Antique Stock and Bond Certificates

The term "scripophily," a hybrid of English and Greek, describes the collecting of original, cancelled stock and bond certificates. Coined in the late 1970s in response to a contest by the Financial Times of London to name the burgeoning hobby, scripophily was initially embraced by English and European collectors looking to purchase a piece of U.S. capitalist history. The avocation quickly caught on stateside and today it’s avidly pursued by scripophiliacs, banknote and coin collectors, and fans of everything from Hollywood memorabilia to railroadiana.

As a class of antiques, stock and bond certificates are easy to store (they are flat), simple to display (they can be framed), and inexpensive to acquire (an ornate certificate from an obscure mining company that used to extract ore near your childhood home can cost you less than $20). Scripophiliacs tend to specialize in particular industries — some collect mining companies, others automobile manufacturers, banks, gun companies, or railroads.

Collecting by geographic region is also popular, but many people cross-collect. For example, if you collect Judy Garland memorabilia, you might enjoy owning a stock certificate for The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company, which is not only an actual railroad but also the name of the Oscar-winning song that Garland sang in The Harvey Girls.

Autograph hounds love stock certificates, especially those that track the ascendancy of the American industrial age. Early Standard Oil Trust certificates were signed by John D. Rockefeller, Ford Motor Company certificates bore the signature of Henry Ford, and if you bought stock in Edison Phonograph Works, an autograph by the great inventor himself was thrown in at no extra charge.

As with all collectibles, condition is a major consideration. Most surviving certificates are in good shape because they were kept in vaults or carefully filed away. They were worth real money, after all. But the vast majority of stock certificates have been cancelled, which can either add character to the paper or turn it into a hole-punched mess.

Scarcity is less of a factor: In some cases you may be the only person in the world who cares about that aforementioned mining company in your old hometown, even if barely a handful of certificates from the company are known to exist.

As aesthetic objects, stock certificates are prized for their incredible detail, which was employed to make the documents difficult to forge. Robert Scot and Asher Durand of the ...

Other vignettes offered heroic renditions of busy ports loading steamships or oil derricks gushing forth with the promise of untold riches for investors. Of course, some moguls saw fit to put their portraits in the engraved vignettes; the less megalomaniacal commissioned portraits of their dogs.

Which brings us back to the fun of scripophily. Just because stock certificates are legal, ultimately serious documents doesn’t mean that they are unapproachable for the casual collector. “I know at least three or four people who have stock certificates from early plumbing companies that show early toilets on the certificate as a vignette,” says scripophiliac Gary Rose. “These people have that certificate framed in their bathrooms. They don’t collect stock certificates — it’s just a coordinating piece with the bathroom.”

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Engraveyard

The Engraveyard

James Lileks' homage to engraved illustrations used in world currency, postal first day covers, and stock certifica… [read review or visit site]

Certificate Collector

Certificate Collector

Gary Rose's antique stock and bond ('scripophily') site focuses primarily on Massachusetts paper, and is browsable … [read review or visit site]

American Currency Exhibit

American Currency Exhibit

This collection, from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, covers currency from 1690 through half a dozen era… [read review or visit site]

Bank Note Bank

Bank Note Bank

This world banknote and currency image-sharing database is notable for its breadth of contributors and content (abo… [read review or visit site]

Ephemera Society of America

Ephemera Society of America

Great reference on ephemera... includes examples and descriptions of various ephemera categories, selected special … [read review or visit site]

Two Cent Revenue Stamped Paper

Two Cent Revenue Stamped Paper

Everything you'd ever want to know about revenue stamped paper (first authorized in 1862). This site features infor… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1901 Potomac Oil Company Arizona Territory Stock CertificateApple Computer, Inc. Common Stock Certificate 1864 Confederate States Of America $1000 Bond Cr#144d 59 Coupons Attached Rare!Muskoka - The Huntsville And Lake Of Bays Railway Company Stock CertificateLot Canada Silver Coins World Paper Money Stock Certificates, Trends $1632Muskoka - Bigwin Inn Stock Certificate 19251864 Confederate States Of America $1000 Bond Cr#165 19 Coupons Attached Scarce!Hofer George Weiss 1946 Binghamton Ny Yankees Signed Baseball Stock Certificate 1863 Confederate States Of America $1000 Bond Cr#ctf122a 7 Coupons Attached Rare1925 Springfield Illinois Baseball Signed Stock Certificate Satchel PaigeP-s438 1920 50 Rubles, South, Russia Government Note, Pmg 65epq!1919 Louisville Colonels Aa Baseball Stock Certificate Signed Wf Knebelkamp 1862 Confederate States Of America $1000 Bond Cr#100 30 Coupons Attached Scarce!Honduras Government Bond 1869 / Emprestito Del Gobierno 1880 Orion Silver Mining Company Pima County Arizona Territory Stock CertificateP-s440a 1919 500 Rubles, South, Russia Government Note, Pmg 63!1882 Stock Certificate For Boulder Consolidated Gold And Silver Mining Company1869 Boston Water Power Company Stock Certificate1863 Confederate States Of America $1000 Bond Cr#125b 7 Coupons Attached Rare!Central Aguirre Associates 1928 Stock Certificate1876 Rock Island Gold & Silver Mining Co Stock Certificate Gold Hill Nv & S Fran1879 Handly Mining Co Stock Certificate Bodie Dist. Mono County Cal. 100 Shares1874 Cherry Creek Mill & Mining Co Stock Certificate White Pine Co Nev 100 ShareLionel Stock Certificate 1951 Joshua's Daughter - Donated By Joshua Cowen1897 Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad $1000 Bond W/ Rare Ww2 Tfel-2 Form1885 Stock Certificates Winter Park Company Winter Park FloridaIhc #3304 Maryland And Pennsylvania Railroad Stock Car #117 Black 2 Level Ho 1863 Confederate States Of America $1000 Bond Cr#130a 6 Coupons Attached Rare!Five Greenhorn Mining Company Stock Certificates1940s Easton Maryland Baseball Stock Certificate The Peterson-culp Gearless Steam Auto Company Stock Certificate1898 Eastman College Bank Poughkeepsie Ny Stock CertificateRussia 100 Roubles Government Bond To Bearer 1915 Uncanc. + CouponsGrundy County, Il, Morris Cutlery Co. Stock Certificate No. 15, July 1882, Fine1926 Parkesburg Real Estate Co. Stock Certificate~chester County, Pennsylvania1913 Pioneer Steamship Stock Certificate Cleveland, Oh Signed By C. HutchinsonUnilever Stock Certificate 1961 Palm Tree Vignette Dove Lipton Vaseline Vo5 Lux(last One) 1963 "pepsi-cola United Bottling"(100 Shares) Green Stock Certificate1900s Valdez, Alaska - Valdez Hydraulic & Gold Mining Stock CertificateThew Shovel Company Stock Certificate 1963 Lorain/ Elyria Ohio1928 Signed John Magnin Antique Isaac Magnin Stock Certificate 60 SharesFrench-greek Bank Mortgage Title Of 1 Share Bond Stock Certificate 19391869 Boston & Providence Railroad Corporation Stock Certificate - 50 SharesFour (4) Neat Lionel Stock Certificates 1958-63Circle "a" Original Stock Certificate 1922 - Dr Pepper1895 City Store San Jose California Stock Certificate1900 Loma Vista Petroleum Company California Stock Certificate1914 Reynolds-alaska Development Company Washington Stock CertificateMetalcraft Railroad Stock Car, 1930's Vintage, OriginalThew Shovel Company Stock Certificate Lorain Ohio 19481882 Second & Third Street Pasenger Railway Co Pennsylvania Stock Certificate1921 Promontory Ranch Company San Francisco Issue #40 Stock Certificate1918 Alaska Gold Mine Company Maine Stock Certificate1937 North Counties Oil Company California Stock Certificate1878 Frankford Southwark Philadelphia City Passenger Railroad Stock CertificateFrance, Antique Assignat Mortgage Bond Documents With Embossed Revenues #a454(16) First National Bank Of Gladbrook, Iowa Stock CertificatesGreece Greek Bank Of Chios Title Of 25 Bonds Unused Stock Certificate Year 1919 Stock Certificate Mariculture Technologies Inc. 4/10/1996Environment One Corporation Stock Certificate ( Rare Find )