Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Secret Spy Satellites Designed by the Perkin-Elkin Corporation

On September 17, 2011 the United States unclassified documents associated with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Included in the release were details naming the KH-9 HEXAGON, commonly known as Big Bird, which produced a series of photographic reconnaissance satellites launched by the United States between 1971 and 1986 and naming the Perkin-Elkin Corporation as one of the secret companies. The effort was a joint venture between the CIA and the Air Force. Operations provided agents with high definition photographs of Soviet Union, Chinese and Cuban military sites between 1972 - 1986.

Perkin-Elmer Corporation - 1980

Perkin-Elkin Corporation was rewarded their first top secret contract from the CIA in 1966 to build highly sensitive cameras and optics used on the KH-9. A nondescript building on the hill by the airport in Danbury Connecticut provided work space, without windows, for over 1,000 employees as well as areas to test the effects of rocket launches on the equipment and create environments of extreme temperatures to mimic the conditions of the cameras in outer space.

The Hexagon project was considered the most successful space spy satellite program of the cold war era. One of the declassified successes mentions "Hexagon providing crucial information for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1970s."2

I went through my common certificates and found several for the Perkin-Elkin Corporation. A quick search of the Internet uncovers many samples at near giveaway prices. I am sure there are plenty of inventory in circulation for now. Looking ahead, every history teacher in the country will want one of these stock certificates hanging on their wall. The idea of finding a conspiracy coming to life right in our backyard is at least news worthy and most likely makes these certificates highly sought after for many years to come.

So if you are reading this blog entry, you may be one of the few collectors able to acquire a sample of the Perkin-Elkin Corporation for your collection at bargain prices. Good luck and happy hunting. As the year ends, I would like to wish everyone a safe, happy holiday season. I am really looking forward to 2012 and what it has to offer.

2 Helen O'Neill is a New York-based national writer for the Associated Press. She can be reached at feature(at)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another great find... Pennsylvania Steel Company - 1882

My search for vintage Stocks and Bonds continues. I have been using several sources including the Sunday Driver maps,, local flea markets and of course, the Internet. As mentioned in my last entry, most of the major antique centers near my home have been searched multiple times. Unfortunately, the only changes I seem to notice is the updated materials from July 4th, to Halloween to Christmas. So I put on a smile and ask if there are any old business documents. Even when the proprietors say "no", I still search top to bottom moving everything on the tables, opening drawers, and looking behind counters.

Monday this week yielded an amazing find at Ziegler's In the Country , near Hearshy PA. I was on my way to another location and happened by the store swerving into the parking lot. The two ladies working the desk were so friendly and were not aware of the location of any stocks or bonds in the building. After combing through the first floor booths, saying goodbye to the ladies, I almost missed the set of stairs tucked away on the left. Sure enough, at the end of the first row of booths on the second floor I located an overcrowded nook with a secretary buried against the back wall. It was filled with very fragile glassware when I see it. Tucked behind all of the glassware is an old folded leather certificate frame with the tell-tale vignettes that I have become so attached. The lady at the store had to help me uncover and move all of the glassware to get it out of the cabinet.

Within the frame was a the Pennsylvania Steel Company certificate dated Valentine's day, 1882. The certificate has five vignettes and is signed  by Secretary, Eben F. Barker and by the President,Samuel M. Felton.  Felton also played a role in thwarting an assassination attempt on President Lincoln in February 1861. (Felton family papers (Collection 1151), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

Samuel M. Felton (1809-1889)

Pennsylvania Steel Company

The Pennsylvania Steel Company was organized in June 1865. The following year it purchased land for its main production facility in Steelton, near Harrisburg. Operations commenced at the plant in May 1867. Closely associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Pennsylvania Steel Company's first contract was to roll steel rails for the railroad, utilizing the then-revolutionary Bessemer steel process.

Pennsylvania Steel Company - 1882

A corporation formed under the laws of Pennsylvania in 1895. The company was a reorganization of a corporation of the same name, Pennsylvania Steel Company, the property of which was acquired by the present organization in 1895 under foreclosure proceedings. The plant consists of large works at Steelton, Pa., for the manufacture of steel rails, railway material, structural work, railroad crossings and special work. The company has four blast furnaces, Bessemer steel works blooming-mill, open hearth steel plant, billet mill, a rail mill, as well as a bridge building plant and facilities for making structural works, frogs, switches and signals and other specialties. Its steel plant has an annual capacity of 400,000 tons. The company owns the entire stock ($1,000,000) of the Maryland Steel Co., which has a large steel plant at Sparrow's Point, Md., with a capacity of 300,000 tons of steel rails per year and a large ship-building plant. The company also owned a half interest in the Juragua Iron Co., which has iron ore mines in the province of Santiago, Cuba, and a plan for the acquisition of the Cuban Steel Ore Co. was proposed in 1900, this company having an option upon the latter company's stock until July 1, 1901.

In January, 1901, a plan of financial reorganization was adopted, involving a reincorporation of the company, with an authorized capital of $25,000,000 preferred and $25,000,000 common stock, of which $16,500,000 preferred and $10,750,000 common will be issued forthwith. As part of the plan a syndicate was to supply $9,000,000 cash, taking for same $10,000,000 of new preferred stock and a similar amount of common. In 1916, the Pennsylvania Steel Company was one of the operations merged to form Bethlehem Steel (Maley 2002).

My search continues, I will return to Hershey in the coming weeks to finish visiting the local antique centers. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Treasures uncovered...New-Century Club of Wilmington

More about my recent discoveries.

My next find a few days later at the Stoud Sunday Market in Adamstown, PA, was found buried among a full box of old papers from the late 1890s to early 1900s. This issued, uncanceled certificate, in incredible condition except for the two folds, is from the New-Century Club of Wilmington dated 1912. From Wikipedia, "The New Century Club was a progressive upper class woman's group dedicated to social improvement and charity as well as woman's suffrage issues. Notable members of the Club included Emily P. Bissell, a Red Cross campaigner against tuberculosis who has a state hospital named after her" as well as a US postage stamp, "and Emalea Pusey Warner, who successfully campaigned for public vocational education and has a local elementary school named in her honor. Speakers at the club included future president Woodrow Wilson and birth control advocate Margaret Sanger." The $30,000 capital was used to create a meeting place for the ladies which stands today used as a theater for children.

New-Century Club of Wilmington dated 1912

I posted a question on the group account of LinkedIn for Scripophily last week asking about the smallest capital issued for a stock and I think Terry Cox has the provided the details of the issue. As per Terry, "The Middletown & Northeastern Railway Co of Columbus, OH was incorporated in 1913 with a capitalization of $1000. Par value was $100. Certificate #1 was issued for 6 shares and therefore represented controlling interest." Thanks Terry. Anyone own one?

Selim Chanderli wrote "I have one of 5'000 Swiss francs from 1933, but I don't know what was the exchange rate CHF/$ at this time..." So what would it be worth in USD in 1933? After some research and math, made easier since both companies were on a different but standard gold measure, 5'000 CHF converts in 1933 to $2184.33.  

Please look though your collections and contribute to this discussion on LinkedIn. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beaver Brook Slate Company

What a week I had, well two weeks. After visiting as many antique centers and flea markets near my home that I can find, it is getting harder to get to the new places without traveling at least two hours in one direction. So I rationalize the time and distance, and cost of fuel by starting my trips early in the morning and stopping at Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and muffin. Driving during the early morning avoids traffic and time seems to really fly by anticipating my next great find.

While on my excursions I try to follow my own advise and talk with as many people at local antique centers because they spend a lot of time talking with others dealers that you will never meet on your own. I can't tell you how many people said they did not have anything for me only to tell me about some who might. After arriving in the remote corner of eastern Pennsylvania, searching though the every booth, one proprietor started calling local acquaintances to see if they had anything I might be interested in purchasing. No luck there, but I have to give her a call-out for her customer service. Thank you Zionsville Antique Center.

The Beaver Brook Slate Company 1875

So back to one of my discoveries. My first treasure was displayed in a plastic bag tacked on a wall of one of the hundreds of dealer nooks near Stroudsburg in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. Within the bag was The Beaver Brook Slate Company serial number 1, dated 1875 from Warren County, New Jersey. The certificate is signed by Treasurer, George H. Bender and President, George Seitz. The stock is issued and not canceled with allegorical figures on the top of the certificate. I am still looking for more information about the company. Initial search results place the company on New Jersy Route 46 just south of the Delaware Water Gap. On my way home it occurred to me that there might be more available just not displayed, but no, as this certificate was part of a box lot purchase at a local auction included with a stack of older personal papers. Please let me know if you have seen one of these before or know anything about the company.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hobby uses for Business Cards

I just noticed an amazing deal from VistaPrint where you can get 250 business cards cheap plus shipping. I paid an couple of bucks to include the image of the horse drawn trolley. I copied the vignette from my certificate of the Syracuse Consolidated Street Railway dated 1891. This is a great way to get your name along with your collecting themes to dealers without writing it out by hand every time you meet a dealers at trade shows and antique centers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vintage Stocks and Bonds: POV or the Collector - Thinning out the herd

Vintage Stocks and Bonds: POV or the Collector - Thinning out the herd

POV or the Collector - Thinning out the herd

Collections of any type tend to generate items considered clutter that were somewhat interesting when they were originally added to the group only to quickly fall out of favor as other newer acquisition took their place. Scripophily is no exception to this rule. Even collecting for a short time I have certificates that I wish I would have waited for that special item. So now I look at these certificates and wonder what can I do with them? Did you ever think that if you paid for an item, perhaps another collector would also be interested in adding it to their collection.

I have two suggestions to help. First, is to contact for members of the International Bond and Share Society. If you are not a member, it gives you another reason to join and support Scripophily The auctions are well run using items consigned from other members. If you decide to participate please remember that the Society does not perform valuations and a brief introductory email contact is the best first step. I recently purchased an item in the June 2011 auction and although I struggled with the currency, the Auctioneer was very understanding, thanks again. I am looking forward to the September 2011 auction.

Second, if the certificates have some value, contact your favorite dealer and see if they would be interested in either an outright purchase or a trade so you benefit as much as the dealer. What is important to remember is that the dealer still needs to cover expenses and can only offer a percentage of what it can attract in a full retail environment. Still, that amount can still be above your acquisition price. I recently traded certificates that I had multiple copies for two that I had been watching for some time. At the retail level, once the dealer sells the certificates I traded, they will yield a higher price than what I received, but the operative word is "when" they sell. The dealer must catalog, advertise and store them and if they know a collector interested in a certain subject, it is because they spent considerable time building personal networks of collectors providing insight and expertise.

On a separate note, this month I recently acquired a nice certificate of The Barnes Automatic Car Coupler Co. with an amazing vignette. See the Barnes certificate below.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Certificate Styles Through the Ages

I have started to determine the types of characteristics that are typical for Vintage Stocks and Bonds based on available online images.  Any suggestions are appreciated.
Printing technique
Border type and detail
Use of vignettes
Format layout
Qualities of paper, (e.g., blue tint, sheepskin, velum)
Combination of fonts including Copperplate and Black Text
Typical signatures and industries


Who was Sidney Dillon?

Who was Sidney Dillon?

As a fairly new collector interested in vintage stocks and bonds, I have had the opportunity to meet with seasoned dealers and collectors in an attempt to learn as much as possible with the goal of improving my modest collection. I have written articles here on over the last several weeks detailing some of my collecting experiences from the POV of the collector. While practicing what I wrote in my prior column, I dedicated several days driving from antique store to antique store, with gas approaching 4 dollars a gallon all over eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in search of that illusive treasure. In one of the larger antique malls I found, tucked on a bottom shelf of one of the hundreds of booths, a frame containing an original stock certificate of the Union Pacific Railway, serial number B6935 signed by the then president, Sidney Dillon (1812-1892).

Among Dillon's accomplishments is his participation in driving the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit joining the Western Trans-continental Railway with the Eastern Trans-continental Railways. He was President of the Union Pacific Railroad 1874-1884 and 1890-1892. I did not know at that instance the true value of my find. I decided not to purchase the framed certificate and instead drove over to the local Starbucks, (free WiFi for the cost of a small cup of coffee) and take a look at to see if Terry's site had any thoughts about the value of the this railway certificate. What I discovered was potentially incredible. I quickly made my way back to the booth and bought the Union Pacific certificate.

What I find amazing about this certificate besides the large vignette of Lady Liberty and the center image of a locomotive is the rendering of the sad eagle to the left of the shield. Printed by the American Bank Note Company. New York and knowing how hard the engraver worked his magic on this vignette, it seems highly unlikely that the visual results were unintentional.

I wonder if one great find is all I am destined for? No, I refuse to believe that it was all luck but instead perhaps a combination of a little luck and a great deal of sweat searching in places that continue to percolate new material from the hidden depths of hidden estates returning it back to the viewing public.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Scripophily Hunt from the POV of a Collector

Hobbies entertain. At best, that's what they do. They don't pay the rent or put gas in your car. The attraction is the hunt for that great hidden treasure; turning over a stack of old paper in a time-worn cardboard box uncovering the corner of an ornate vignette, seeing nanoseconds later that it is an uncanceled certificate dated before 1850. Collecting is very competitive and it is the goal of every collector to attempt to reduce the number of people looking for the same material in the same places you are searching. I am more likely to seek-out buying opportunities when and where those elements align.

If we can agree on that premise, writing on this topic makes no sense. Why would I reveal my secret hunting tips to our small community of Scripophilist. My response might surprise you; In my opinion, an educated collector is more valuable to the hobby and as more informed collectors enter the hobby, more long forgotten material will find its way to the collecting public. Fact is, anyone who actively participates in our hobby is already likely to know where to find great deals. I only hope to level the playing field. I'm sure there are many other ideas and if you know them, more power to you, bargaining power.

I'll start with my hunting approach that combines common sense and finish with a single search line that will kick-start any Internet search. Armed with comfortable shoes and a magnifying glass, map-out weekend garage sales, local flea markets, antique centers and auction houses and plan to spend the day. For the neighborhood garage sale, get there early, but don't hover, it might be a little creepy. Look for sales being run by adult children selling the estate of parents, aunts and uncles. Provided the certificates were not the first thing tossed in the trash on clean-out day, these are the best garage sales. Say "Hello" to break the ice. Sometimes I joke around that I never find stocks or bonds. When deciding which sales to attend, avoid any sales that list children toys or the dreaded "HH", Household items. Unless you are in the market for a used blender or old clothing. I am no longer surprised when I see items that people arrange nicely on a table when it should have been placed right in a garbage can. Oh and don't even bother with the Sunday garage sale as the good stuff is long gone.       

Since garage sales are scheduled for either Friday or Saturday, plan getting to the flea markets as early as possible. While strolling through the rows of vendors, if you see any type of ephemera (e.g., bank checks, business receipts, marriage certificates, etc.) stop and chat-up the dealer and find out if they have any certificates or how often they run into them. Many of the dealers spend the weekdays selling from one flea market to another and they are exposed to a more varied type of material. No doubt you will find a wide range of quality certificates in an even larger price range. Remember to be selective as common certificate will always be common. Purchase one if you have an absolute need, otherwise avoid them. Really, a Pan Am certificate is never worth 2 dollars. Recently, one early Saturday morning at the Golden Nugget in Lambertville, New Jersey I found at one end of the row, a dealer selling a framed copy of a B & O Railroad stock from the 1930s for 20 dollars; He explained how rare it was and described the vignette as one of the earliest known rail engines. Really? At the other end of the very same row, a dealer was selling an 1857 Saint Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad State Bond signed by the Governor of Missouri priced at 4.50 dollars, I bought one, guess which now has a prominent place in my collection.

Another excellent place to find vintage certificates are auction houses serving small communities. These sales are typically not connected to the Internet and therefore, usually have less competition, read, better deals. I attended an auction last month in the middle of Pennsylvania that was still using bid cards to track purchases. Each lot started below five dollars and I was able to secure two lots with eight certificates of moderate value. Oh, and save room for the home-made pie.

Finally, many antique dealers have changed from setting-up shop on their own to renting space in a larger facility. They range in size from 10 to hundreds of dealers all under one roof. Stop-by and see what's for sale. The downside to these types of places is that the inventory does not turn-over often, so a visit once a month should do the trick.

The main reason I collect stocks and bonds is to learn about a company's history and uncover if they were successful or were part of some publicized scandal. Looking-up history on defunct companies has never been easier. Here is the syntax to enter into a search engine.

"<exact company name>"

From this beginning, you can find the creation and date of default of the company and executives which in-turn create new search paths to learn more about the company.

This week I joined the International Bond and Share Society ( The site is full of useful information provided by people very experienced in our hobby. I would recommend anyone with an interest in Scripophily consider joining.  I had several ideas for next weeks Blog entry but unearthed a certificate last week signed by Sidney Dillon. Check back next week to see this amazing find.
Sidney Dillon:
Was President of the Union Pacific Railway. Dillon's vast experience in the construction of railroads proved invaluable. He took part in the laying of the last rail of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.

I am interested in your feedback so please let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to me at and be sure to come back next week to

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scripophily Display from the POV of the Collector

I have been busy the last couple of months searching and, on occasion finding, new venues of research sources while scouring garage sales, local flea markets and antique stores. How long can I continue my journey before I bring one of those lost documents to life? If you ignored my tip in the previous entry about being selective, you may now be in possession of many cheap, common certificates. Perfect for framing or really unique wallpaper. Perhaps a border around the kids room would be nice because it's never too soon to teach the next generation a lesson about free capital markets economies.
For the rest of us, displaying a few pieces can enhance our personal space. At work, I take photos of some of the more valuable certificates that would be difficult to replace. At home I want a better quality image. More on that later.
Several questions come to mind when I started collecting.
  • Should I display certificates?
  • How can I protect them from sunlight?
  • What are the appropriate materials for framing?
Let's jump right in and address the idea of displaying certificates. One important reason for framing these older documents is to make them matter. History tells a fascinating story, one certificate at a time. Include a small paragraph explaining the document and if necessary decode the text so people can imagine they are part of the adventure. Add an image of the company officers if they are famous. I have one certificate Central Transportation Company issued to George M. Pullman and signed by Robert T. Lincoln on reverse so I used the two- sided frame.

I mentioned in my last entry, so I will refer to Terry's excellent explanation and style regarding the effects of acid contained in paper and the effects on your certificates. Terry wrote, "No matter how careful you are, your paper will still deteriorate if you do not minimize the effects of acid. Over the long term, I suggest acid is the greatest single threat to paper collectibles." for the complete article please visit, Light and heat are paper's ultimate enemy. Walk around your dwelling and find a nice cool dark hallway or corner without direct sunlight. Or better yet, keep your certificates in a portfolio with acid-free paper.   ITOYA makes a whole line of these in different sizes. I selected two sizes, the 11x14 and the 14x17 as these fit most of all of the larger format certificates with the exception of bonds with coupons attached. They stock these at our local Hobby Lobby, often discounted between 25 and 40 percent off any one, non-sale item in the store. Search "hobby lobby" on the Internet for weekly coupons.
It is easy to place a certificate in a frame, hang it on the wall and forget about it. In order to make these documents really stand-out, highlight the best elements of the certificate. Maybe it's a unique vignette of Poseidon and look-up the signatures and if the person that signed the document is even remotely famous, get an image of the person with an enlarged photo of the signature and make a story that visitors in your house would like to read. I have even transcribed text to make it easy to understand the meaning of the message as many of letters have faded and not everyone living before 1900 had excellent penmanship. For certificates with something interesting on the reverse use either a two sided frame I mentioned earlier or copy the reverse and display both page in the same frame.  
An even better alternative is to visit your local print shop and have them create a high resolution image and frame that copy, keeping your original in an acid free portfolio. You might need to sign a waiver to get the print shop to copy your certificate because of the liability if they damage the original. Once you have the digital copy, if it happens to be a North American Railroad, please visit and look-up to see if Terry needs a HRC (High Resolution Copy). The specifics about what and how to send them to Terry are included on his site. I am amazed how easy it is to find certificates, perhaps mentioned on but never recorded by dealers or collectors. Be an active participant in our Scripophily community and contribute your time and images.
If you do decide to frame a certificate, remember to request acid-free framing materials and use a double mat to avoid the glass from contacting the paper. Select glass that reflects UV rays as the ink, especially the handwriting on the certificate, will fade quickly in direct sunlight. Even be careful with the tape used. Regular Scotch tape has destroyed many desirable certificates. Archival tape is available from many sources on the Internet. If you are not comfortable with the procedure, seek out a reputable dealer or framing company.
Next week's Blog entry focuses on the idea of the hunt. It includes my ideas about where, when and how to find great materials. Here is a hint, the early bird get the certificate.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scripophily and the POV of the Collector

Collecting as a hobby is defined by the mystery of the hunt, strangers working within social networks long before the terms were part of our daily vernacular. Scripophily offers the enthusiast the lure of discovery for even the most novice collector. Over the last two years, social media tools have gone mainstream regardless of demographics. Information is the hot new commodity. Easy access to information is now available to all ages.

This is the first in a series of articles dedicated to the novice collector of old stocks and bonds and methods used for locating, purchasing and storing that perfect gem.

I discovered "worthless" certificates while on sabbatical as a Philatelist. I was instantly captivated by the amazing artwork, each with thier own history. Agreed, some of the stories are better than others, but that's for you to decide. I have found that the main difference from the stamp collector's point of view, besides the obvious size, is the chance for discovery still possible within Scripophily. Identification of varieties within the stamp world is nearly impossible. For those lucky enough to find an anomaly, it is worthy of newsprint. Armed with a magnifying glass and a quick step and you are on your way. So leave your perforation guide, color wheel and catalog home and make a visit to the local flea market.

I started my small collection with an interest in US history, specifically about the Civil War. Originally it was stamps then old checks, then fractional currency, finally Scripophily. You have already made the first big step building a nice collection by looking for and finding more information about the collection of stocks and bonds. Decide on the theme (e.g., railroads, mining, big brands etc). The list of possible ideas is endless limited by your own imagination. Good quality does not need to be expensive. Mining stocks printed between 1901 - 1929 have very ornate vignettes and are still reasonably priced. For me, it's the rush of discovery at the local auction house or odd estate sale. I recognize the feeling much akin to golf, once bitten rivals any compulsive behavior. Even my sensitivities to dust fail to deter me from spending hours with my head buried in boxes of old paper.

Many online dealer sites include sections dedicated to education on the subject of Scripophily. My favorite is run by Terry Cox. The site provides a running commentary complete with archives. Included on the home page is a link to a pricing database with the most exhaustive list of North American railroads. I strongly suggest his site is a "must read" for any collector interested in old stocks and bonds even if railroads are not your theme. Terry's writing style is clear and direct, how refreshing. His position on EBay and the effects on pricing trends is a masterpiece.

Another site worthy of your electronic visit is run by George and Chris LaBarre on The father and son are dealers involved with the hobby at the deepest level. The site is well organized, containing thousands of high resolution images. George explained that the content displayed on the site is only a fraction of their inventory. The best way to find what you are looking for is to send George a wish list and signup for approvals. I am in the process of creating my own list. Remember to be selective.

Note of interest... If you are attracted to an item from a dealer site, many will entertain offers on multiple items but remember to be reasonable. Dealers have other expenses to cover overhead like running a website, storage and advertising and are providing a valuable service and deserve a fair premium.

I have been spending many nights searching for a missing piece of a companies historical puzzle, my current search is for information regarding the Intramural Railway. I am looking for the existence of a stock certificate. The company was owned in part by GE at its very beginning. Thoughts, leads, comments and remarks are welcome.

Future topics in this series being considered are paper storage, display and hunting tactics. Again, suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

Please forward comments and suggestions to