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>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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