Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2009 Issue

Review of Reviews: Articles on Collecting Stock Certificates, Las Vegas Booksellers, from AbeBooks

Rockefellercertificate

Rockefeller signed Standard Oil stock certificate offered on Abe by James Cummins Bookseller.


By Michael Stillman

AbeBooks recently published an article on "scripophily," the art of collecting stock and bond certificates. These are those decorative old certificates that were used to establish ownership of shares or debt of a company in the days before electronic trading. This is a fascinating way of collecting the business and industrialization of America, or other countries, without requiring a large budget. And, in the ultimate irony, writer Scott Laming points out collecting these stock certificates may well be more profitable these days than buying stocks themselves. I doubt that anyone invested in General Motors, AIG, Lehman Brothers, or, for that matter, the great majority of other stocks, would be arguing that point now.

While any of these artistic certificates look great framed and hung on a wall, there are certain guidelines as to which are more valuable. Some of those of the old industrial giants contain the signatures of yesterday's tycoons, autographs valuable in their own right. You can pick up a Rockefeller or Vanderbilt autograph on these. Legendary companies' certificates are generally more valuable than those of the obscure corporations. Rockefeller's Standard Oil is a case in point. Others may be more valuable because they represent a highly collectible field, such as stock certificates of old railroads.

While most people no longer receive certificates when they buy stocks through a broker, they are still issued for modern companies. Those of spectacular failures, such as Enron or notable dot-com companies, can bring a premium. Confederate bonds are still quite collectible. The South's war debt may never rise again, but the value of its bond certificates might. Other factors in valuation include the face value of a certificate - the higher the better - and that issued certificates are generally worth more than those that were never issued to anyone.

The most expensive stock sales on Abe have been a stock certificate book for Golden Queen Mining and Milling ($1,500), a single share of the North American Land Company, signed by Declaration of Independence signer Robert Morris ($250), an unused certificate for the North Clear Creek Gold and Silver Mining Company ($185), a one-share certificate in the Rosebud Indian Mission ($150), and 100 shares in Joe Namath's Broadway Joe's Restaurant ($99). Think about that last one. The certificate for Broadway Joe's went for the same price as you recently could have purchased 100 actual shares in Joe Namath's Manhattan neighbor, CitiBank. Joe must be smiling.

You may find Scott Laming's article at AbeBooks.

AbeBooks has some other interesting articles available. Heather Boulding went to Las Vegas and interviewed Bauman Rare Books and Amber Unicorn Books. Bauman's, with shops in New York and Philadelphia, opened in the mall at the Palazzo Hotel last year. This is the astounding new Venice-themed hotel, which features gondola rides along its indoor canals and some of the most exclusive stores in the country. Bauman's is right at home in this setting. Of course, this did not prove to be ideal timing to open along the strip, as the economic downturn has hit Las Vegas hard. Nevertheless, if the number of high rollers stopping by has been somewhat disappointing, Bauman has developed a healthy trade of locals and repeat customers. With Vegas also attracting a lot of conventioneers and other non-gamblers, Bauman's is a good stop for visitors who would actually like to take something home with them.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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