[singlepic id=349 w=320 h=240 float=left]What do you get for the guy or gal who has everything? A conversation piece, of course.
There are a lot of dealers’ Web sites that I visit regularly, just to see the new stuff on offer. One that I never tire of perusing is Scripophily.com, the premier seller of vintage and even recent stock certificates and bond – “business paper” that has become nearly obsolete in this age of online trading. I love the steel engravings, especially the “vignettes” that form the centerpieces; I love the typography; I love the fountain-pen autographs on the hand-signed certificates; I love the fact that they absolutely reek of history: I can almost smell the cigar smoke of Gilded Age boardrooms, almost hear the leather armchairs creak under the weight of freewheeling tycoons and steely-eyed investors, earnest entrepreneurs and cheapjack con men …
But that’s just me: Lots of people buy a stock certificate for genealogical reasons – their ancestors may have owned or worked for the company – or as an expression of a brand preferences or another collect passions: Gun collectors, for example, love old shares in Colt, Remington or Winchester to hang in their dens; for movie buffs, there are certificates for motion picture studios and film labs old and new, from Paramount and Pathe to Panavision and Pixar; and model railroaders will get a blast from shares in The Lionel Corporation or full-scale engine manufacturer Baldwin Locomotive Works – not to mention any of a slew of historic lines. Some folks even see offbeat humor in hanging or giving a certificate for a notorious or scandal-ridden business: Worldcom, Enron, Bear Stearns and the like.
Scripophily.com’s president, former Northwest resident Bob Kerstein, a CPA since 1978, has been chief financial officer of companies like McCaw Cellular Corporation (now AT&T Wireless), Falcon Cable TV and American Mobile Satellite Corporation, director of financial reporting at Warner Brothers and chief information officer at Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Vancouver Canucks and the Vancouver Grizzlies (before the latter went to Memphis), so he knows his onions about big business. In fact, Kerstein doesn’t just sell old stock and bond certificates but autographs, antique documents, early currency and other interesting items; he also provides stock research services, so if you’re up in the attic and come across a bunch of shares in the bottom of Grandma’s old trunk, Bob can tell you if they’re still redeemable.
Here’s a quick selection I pulled from the Scripophily.com Web site (note the wide price range):
For the Civil War collector: a State of New York soldier bond (“Payment of Bounties to Volunteers”) dated 1865 and signed by State Comptroller (later governor) Lucius Robinson ($69.95); an 1861 Confederate States of America Bond $100 bond issued in Montgomery, Ala. (the capital of the Confederacy before it was moved to Richmond, Va.), with 14 coupons still attached ($250); and an 1865 commission for a second lieutenant in the New Jersey 33rd Volunteers, signed by Governor Joel Parker ($795).
For the gearhead: a certificate for 20 shares in the Indian Motorcycle Company from 1930, with the company’s famous logo of an Indian brave in profile ($595); a 1924 certificate for 10 shares in the Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Co. ($395); various Packard Motor Car Company certificates, dating from the 1930s to the 1950s ($24.95 to $49.95); and a 1948 certificate for 20 shares in the Tucker Corporation ($250).
For the Northwest collector: an 1890 certificate for 10 shares in the Grays Harbor Company (to finance the building of roads and the laying of rails, including the cost of bridges over the Wishkah and Hoquiam rivers), hand signed by the company’s president and secretary, and with a great vignette of a steamship ($395); a 1910 certificate for 20 shares in the Seattle–Tacoma Short Line with a great Mount Rainier vignette and also signed by the company’s president and secretary ($69.95); a 1907 $500 gold bond certificate for the Mount Hood Railroad Company, signed by trustee Matthew S. Browning of the Browning Arms Company and with a great steam locomotive/horse-drawn wagon vignette ($199.95).
For kids of all ages: a single share in DreamWorks Animation SKG ($79.95); a rare specimen gold bond certificate for the Hershey Chocolate Corporation dated 1920 ($395); a certificate for 100 shares in the A.C. Gilbert Company (maker of Erector Sets – pure boomer nostalgia!) from 1954 ($595); and a rare circa-1960 specimen certificate for Wurlitzer Company, maker of the famous jukeboxes ($295); one share in Midway Games, the pinball machine maker that brought you Pac Man and Mortal Kombat ($99.95).
Images courtesy of Scripophily.com