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Antique Stocks Collecting Themes

This is the first of three articles describing popular type groupings. or themes, often used in Scripophily (the collecting of antique stock certificates).

There is a thriving market in old stock certificates due to their beauty, uniqueness, historical significance, rarity and, surprisingly, their affordability.  Though most certificates (even from a century ago) can be purchased for under $100, the sheer number of different certificates available (thousands),  not to mention the expense of the rarer ones, precludes anyone from trying to collect them all.

For that reason, and due to personal preferences, people tend to give as gifts or to collect stock certificates by theme.  These are a few of the more popular themes:

1.       Industry - Railroads are popular industry themes.  There were a great number of them and they literally created the infrastructure that allowed the United States to develop into a unified economic, cultural, political and societal entity  Even within the Railroad category, however, most  people focus on sub-segments such as the first electric traction railways ( trolleys) from a hundred years ago or all the small lines that consolidated to create a larger Railroad system.  Other industry examples are aircraft, mining, oil, autos, retailers, banks or any “industry” you define.

2.      Geography - It is fun to see the name of your city or state on a certificate.  These collectors usually enjoy doing a little research and reading up on companies and locations they recognize or identify with.  There are many hundreds of old certificates with town, county or state names in the company name, e.g., Maricopa Mica Mining Company (1890’s) or Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company (1927). 

3.      Vignette - “Vignette” is the collectors’ term for the picture(s) on most certificates.  They are usually quite detailed artwork created from etchings.  A collector might choose, for example, animal vignettes (including American Eagles, foxes, dogs, horses, cattle, doves, cats and many others).

4.      Family Relationship - If your last name is Morrison, you could have a beautiful, framed, authentic certificate from 1865 for “The Morrison Family Oil Company” hanging in your den.  How about the Long Dock Company (1860’s) or the Custer Channel Wing Corporation?

5.      Time Period - Lovers of the Old West might like The Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company, The John B. Stetson Company or the Abercrombie and Fitch Company (they were actually important purveyors in the old days too).

There are many other possible themes (autographs, famous people, famous events, years…).  And many certificates can fit in more than one theme, so there is no end to the satisfaction of creating a fine collection, but also the excitement of picking up on a new direction.

In any case, the collecting of these increasingly rare historical documents is a growingFree Reprint Articles, rewarding pastime that is fun to share with others (as you show them your 1865 Barnstable Bank and expound on commerce during the Civil War).

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Larry Crain is a collector, author and dealer in Scripophily (the collecting of antique stock certificates). Visit Antique Stock Certificates Scripophily for images, values, more articles and research tools for old stock certificates.  Real Stock Histories has research tools for old company and industry historical information.

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