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.

1 comment:

  1. Great initiative.
    I'd be happy to follow along.