March 22, 2010

When it's time to sell...

Collectors are well acquainted with the buying sides of their hobbies. I think most, however, would collect differently if they understood more about the realities of selling.

Unfortunately, it is hard to find good information about the selling side of collecting hobbies. I think that is why collectors so often misunderstand how much their collections will be worth when it comes time to sell.

Before my readers reach the ends of their collecting careers, I BEG them to spend time discovering what the reality might be. I first recommend they go to Stephen Goldsmith’s site at There they will find well-labeled links with crucial answers about:

  • I your collection suitable for auction?

  • Determining the value of your collection.

  • Who will catalog your auction lots?

  • Setting auction reserves.

  • No-sales, buy-backs and returns.

I am extremely serious about this warning. The more collectors know about where they’re going with their collections, the better their chances of profit. Stephen Goldsmith knows what he’s talking about because he was heavily involved in over 220 auctions while executive vice-president with R.M. Smythe & Co. He is now a numismatic consultant and president of Best Coins and Currency.

Another excellent source is Stephen Datz’s informative and easy-to-read series of books about the stamp hobby. Datz’s stories and advice about the reality of selling stamps is almost 100% applicable to our hobby. I don’t think certificate collectors can go wrong reading any of his books, but I particularly recommend Top Dollar Paid and On the Road. You may buy his books at philatelic outlets, from Amazon and from Stephen Datz himself.

March 16, 2010

American Bank Note Archives Auction Part 5

Dr. Robert Schwartz and Archives International Auctions has just published the latest installment of the American Bank Note Company archives auctions. Sales from this company’s VAST archives have been going on for an amazing 22 years!

This sale is the first to be handled exclusively by Archives International. While the previous four sales were cataloged and described by Schwartz, H.R. Harmer handled publication and sales. Because Harmer is a big “house”, its sales had to be huge. This sale is smaller than the earlier sales and I personally think that is a good thing. Not that a two-day sale is anything to snivel at. I just feel that overly large sales overwhelm collectors’ wallets. In large sales, collectors find too much they want and then back off on their bids. They will either bid less or bid on fewer lots. This is especially true for average collectors with average budgets.

So, speaking strictly for myself, I like the huge catalogs, but I feel a 260-page, fully-illustrated, full-color catalog totaling 1827 lots is about right.

As usual, the sale is split between stocks and bonds and paper money and the whole world is represented. There is, of course, a wide array of stock and bonds represented with a very good showing for railroad issues.

The sale will take place April 15 and 16 in Englewood, New Jersey. If you have not already ordered your copy of the catalog, make sure you contact Archives International at or visit its web site at

March 02, 2010

Bridge and tunnel companies – should they stay or should they go?

Tunnels and bridges are nearly as crucial to railroading as locomotives and rolling stock. For that reason, I have always included a small number of those companies in my database. Here is a list of tunnel and bridge companies generally accepted as being closely related to railroading.

Am I missing any? Should I remove some? Should I remove all?

The reason I ask is because collectors seem uninterested in certificates from these kinds of companies. I have only had a couple of correspondences about bridge companies in the last 15 years and I cannot remember a single question about tunnel companies. The silence is so deafening that I can't help but wonder whether it is worth my time to track these kinds of certificates.

If you have any opinions, now is the time to tell me. Either post a comment here in this blog or contact me directly.

  • Baring Cross Bridge Co

  • Canada Southern Bridge Co

  • Detroit River Tunnel Co

  • Dunleith & Dubuque Bridge Co

  • Hudson River Bridge Co at Albany

  • Louisville Bridge Co

  • Louisville & Jeffersonville Bridge Co

  • Michigan & Canada Bridge & Tunnel Co

  • Moffat Tunnel Improvement District (bond shown above)

  • Niagara River Bridge Co

  • Oswego Railroad Bridge Co

  • Railroad Bridge Co

  • St Louis Merchants Bridge Co

  • Sault Ste Marie Bridge Co