various "mint states."

In a strange paradoxical twist of fate, the abandoned term "mint condition" lives on as a Frankenstein term in various collectible paper hobbies, including stock and bond collecting. How is it that "mint condition" can be used to describe pieces of paper that may never have been within a thousand miles of a mint? Was there ever a collector of paper who thought paper was minted?

I maintain a large glossary of terms related to the hobby of collecting stocks and bonds. Please contact me if you ever encounter jargon or Frankenstein words that need clarification.

April 21, 2009

Prices remain schizophrenic

I admit it.

I am confused about the direction of prices for collectible stocks and bonds. Some prices are up. Many are down. Prices for some items should be down, but are actually up. And vice versa. As I said a few months ago, prices are wacky.

Mario Boone's auction a month ago in Antwerp (the next listing down) was very curious. Overall, Mario sold about 60% of the lots offered. That percentage was abnormally high for a European sale. Having said that, lots that featured North American railroads only sold half as well as the rest of the sale. In part, I think those low sales percentages reflected overly high owners' reserve amounts rather than market disinterest.

At the other end of the market, the number of certificates being sold on eBay is down substantially. Regardless of sellers' proclamations that their certificates are "rare", most certificates being sold on eBay right now are rather ordinary. And that is where it gets really interesting.

I am seeing that scarcer certificates are, by and large, establishing new lows. At the same time, prices for more common certificates – the certificates you see week in, week out – are moving up.

What the heck is going on ?!? Apparent trends just don't seem to be making a lot of sense.

A few years ago, MK&T certificates with Jay Gould's autograph routinely sold for $350-$400. Lately, some have broken the $175 barrier and are now challenging the $150 level. Certificates with rather common imprinted revenues have been selling for 50% to 100% more than they used to. Prices for very common certificates are up. Prices for medium common to medium scarce certificates are down.

Yes, we can certainly attribute some of this odd price behavior to the global downturn and a general feeling of caution, if not outright fear. It has always been the rule that when people need to liquidate, they sell for any price they can get.

However, if we go back to Mario Boone's sale, we can see that some sellers are apparently refusing to capitulate. Fortunately for those sellers, some collectors are behaving as if they believe this is a pefect time to buy. Boone's sale proves to me that some collectors are continuing to buy and are continuing to pay strong prices.

I'm back to where I began. I can't say whether prices are going to drop further, head higher, or stay schizophrenic. I am baffled.

March 09, 2009

Mario Boone Auction Catalog 42 Available

A pair of excellent Mario Boone auction catalogs just arrived. In my opinion, these are Boone's best yet and he has some wonderfully scarce and desirable certificates inside.

This is Boone's 25th year selling collectible stock and bonds, so all year long he has been offering "Silver Jubilee" specials. That is why he has a three-day sale and two catalogs this time.

Mario offers a hugely diverse selection of 1975 lots from all around the world. Of that number, I count 328 United States lots. My interest, of course, is railroad issues from Panama to the Arctic circle. I count 56 lots in my railroad specialty.

These are not your typical lots of railroad certificates. I see several lots of scarce and rare certificates that are almost never seen.

Perhaps my favorites are two (!) certificates from the Maxwell Land Grant & Railway Company. For the real specialist, there is a Niles & New Lisbon Railway piece with James Fisk's signature. Even collectors with multiple Vanderbilt signatures don't have a Fisk! These only appear every few years.

Speaking of Vanderbilt, Mario is offering a receipt for 2nd mortgage bonds of the Hudson River Railroad signed by "C. Van Derbilt" (aka, the Commodore.) The start price on this item is €4,500. A couple of years ago, I would have said that price was too low. Today, I suspect Mario's start price is fair.

(Yes, I do look at other things! There is a Standard Oil Trust with J.D. Rockefeller's signature. Or how about a Brigham Young autograph as president on a Zion's Mercantile stock? There is also an uncancelled Buffalo Bill Cody signature on a Cody-Dyer Arizona Mining & Milling certificate. And gobs more.)

Among other seldom seen certificates is one that might be overlooked by many collectors. There is one bond from the St Louis & St Joseph Railway which I've never seen one before. Of course, Mario is also offering one of the ever-popular stock certificates of the Harrisburg Portsmouth Mount Joy & Lancaster Rail Road bearing Thomas Scott's signature.

As usual, Mario's two catalogs are heavily illustrated and all in color. Images of ALL lots are available online. In fact, the entire two catalogs are available online at The sales will take place March 20-22 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Antwerp, Belgium. European collectors already know to expect "Europe's biggest scripophily bourse" on Sunday.

I want to stress to American collectors that the dollar is currently at a six-year high against the Euro, so you won't be so heavily penalized by foreign exchange rates. And for those of you wondering, but too polite to ask, yes, Boone's catalogs are all in English.

The full auction offering is already online. However, if you want to receive a beautiful printed catalog, e-mail Mario Boone, at Centrum voor Scriptophilie BVBA in Deinze, Belgium,

February 24, 2009

Counting cancellation types

I am conducting a census of types of cancellations that appear in pictures of stock certificates. I hope to do the same with bonds sometime later this year.

So far, I have had time to examine only about 3,500 images. I hate to admit it, but I had never really noticed the large percentage of certificates that are cancelled by multiple methods. It appears that about 45% of all stock certificates are cancelled by two to as many as four different methods. For instance, the current census shows 27% of all stocks show both punch cancellations and rubber stamp cancellations.

By the time I examine another couple thousand certificates, I hope to learn if there are any trends of types of cancellations by date. It appears pen cancellations were the only method of stock certificate cancellation until the 1850s or 1860s. I am not sure, however, when pinhole cancellations first appeared.

One of the things I have already discovered is that “machine-gun” cancellations (rows of punch cancels) were used very, very sparsely on stock certificates, while they seem relatively common on bonds.

hand punch cancellations
machine punch cancellations
pinhole cancellations
pen cancellations
crayon or china marker cancellations
rubber stamp cancellations
hole cancellations
cut out cancellations
typed cancellations

I have a special page on where I explain the different types of cancellations seen on collectible certificates.

There are a large and unknown number of stock certificates that are cancelled by essentially invisible methods. For instance, a huge number of Chicago Burlington & Quincy stock certificates were cancelled by series of three 'V' shaped cut cancellations. I have a good picture of these cancellations on my cancellation page. While those cancellations are quite severe, they do not appear in any photographs or scans. Note also that many of these CB&Q certificates are rubber-stamped 'Cancelled' on the backs, not the fronts. To the scanner, many appear completely uncancelled.

Hammer cut cancellations and spindle cancellations are equally hard to see in ordinary images. For that matter, pinhole cancellations are sometimes very difficult to see and are probably undercounted in my census.

I would like to get a handle on the percentage of hidden cancellations. Perhaps the best way is to ask you to report certificates and serial numbers that show these types of hard-to-see cancellations. Please contact me through the web site. By locating your certificates in the online database, you can report cancellations for specific certificates very easily. You may also find a link to my email at the bottom of every page.

February 01, 2009

Poor's Manuals Online

    For those of you who enjoy researching the companies you collect, sooner or later you will need to look at Poor's Manuals of Railroads.
    Henry Varnum Poor was an early writer on railroads and corporate investments. Starting in 1868, he issued an annual volume specifically dedicated to railroads. The actual title of the volume changed over time, but the layout and type of content stayed remakably uniform.
    Today, the early editions are pricey, especially if they are in good condition. Some people like to buy distressed volumes and have them rebound.
    At long last, some of the volumes are becoming available online. The largest collection can be found at "Internet Archive". Two additional volumes can be found at Google Books. (Thanks to Pete Angelos for bringing these to my attention a couple months ago.)

  • 1868 (vol 1, at Google Books)

  • 1874 (vol 7, at Internet Archive)

  • 1876 (vol 9, at Internet Archive)

  • 1877 (vol 10, at Internet Archive)

  • 1878 (vol 11, at Internet Archive)

  • 1880 (vol 13, at Internet Archive)

  • 1881 (vol 14, at Internet Archive)

  • 1882 (vol 15, at Internet Archive)

  • 1884 (vol 17, at Internet Archive)

  • 1885 (vol 18, at Internet Archive)

  • 1887 (vol 20, at Internet Archive)

  • 1891 (vol 24, at Internet Archive)

  • 1892 (vol 25, at Internet Archive)

  • 1893 (vol 26, at Internet Archive)

  • 1894 (vol 27, at Internet Archive)

  • 1895 (vol 28, at Internet Archive)

  • 1896 (vol 29, at Internet Archive)

  • 1897 (vol 30, at Internet Archive)

  • 1898 (vol 31, at Internet Archive)

  • 1899 (vol 32, at Internet Archive)

  • 1901 (vol 34, at Internet Archive)

  • 1902 (vol 35, at Internet Archive)

  • 1903 (vol 36, at Internet Archive)

  • 1917 (at Google Books)

January 31, 2009

Railroad System Maps on Certificates

Illinois Central Railroad certificateI just added a new page to the Coxrail site where I collected images of route maps used on stock certificates of the Illinois Central Railroad. I can confirm that the company used five, possibly six, versions of maps of its system between 1883 and 1947. To my knowledge, no other company used as many different maps as the IC.

A quick check of the database suggests twenty companies used system maps on at least one certificate variety. While one might think companies would have decorated their certificates with system maps more extensively, we must remember that maps would have offered little security against counterfeiting. Even crude vignettes of human forms are harder to counterfeit than simple line maps.

Another reason we see so few route maps is that railroad companies were constantly modifying their systems. Their systems were in a constant state of flux as their built new lines, abandoned others and bought and sold companies with connecting lines.

Companies that are known to have used line maps on their certificates:

  • Alaska Central Railway Co (stocks)
  • Boston & New York Air Line Rail Road Co (stocks)
  • Canada Southern Railway Co (bonds)
  • The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Co (stocks)
  • Chicago & Canada Southern Railway Co (bonds)
  • Eastern Railway Co of Minnesota (bonds)
  • The Electric Signagraph & Semaphore Co (stocks)
  • Estados Unidos de Mexico (Ferrocarril Nacional de Tehuantepec aid bonds)
  • Florida Atlantic & Gulf Central Rail Road Co (bonds)
  • Illinois Central Rail Road Co (stocks)
  • Interborough Rapid Transit Co (stocks)
  • Jacksonville Traction Co (stocks)
  • The Mississippi & Atlantic Rail Road Co (bonds)
  • The New York Central Railroad Co (bonds)
  • New York & Coney Island Railroad Co (stocks)
  • The New York Elevated Rail Road Co (stocks)
  • New York Ontario & Western Railway Co (stocks)
  • Norfolk & Western Railroad Co (bonds)
  • Seaboard Air Line Railway (bonds, on back)
  • Southern Railway Equipment Trust (bonds)

January 24, 2009

Old References to Stocks and Bonds

R.M. Smythe bookThere are a few historic references to specific old securities. R.M. Smythe's books are probably the most well-known. He compiled his lists as an effort to buy and redeem old securities (mainly bonds) that still retained value. Smythe was in the business for many years, so he must have been successful. Many of the bonds he sought at the time are now rare or non-existant.

David Adams compiled lists of the more acquirable references and I offer them here as a starting pointing for your research. Some of these references are getting very hard to find, but you can often borrow them through inter-library loans. Some appear from time to time in stock and bond auctions, particularly Spink Smythe sales.

Fisher, Robert D. 1935, 2600 Old and Inactive Security Issues of Definite Value.

Smythe, Roland Mulville, 1904, Obsolete American Securities and Corporations.

Smythe, Roland Mulville, 1911, Obsolete American Securities and Corporations, Second Volume,: Illustrated with photographs of important repudiated bonds. (This volume is available online at Google Books.)

Smythe, Roland Mulville, 1929, Valuable Extinct Securities: The secret of the obsolete security business. (The is the most easily acquirable reference to old securities, often available at Amazon, Alibris and Abe Books.)

Smythe, Roland Mulville, 1939, Smythe's Valuable Extinct Securities Guide.

January 19, 2009

January newsletter online

January 2009 Coxrail newsletterMy latest newsletter is finally finished and online.

In this issue, my main discussion is about how to ship collectible certificates. With the tremendous growth of amateur online sellers, the number of certificates damaged in transit seems to have increased. That is certainly my personal experience. While I don't have any statistics on overall losses, more of my correspondents have reported receiving damaged goods in the last six months than at any similar previous period.

It appears to me that many amateur eBay sellers just plain don't know how to ship paper. There are others, seemingly more experienced, who should know better but are cutting too many corners trying to save pennies on postage and packaging. Some people are actually shipping certificates in bubble envelopes! Huh?!?!?

So I thought it was time to go back to basics and review the concepts of shipping paper. I make the analogy that shipping paper collectible is like surgery: First, Do No Harm!

My theme of illustrations this time is a collection of logos and monograms used by printing and engraving companies on stocks and bonds. I am probably missing something, but I can only find three companies that used ornaments to promote corporate identity. (The monogram at left is from the Franklin-Lee Bank Note Company.)

These days, you can't even watch a television show without seeing a logo in the bottom right corner. But, with the exception of the Goes Lithographic Company, logos and monograms are virtually absent from certificates.

January 16, 2009

American Bank Note Company Archives, part IV

Harmer Feb 2009 auction catalogJust off the press is the latest monster auction catalog from H.R. Harmer. This huge 550-page, full-color catalog is the fourth installment offering specimens, proofs and all sorts of ephemera from the American Bank Note Company archives.

As with its predecessors, Dr. Robert Schwartz described the collection which this time includes stocks, bonds, and huge numbers of world banknotes.

By my reckoning, there are 2,355 lots up for sale, all illustrated in full color. Stocks and bonds comprise about 1,000 lots. I do not have an accurate count, but roughly 320 lots are related to U.S. railroads with possibly another 50 related to railroads from other North American countries. A few additional lots offer railroad vignettes.

The sale will take place over a span of three days from (February 18 to February 20) at Harmer's main office in Bethel, Connecticut. As before, Harmer's buyer's commission on successful bids remains at 15%. I advise contacting Harmer as soon as possible to secure a copy of this crucial catalog.