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.