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 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 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 Again, be sure to register before the sale date (April 4-5, 2020.)

January 16, 2020

HWPH Auction 54 / 55

Thanks to Herr Matthias Schmitt for sending catalogs for the next HWPH auction which will take place Saturday, January 25 and Monday, January 27 in Wurzburg, Germany.

As usual, the middle part of the Saturday auction (Auktion 54 in this case) is reserved for the fifty of the scarcest and most valuable certificates, all illustrated with articles and larger images in their own special catalog titled 50 Highlights. This time, the cover of 50 Highlights shows Lot 624, a certificate from the New York & Harlem Rail Road Co. This rarity is an 1868 stock certificate issued to and signed by "Commodore" Cornelius. As with the three similar certificates that I can confirm, this shows a "three-generation" association of signatures from the Commodore, son William Henry Vanderbilt (president) and grandson Cornelius Vanderbilt II (counter-signatory.) This is a great-looking certificate with a very clear signature from the Commodore on the back. The start price on this item is €5000, a quarter of the $19,500 price realized in a 1995 Smythe auction for a different serial number. Please be aware that this rarity is among the topmost tier of certificates in the railroad specialty. The last similar certificate sold seventeen years ago.

Elsewhere in Auktion 54 are two certificates signed by J. P. Morgan. Lot 76 is a relatively common New Jersey Junction Railroad bond signed on the back by Morgan and Harris Fahnestock. Much scarcer is Morgan's signature on the back of a Wagner Palace Car stock (lot 79). His signature is barely touched by a single pinhole cancellation. In the same auction is a rare and attractive ABN certificate of Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatan (lot 47.)

While neither stocks nor bonds, I also recommend advanced collectors check out lots 72 and 73. The first is an Erie Railway document boldly signed by James Fisk in sending a pass to William H. Birsdsall. The other is a records of dividends disbursed to holders of Hudson River Railroad stocks with three Commodore Vanderbilt signatures.

Auktion 55 has a selection of an additional 47 rail-related certificates, a few with start prices as low as €1. Lot 1797 is a preferred ordinary shares certificate from the Bermuda Railways Investment Co, an item I've seen only a few times. Another certificate that is seen quite infrequently is an 1872 bond from the Chicago & Canada Southern Railway (lot 1813).

Lot 1839 is a Cuba Railroad bond, signed by Sir William van Horne. (As an aside, Cuba railroads certificates are an enticing and historic specialty; I don't know why I don't detect much interest.)

Lot 1920, an 1871 Reconstruction-era bond from the Mobile & Montgomery Railroad, appears favorably-priced and worth a consideration. While I predict most collectors will not pay much attention to an 1869 stock certificate from the Norfolk & Great Western Railroad (lot 1934), they probably should. After all, this is only the fourth certificate to come to my attention in over thirty years!

Auction 55 also contains a section of autographed items, with several rail-related certificates among them. While experienced U.S. dealers have many of these in stock, I have not seen very few offered at auction in recent years. Autographed items tend to be more popular in Germany than in the U.S., so I imagine most or all of these will sell. If interested in U.S. rail-related autographs, you will find items signed by Millard Fillmore (Hudson & Berkshire Rail-Road, lot 2015), James Fargo (Merchants Despatch Transportation Co, lot 2016), Cornelius Vanderbilt II (Michigan Central Railroad, lots 2017 and 2018), Russell Sage (Milwaukee & St Paul Railway, lot 2019), John Dix (Mississippi & Missouri Rail Road, lot 2020), Jay Gould (Missouri Kansas & Texas Railway, lots 2021 and 2022), F. W. Vanderbilt (Pittsburgh McKeesport & Youghiogheny Railroad, lot 2024), George Pullman (Pullmans Palace Car Co, lot 2025) and Charles Paine and Josiah Quincy (Vermont Central Railroad, lot 2028.)

You may preview all these items and a couple thousand more by visiting the HWPH site or ordering physical catalogs for yourself. But be sure to do that soon. The sale will start on January 25.