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.