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 Coxrail.com 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 Coxrail.com 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.

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