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]

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]

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]

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    

J P Morgan Signed St Louis Bridge Stock Certificate 1881Delorean Stock Certificate Draft, Original Car Ad, & John Delorean Business Card** 1865 Stock Certificate, "the Cameron Petroleum Company", Rev Stamp AttachedJ P Morgan Signed St Louis Tunnel Railroad Stock 1882Old Chinese Government Bond (reorganization Gold Loan Of 1913)Montpelier&wells River Railroad Stock Certificate 1872 Vermont Vtg Antique Old 5 Antique Stock Certificates "lancaster & Ephrata Turnpike & Plank Rd Co"Collis P Huntington Signed Railroad Stock Certificate 1882Augusta & Summerville (georgia) Railroad Stock Certificate 1872 R465 Antique Stock Certificates "lancaster & Ephrata Turnpike & Plank Rd Co"Unused Big Blackfoot Railway Company Montana Stock CertificateCivil War Governor Senator Congressman Swann B&o Railroad Stock Document Signed!1861 Confederate Civil War Raleigh Gaston (nc) Railroad Stock Junk Drawer Coin Lot Old Coins Half Dollars Stock Cert Wwii Coin Mint Set Lqqk5 Antique Stock Certificates "lancaster & Ephrata Turnpike & Plank Rd Co"5 Antique Stock Certificates "lititz Springs National Bank" Pa Issued 1934-19375 Antique Stock Certificates "lititz Springs National Bank" Pa Issued 1919-1934Unused Alabama & Vicksburg Railway Company Mississippi Stock CertificateUnused Mississippi & Missouri Railroad Company Stock Certificate1931 Gulfport & Mississippi Coast Traction Company Mississippi Stock Certificate1954 Winston Salem Twins Stock Certificate Hand Signed By President *baseball* Atlanta & West Point Railroad Company Stock Certificate - 1877American Railroad Wood Saw Stock Certificate 1870sFlorissant Land & Development Company Vintage Original Stock Certificate 18935 Antique Stock Certificates "lititz Springs National Bank" Pa Issued 1930-1938Great Lakesdetroit And Cleveland Navigation Company (d&c) 1950 Stock CertificateUnused Bannock Ditch & Mining Co Montana Territory Stock CertificateUnused Gold Hill & Lee Mountain Mining Co Montana Territory Stock Certificate1902 Alta-idaho Gold & Copper Mining Company Delaware Stock CertificateOld B.c. Mining Stock Certificate - British Lion MinesThe Pennsylvania Railroad Company Stock CertificateAugusta & Summerville (georgia) Railroad Stock Certificate 1868 R44Gallatin Valley Electric Railway Vintage Original Stock Certificate 1909Atlanta & West Point Railroad Stock Certificate 1887August 26, 1935 Mancos Gold Mining Company Capital Stock Certificate, 800 SharesRed Men's Hall Association Stock Certificate 10 Shares Issued 1903Peoples National Bank Of Hudson Falls, Ny. Stock CertificatePattonsburg Grain And Produce Company Stock Certificate3 New Orleans Great Northern Railway Co Mississippi Stock Certificates 1933 1937Western Railway Of Alabama Preferred Stock Certificate 1870sCalaveras Water And Mining Company - Uncirculated 1880s Stock Certificate #2291Western Railway Of Alabama Capital Stock Certificate 1870s Lot Of 2 Stock Certificates Inyo Consolidated Mining Company Arizona Territory 3 Erie Railroad Company Scrip Stock Certificates 1942 1949-1950 Erie Diamond$1000 Bond Southern Bell Telephone And Telegraph Company 1947 BondButte Georgetown Mining & Milling Company Montana Stock Certificate$1000 Bond Of The Michigan Central Rail Road Company, 18-- Unissued StockSubeo Limited Stock Certificate: 1969 : Blind River, OntarioBelleville & Southern Illinois Railroad Stock Cert 1878Stock Certificate - 188_ - Leeds Mountain Gold & Silver Mining CompanyThe Commodore Corporation Stock Certificate ( Hard To Find )5 Early 1900's National Gold & Silver Mining Company Stock Certificates3 Houston Texas Bank Stock Certificates - Republic National Main Houston FirstThe Pharmarist Gold Mining Company Capital Stock Certificate 1000 Shares 1912Columbian Oil, Asphalt And Refining Company Stock Certificate--Vintage Stock Certificate Lone Star Oil Company 1918 25 Shares Colorado Virita Porcupine Gold Mines Stock Certificate:ontario:1938: Excellent Condition$1000 Bond Lehigh Valley Railroad Co. With 24 Coupons, 1949 Bond* 1920's Kay Copper Corporation Stock Certificate 100 Shares *Hershey Oil Corporation 100 Shares Stock Certificate Shipped Business Letter