Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2009 Issue

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

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

  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A FRANKLIN PIERCE BRUSHED SILK TOP HAT. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: LINCOLN ENDORSEMENT: "I AM ALWAYS FOR THE MAN WHO WISHES TO WORK." $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000

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