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]

Ephemera Blog

Ephemera Blog

Marty Weil's wide-ranging, in-depth blog on ephemera, including lots of great interviews with ephemera collectors. … [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    

Rare Boleite Crystals & Historic Stock Certificate "compagie Du Boleo" MexicoColt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company Stock Certificate 1937 AbnPanama Pacific Exposition San Diego Ca 1915 Stock Certificate For 6 SharesBank Of Wadesborough, North Carolina Capital Stock Certificate 18523 Antique Rail Road Trolley Stock & Certificates, New York & Massachusetts, NrConfederate States America $1000 Bond Issued 1864 First Series Signed Seal Back1873 Rockford,rock Island+st.louis Railroad Company Preferred Stock Certificate!Lot Of 4 1900's Wyoming Queen Mining Co. Stock Certificates 1902-04, Jelm, WyoLot Of 26 Wyoming Queen Mining Company Stock Certificates Jelm, Wyoming 1900'sLot Of 6 1900's Wyoming Queen Mining Co. Stock Certificates 1902-03, Jelm, WyoConfederate States Of America Csa Civil War Era $1000 Bond February 20, 18631864 Marietta & Cincinnati Rail Road Company Stock Certificate Railroad OhioRare Antique 1892 Saratoga-mancos Gold Mining Co. Stock Certificate, ColoradoWeaverville & Shasta Wagon Road Company 1859 Stock CertificateLot Of 4 1900's Wyoming Queen Mining Co. Stock Certificates 1902-03, Jelm, WyoLittle Giant Fire Extinguisher Company Stock Certificate 1897 Abn1900 Stock Certificate Dorothy Gold Mining Co. Cripple Creek, Co. 10,000 Shares!Lionel Stock Certificate 1951 Donated By Joshua Cowen To Daughter 1937 Trust1863 Confederate $1000 Bond With Seven Coupons1940 Taylorcraft Aircraft Corporation Stock Certificate Signed By C. G. Taylor1860-florida-rr Stock Certificate-pensacola&georgia Rail Road Co,Lionel Stock Certificate 1960 Issued To Roy Cohn With Signed Document1864 Stock Certificate. Milwauke & Prairie Du Chien Rwy. W/ Rev Stamp. Civil War1935 Erie Railroad Company Stock Certificate Early Type Orange Large Train VigLot Of Vtg Ephemera Postcards Booklets Stock Certificate Maps Cards More ~ 2 Lbs1855 Herbertville Amador California Gold Rush Quartz Mining Stock CertificateBonanza Development Co Of Leadville, Co Stock CertificateLarge Group Over 20 Mining, Mettalurgy & Related Stock Certificates 1886-1969 1941 Ymir Commodore Mines Company Washington Stock Certificate1917 Big Five Oil Company Stock Certificate Colorado And TennesseeLe Clair Mining Co Of Cripple Creek, Co Stock CertificateHere's An 1866 Boston, Hartford & Erie R R $1000 7% Mortgage Bond Ma To Ny! Rescue Mining Company Of Tonopah Territory Of Arizona Stock CertificateWw2.japan World War2 Government Bond.battle Tank,battle Ship And Fighter.1943Vintage Railroad Stock Certificates Virginia West Virginia Kentucky Ohio C&o Rr1915 Antique Beaver Oils Ltd Calgary Gas Oil Stock Certificate 1923 Durant Motors, Incorporated Stock CertificateMontana - Tonopah Mines Company Stock CertificateNeat Matched Pair Of Lionel Corp Stock Certificates 19611879 Missouri, Kansas And Texas Railway Company Stock Certificate1907 Butte & Coeur D' Alene Mining Company Washington Stock Certificate1917 Mileage Recording Device Company California Stock Certificate1870s Saint Joseph And Western Railroad Company Stock Certificate1937 Erie Railroad Company Stock Certificate Early Type Brown Large Train Vig1859 Northfield Bank Stock Certificate1936 International Mercantile Marine Stock Certificate Titanic White Star Lines1920 Western Milling & Mining Of Nevada Stock Certificate Ludwig Ghost Town Nv1926 Arizona Commercial Mining Company Stock Certificate Globe-miami District Az1967.ww2.japan World War Ii Wartime Repatriate Japanese Government Bond.60000yen1967.ww2.japan World War Ii Wartime Repatriate Japanese Government Bond.20000yenLot Of 2 1912 Stock Certificates Good Oil Oliver Co. WyomingVintage Atlas Brewing Co. Stock Certificate - Chicago Beer Item (lot 2) 19331874 Rome,watertown And Ogdensborgh Roailroad Company $1000 Bond Railroad Stock Certificate, St.louis, Kansas City & Colorado Railroad, UnissuedOh. American Savings Bank Co. 1901 25 Shrs Stock Certificate I/c Vf1899 Republic Iron Mask Gold Mining Company Washington Stock CertificatePittsburgh, Allegheny And Manchester Traction Co Stock Certificate1904 Farmers Mutual Telephone Company Vevay Indiana Stock Certificate1900 Baltimore And Ohio Railroad Company Stock Certificate Lady Liberty Vignette1953 Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company Stock Certificate