This paper is about scripophily – the hobby of collecting antique and historical stock and bond certificates. These certificates were issued by companies and governments to raise capital and represented ownership or debt of the entity. Scripophily enthusiasts collect these certificates for their historical significance, artistic design, or financial value. Some certificates may have intricate designs and elaborate engravings, while others may represent a significant historical event or relate to a famous company.
Although most stock and bond certificates are now held electronically, collecting these physical certificates from the past remains a popular hobby. Some collectors even specialise in certain categories, such as railroad or mining certificates. In addition to collecting, scripophily also involves researching the history and significance of each certificate, as well as assessing their condition and authenticity.
As mentioned above, scripophily is the study and collection of antique and historical stock and bond certificates. These certificates were once the primary way companies and governments raised capital and represented ownership or debt in the entity.
Picture: “The Leonard Roller Gear Drive Thresher Company, Stock Certificate, 1921 – Lewiston, Idaho” by Shook Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Scripophily enthusiasts collect these certificates for various reasons. Some collectors may be interested in the historical significance of the certificates and the stories behind them. Others may be attracted to the artistic design and engravings used to create them. Still, others may be interested in the potential financial value of the certificates.
Collectors often specialise in particular categories of certificates. For example, some collectors may focus on railroad certificates, while others may collect mining or oil certificates. Certain certificates may be more rare or valuable than others, depending on their age, condition, and historical significance.
When collecting stock and bond certificates, collectors typically look for certificates in good condition and free from damage or major flaws. They may also look for certificates with historical significance or connections to notable events or figures.
Throughout history, millions of companies have raised money for their business. To do so, the founders of these companies issued securities. Generally speaking, the securities were either an equity security for shares or a debt security in the form of a bond. Each certificate is a piece of history about a company and its business. Some companies became major successes, while others were taken over or merged with other companies, or were the focus of scandal or fraud. Others were successful until new technologies replaced them, or never successful at all or went bankrupt, so their certificates became worthless pieces of paper until the 1970s when the hobby of collecting them began. The colour, paper used, signatures, dates, stamps, cancellations, borders, pictures, vignettes, industry, stockbroker, company name, transfer agent, printer, and holder’s name all add to the uniqueness of the hobby known today as Scripophily.
Research is a significant part of the scripophily hobby. Collectors often spend considerable time researching the history and significance of each certificate in their collection and the companies or entities that issued them. They may also consult experts or reference materials to authenticate and appraise their credentials.
Scripophily is a fascinating hobby that allows collectors to connect with history and explore the evolution of finance and business. A specialised subset of numismatics, scripophily is an interesting area of collecting due to both the inherent beauty of some historical documents as well as the historical context of each document. Some stock certificates provide excellent examples of engraving. Every now and then, an old stock document that still has value as stock in a successor company will be found – but that is quite rare.
Although there were few of them at the time, some people were collecting old bonds and shares as early as the 1930s. By 1961, Confederate and Southern States’ bonds were catalogued for enthusiasts of the US Civil War. By 1975-76, researchers in Germany showed that uncancelled Imperial Russian and Chinese bonds could be collected. Compared with coins (a hobby for 400 years at least) and paper money and stamps (popular for a century and a half), bond and share collecting is the new kid on the block. The hobby of scripophily, or collecting antique and historical stock and bond certificates, emerged in the latter part of the 20th century.
As electronic trading and digital record-keeping became more common, physical stock and bond certificates became increasingly rare. This rarity made them more valuable to collectors and sparked interest in the hobby of scripophily.
The first organised society dedicated to the collection of stock and bond certificates, the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS), was founded in 1970 in London. Since then, similar organisations have been established in other countries, including the United States. IBSS publishes Scripophily three times a year and also conducts auctions. Both the publication and the auctions are only available to members.
Today, the hobby of scripophily continues to grow, with collectors around the world pursuing rare and historically significant certificates. While the financial and business worlds have changed dramatically over the years, studying and collecting antique stock and bond certificates, provide a window into the past and a unique glimpse into the evolution of finance and capitalism.
Half a century after it started in earnest, many collectors appreciate the historical significance of old certificates. Others prefer the beauty of older stock and bond certificates printed in various colours displaying fancy artwork and ornate engravings. Recently, certificates issued by early dot-com companies and companies involved in scandals have become particularly popular amongst collectors.
Where did the name come from?
Coined in the late 1970s in response to a contest by the Financial Times of London to name the burgeoning hobby, scripophily was initially embraced by English and European collectors looking to purchase a piece of US capitalist history.
Who has written about Scripophily?
Several authors have written about the history and significance of scripophily and the art and design of antique stock and bond certificates. Here are a few examples:
- Keith Hollender – Hollender is the author of several books on scripophily, including Scripophily: Collecting Bonds and Share Certificates, Scripophily: Art of Finance, and Scripophily: Treasury of Wall Street Art and History.
- Fred Fuld III – Fuld is a prolific writer on the subject of stock and bond certificates, and his articles and blog posts can be found on the Stock and Bond Collectors Club website and other collector forums.
- Scott Winslow – Winslow owns Scott J. Winslow Associates, Inc., a firm specialising in antique stock and bond certificates. He has written several articles and spoken at conferences about scripophily.
- Lawrence S. Lowery – Lowery is a columnist for Antique Trader magazine and has written several articles about scripophily.
- Jonathan Betts – Betts is a retired senior curator at the Royal Observatory Greenwich and an expert in the history of timekeeping and horology. He has a particular interest in antique share certificates and has written extensively on the subject.
- Mark Stocker – Stocker is a lecturer in art history at the University of Otago in New Zealand, but he also has a strong interest in scripophily. He has published several articles on the topic and regularly contributes to the International Bond and Share Society’s Journal.
- Paul Fraser – Fraser is the founder and owner of Paul Fraser Collectibles, a UK-based company specialising in rare and collectable memorabilia, including antique share certificates. He has written several articles on scripophily and is a well-respected figure in the collectables industry.
- Christian Reithmeyer – Reithmeyer is a German collector and dealer in antique stocks and bonds. He has written articles for the International Bond and Share Society’s Journal and is a regular contributor to collector forums and conferences in Europe.
- Wolfgang Mehl – Mehl is a German collector and dealer of antique stocks and bonds. He has written extensively on the subject and is the author of several books, including “Aktien Brauchen Hände” (“Stocks Need Hands”).
- Michel Koven – Koven is a French collector and dealer of antique stocks and bonds. He is the author of “Les titres financiers anciens: Histoire, art et collection” (“Antique Financial Securities: History, Art, and Collection”).
- Juan Luis López Galiacho – Galiacho is a Spanish collector and dealer of antique stocks and bonds. He has written several articles on the subject and is the author of “Acciones y Bonos: Historia, Arte y Colección” (“Stocks and Bonds: History, Art, and Collection”).
These are just a few examples, but there are undoubtedly many other experts on scripophily in the UK and Europe. Through their work, they have helped to promote the study and appreciation of antique stock and bond certificates as a fascinating and important aspect of financial and business history.
Stanley Gibbons is a well-known British company specialising in the collectables market, including stamps, coins, and other rare items. While they do not specialise in scripophily, they have been involved in selling antique stock and bond certificates in the past. Stanley Gibbons has also published a catalogue of antique stock and bond certificates, which includes detailed information on the history and significance of each certificate. In 2017, Stanley Gibbons sold a collection of historical stock and bond certificates at auction. The collection included certificates from companies such as the East India Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the South Sea Company, and was expected to fetch more than £1 million (approximately $1.4 million USD) at auction.
Scripophily: A Simple Explanation
“Scripophily is the name for people collecting old pieces of paper that companies and governments used long ago to show they owned something or had borrowed money. These papers are called stock and bond certificates. Some people like to collect them because they are very old and interesting, and some are even decorated with pretty pictures. People who collect these papers want to learn about their history and why they were made. It’s like collecting stamps or coins, but with really old and special papers!”
What do Scripophilists look for when buying Old Certificates?
When buying sold stock or bond certificates, a hobbyist or investor may look for several things to ensure they get a good deal and that the certificate is a valuable addition to their collection or investment portfolio. Here are some of the factors they may consider:
- Condition: The overall condition of the certificate is an important factor in determining its value. Collectors will look for certificates in good condition, with no major damage or flaws, such as tears, creases, or stains. Some collectors may accept minor flaws or signs of wear, but the condition can significantly impact the value of the certificate.
- Original face value: How much was the stock or bond issued for? A higher face value can make a certificate more collectable.
- Printers: Who printed the certificate? Was it a famous printer?
- Paper: Was the paper used in the printing high-quality or low-quality? Has it held up over time? Does it have a watermark to prevent counterfeiting?
- Issuing company or entity: Who issued the certificate? Is the company still in existence, and what is its history?
- Certificate Owner’s Name: Was the certificate issued to a well-known company or anyone famous or even infamous?
- Authenticity: Has the certificate been authenticated by a reputable expert or third-party grading service?
- Market demand: Is there currently demand for the particular type of certificate in the market?
- Rarity: The rarity of the certificate is another factor to consider. Certificates issued by well-known companies or entities may be more common, while those from lesser-known companies or historical events may be rarer and thus more valuable. Additionally, never redeemed or uncancelled certificates may be rarer and more valuable.
- Historical significance: The historical significance of the certificate can also influence its value. Certificates that relate to important events or periods in history, such as wars or economic booms, may be more sought-after by collectors. Additionally, certificates issued by well-known companies or entities may hold historical significance.
Picture: “Lastingham and Rosedale Light Railway share allocation notice 1900” by ian.dinmore is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
- Authenticity: The authenticity of the certificate is crucial. Collectors will look for certificates that have not been forged or altered in any way. Some collectors may consult with experts to verify the authenticity of a certificate before making a purchase.
- Signatures: The signatures on the certificate can also impact its value. Signatures from famous individuals, such as company founders or notable figures in history, may increase the value of the certificate.
- Artistic design: The artistic design of the certificate can also be a factor for collectors. Certificates with intricate designs, detailed engravings, or colourful graphics may be more visually appealing and valuable to collectors.
- Age: How old is the certificate? Generally, older certificates are more valuable than newer ones.
- Financial value: Finally, the monetary value of the certificate may be a consideration for investors. Collectors may look for certificates with a high face value or those that have appreciated in value over time. Additionally, some collectors may look for certificates representing ownership in a successful company or entity that may have the potential for future financial gain.
Collecting old Share and Bond Certificates compared with Collecting Old Banknotes
Picture: Pullman’s Palace Car Company – The Cooper Collection of US Railroad History (Uploader’s collection)
Attribution: Pullman’s Palace Car Company, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pullman%27s_Palace_Car_Co._Stock_1884.jpg
Collecting old share certificates and bond certificates differs from collecting old banknotes in several ways:
- Purpose: Share and bond certificates were originally issued as proof of ownership and investment in a company or organisation, whereas banknotes were primarily used as a medium of exchange for goods and services.
- Rarity: Share and bond certificates are typically rarer than banknotes because they were usually issued to fewer investors, whereas banknotes were often printed in large quantities for general circulation.
- Design: Share and bond certificates often feature intricate and detailed designs, such as engravings and watermarks, while banknotes are typically more functional in their design.
- Historical significance: Share and bond certificates may have historical importance as they can represent ownership in a particular company or organisation at a specific time in history. Similarly, banknotes may have historical significance if they were issued during a significant period in a country’s history, such as a war or political upheaval.
- Value: The value of current share and bond certificates, and banknotes are typically determined by the value of the underlying asset or company or, in the cases of money, the face value of the currency. When they are old and redundant, values are determined by their rarity, condition, and historical significance.
Picture and Attribution: H. J. Heinz Company, 1969 Stock certificates from the United States
File URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heinz_Aktie.jpg
The collection of old share certificates and bond certificates is commonly referred to as scripophily, while the collection of old banknotes is known as notaphily, a branch of numismatics.
Scripophily is a term derived from the Latin word “scrip”, which means a piece of paper or a receipt, and “philos“, the Greek word meaning “love of”. It refers to the hobby of collecting and studying antique stock and bond certificates and can include both cancelled and uncancelled certificates.
Numismatics is the study and collection of coins, banknotes, and other forms of currency. Notaphily is the subfield of numismatics that focuses specifically on the research and collection of banknotes.
The term notaphily is derived from the Greek word “notos“, meaning “banknote”, and “philos”, meaning “beloved” or “love of”.
The rise of electronic trading and digital record-keeping in the late 20th century had a significant impact on the use and value of physical stock and bond certificates. As more and more transactions moved to electronic platforms, the need for physical certificates as proof of ownership or debt decreased. Many companies stopped issuing physical certificates altogether, and those that continued to do so often issued them in small quantities. This rarity increased the value of physical certificates among collectors and sparked interest in the hobby of scripophily.
Authentication, Appraisal and Valuation
The authentication and appraisal process for scripophily collectors typically involves a combination of visual inspection, historical research, and expert consultation. Collectors will often compare the physical characteristics of a certificate to known examples of authentic certificates from the same company or era. They will also research the history and significance of the company or entity that issued the certificate, looking for any signs of fraud or irregularities. Finally, collectors may consult with experts in the field, such as dealers or appraisers, to verify the authenticity and value of the certificate.
In addition to rarity and condition, factors that can determine the value of a certificate include the historical significance of the issuing company or entity, the design and artistry of the certificate, and any notable events or figures associated with the certificate. For example, a certificate issued by a famous company or during a significant historical period may be more valuable than a similar certificate issued by a lesser-known entity.
Antique certificates are still in demand among collectors, although the market for scripophily has evolved over time. In recent years, there has been increased interest in certificates from emerging markets and certificates related to specific industries or themes, such as aviation or space exploration.
There have also been several high-profile sales and auctions of antique certificates in recent years – for example, in 2018, a rare Chinese bond issued in 1898 sold for over $2 million at auction, while a collection of antique stock certificates related to the California Gold Rush sold for over $1.5 million in 2019.
The scripophily hobby will likely continue evolving as collectors seek out new and interesting items to add to their collections. As more and more historical stock and bond certificates are digitised or destroyed, the rarity and value of physical certificates may continue to increase, making them even more sought after by collectors.
Collectors of Other Items
Glossaries are available that cover the collection of different things. Here are some common terms (with apologies for any repetition) and the definitions for different types of collections:
- Archaeology: The study and collection of artefacts and objects from past human societies. A person who collects and studies artefacts and objects is called an archaeologist.
- Bibliophilia: The study and collection of books. A person who collects and studies books is called a bibliophile.
- Cartophily: The study and collection of cigarette cards, trading cards, and related items. A person who collects and studies these items is called a cartophilist.
- Conchology: The study and collection of seashells. A person who collects and studies seashells is called a conchologist.
- Deltiology: The study and collection of postcards. A person who collects and studies postcards is called a deltiologist.
- Entomology: The study and collection of insects. A person who collects and studies insects is called an entomologist.
- Horology: The study and collection of clocks and watches. A person who collects and studies clocks and watches is called a horologist.
- Mineralogy: The study and collection of minerals. A person who collects and studies minerals is called a mineralogist.
- Notaphily: The study and collection of banknotes. A person who collects and studies banknotes is called a notaphilist.
- Numismatic Exonumia: The study and collection of tokens, medals, and other numismatic items not considered coins or banknotes. A person who collects and studies exonumia is called an exonumist.
- Numismatics: The study and collection of coins, banknotes, and other forms of currency. A person who collects and studies coins is called a numismatist.
- Ornithology: The study and collection of birds. A person who collects and studies birds is called an ornithologist.
- Palaeontology: The study and collection of fossils. A person who collects and studies fossils is called a palaeontologist.
- Philately: The study and collection of postage stamps. A person who collects and studies stamps is called a philatelist.
- Philumeny: The study and collection of matchboxes, matchbooks, and related items. A person who collects and studies these items is called a philumenist.
- Scripophily: The study and collection of stock and bond certificates. A person who collects and studies these certificates is called a scripophilist.
- Viticulture: The study and collection of grapevines. A person who collects and studies grapevines is called a viticulturist.
As if the above list were not enough, I can’t resist mentioning esoteric collectors – they specialise in unique, rare, or niche collections that are not commonly collected or studied. You might even regard their interest as rather odd. Their collections may be focused on a specific type of item or topic and may be of personal interest to the collector due to their rarity, historical significance, or unique features. Esoteric collectors may also focus on other unique or unusual collections, such as taxidermy, vintage radios, or antique weapons.
Examples of esoteric collectors include:
- Aerophilatelist: A person who collects and studies airmail stamps and related items.
- Dendrologist: A person who collects and studies trees and shrubs.
- Ex-libris collector: A person who collects and studies bookplates.
- Globophile: A person who collects and studies globes and maps.
- Ichthyologist: A person who collects and studies fish and other aquatic animals.
- Lunaphile: A person who collects and studies moon-related items, including lunar rocks, meteorites, and space memorabilia.
- Necrologist: A person who collects and studies funeral memorabilia, including coffins, urns, and other related items.
- Oenophile: A person who collects and studies wines.
- Plangonologist: A person who collects dolls.
- Telemania: A person who collects and studies vintage telephones.
- Tephilim collector: A person who collects and studies Jewish phylacteries, which are small leather boxes containing religious texts.
- Zymurgy collector: A person who collects and studies beer-making equipment and related items.
Picture: Railroad obligation of the Moscow-Kiev-Voronezh railroad company, printed in Russian, Dutch and German
Attribution: Unknown source, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Obligatie-Moskau-Kiev-Woronesch.jpg
Sources and Further Reading
- The Scripophily Guide by Howard Shakespeare, as a downloadable PDF, at: https://scripophily.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/The-Scripophily-Guide-by-Howard-Shakespeare-Compressed.pdf
- Scripophily: The Art of Finance, by Keith Hollender, Hardcover, published by KP Books (1994), available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scripophily-Art-Finance-Keith-Hollender/dp/0964263009/
- Financing the World, Hardcover, by Keith Hollender, published by Spink Books (2017), available from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Financing-World-Keith-Hollender/dp/1907427740
- Scripophily, by Ian Moncrief-Scott, Paperback, published by Information Management Solutions Limited (2021), available from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/SCRIPOPHILY-Ian-Moncrief-Scott/dp/190346708X
- Scripophily Handbook: Introduction to the Collecting of Old Bonds and Shares, by Bond & Share Society (1986), Paperback, available from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scripophily-Handbook-Introduction-Collecting-Shares/dp/0951125001
- Collecting Old Stock Certificates: A Look at the Past, by T. H. Logwood and William A. Jack, independently published (2019), Paperback, available from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Collecting-Old-Stock-Certificates-Look/dp/1794615040/
- Let Me Entertain You with Antique Stock Certificates: The History of the Entertainment Industry through Old Stocks and Bonds, by Fred Fuld, published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1st edition (2015), Paperback, available from: https://www.amazon.com/Entertain-Antique-Stock-Certificates-Entertainment/dp/1512271349/
- Antique Stock Certificate Almanac 2014: Antique Stock & Bond Price Guide, by Fred Fuld III, published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1st edition (2013), available from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Antique-Stock-Certificate-Almanac-2014/dp/1492748552/
- The Art of the Market, by Bob Tamarkin; Les Krantz, published by Harry N Abrams, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang Inc (1999), available from: https://www.abebooks.co.uk/first-edition/Art-Market-Bob-Tamarkin-Krantz-Harry/22778602036/bd
- Comprehensive Catalog and History of Confederate Bonds, 2nd edition, by Ball & Simmons (2015), available from: https://scripophily.net/comprehensive-catalog-and-history-of-confederate-bonds-in-color-second-edition-2015/
- Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads Guide with prices, second edition, Paperback, by Terry Cox (Author) published by T Cox Associates, (2003), available from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Collectible-Stocks-American-Railroads-prices/dp/0974648507/
- American Railroad Stock Certificates, Hardcover, by Anne-Marie Hendy (Author), published by Stanley Gibbons (1980), available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/American-railroad-stock-certificates-Anne-Marie/dp/0852592965
- Banknote Yearbook 11th Edition, Hardcover, by John W Mussell, published by Token Publishing Ltd (2021), available from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Banknote-Yearbook-11th-John-Mussell/dp/1908828560/
CAUTION: This paper is compiled from the sources stated but has not been externally reviewed. Parts of this paper include information provided via artificial intelligence which, although checked by the author, is not always accurate or reliable. Neither we nor any third parties provide any warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness or suitability of the information and materials covered in this paper for any particular purpose. Such information and materials may contain inaccuracies or errors and we expressly exclude liability for any such inaccuracies or errors to the fullest extent permitted by law. Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this paper meet your specific requirements and you should neither take action nor exercise inaction without taking appropriate professional advice. The hyperlinks were current at the date of publication.
Picture: “File:Union Camp Corporation – A Specimen ‘Sinking Fund’ Bond Certificate c.1971.jpg” by Downingsf is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
End Notes and Explanations
- Source: Compiled from research using the information at the sources stated throughout the text, together with information provided by machine-generated artificial intelligence at: bing.com [chat] and https://chat.openai.com ↑
- Source: Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scripophily ↑
- Source: Paraphrased from https://scripophily.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/The-Scripophily-Guide-by-Howard-Shakespeare-Compressed.pdf ↑
- Source and Acknowledgement: https://www.collectorsweekly.com/us-paper-money/stock-certificates ↑
- At: https://scripophilyusa.org – a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the education and study of American historical securities ↑