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 coxrail.com 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, http://www.coxrail.com/preservation.htm. 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 coxrail.com 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 coxrail.com 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 coxrail.com 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 glabarre.com. 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 vintagestocksandbonds@yahoo.com.