Documents encompass all manner of printed and handwritten forms, from deeds and birth certificates to licenses and passports. These pieces of paper may contain signatures, making them of interest to autograph collectors, but documents do more than capture John Hancocks—they are official records of the circumstances surrounding particular moments and events, often witnessed and documented, if you will, first hand.

For those fascinated by militaria, documents offer windows into armed conflicts via battle orders, maps showing troop movements, and even wartime letters home recounting an assault or counter attack. On the homefront, documents can reveal the health of a business, as in an itemized billhead listing goods ordered or sold. Contracts and promissory notes, whether handwritten or filled in on a form, can be used as primary source materials by historians and genealogists. As for stock and bond certificates, these documents may have represented the promise of wealth in the future, but today they are usually collected for less lucrative reasons like nostalgia or aesthetics.

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