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

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Railroad,</i> etching, 1922. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Sheet of Studies with Men in Hats and a Saloon Keeper,</i> pen, ink & pencil, circa 1900-05. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Night Shadows,</i> etching, 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> John Marin, <i>Woolworth Building, No. 2,</i> etching & drypoint, 1913. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Charles Demuth, <i>Tulips,</i> watercolor & pencil, 1924. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Under Control,</i> gouache, ink & wash, circa 1907-10. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JESSE JAMES. Autograph Letter Signed on the attack at his home which maimed his mother and killed his nephew Archie, 6 pp, March 23, 1875. THE MOST IMPORTANT JESSE JAMES LETTER EXTANT. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> THE LETTER THAT ARRIVED TOO LATE: An important letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant across the battlefield at Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> DAVY CROCKETT. Autograph Letter Signed on his political philosophy and his dispute with Andrew Jackson, "at home Weakley County," August 18, 1831. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> GEORGE WASHINGTON. Letter Signed to Colonel Richard Gridley, the first engineer of the American Army, Morris Town, January 9, 1777. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> SCOTT FITZGERALD. <i>Tender is the Night.</i> FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED to H.A. Swanseid. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS. <i>Tarzan of the Apes.</i> FIRST EDITION. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> J.R.R. TOLKIEN. <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.</i> FIRST EDITION. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NATHANAEL WEST. <i>The Day of the Locust.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed to director Richard Wallace in the year of publication. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> FRANCIS PICABIA. Archive of 17 Autograph Letters signed to Jennie Thiersch on art and life, 1948-1951. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JOHN HANCOCK. Autograph Letter Signed to his wife Dolly from the Continental Congress, 4 pp, Philadelphia, March 10-11, 1777. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NIGHTGOWN WORN BY CHARLOTTE CARDEZA DURING THE TITANIC DISASTER AND RESCUE. $40,000 to $60,000

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