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Scripophily: establishing the value of antique stock and bond certificates


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Establishing the value of collectible stocks and bonds is not as strictly defined as other fields because most of the interesting material is sold at auction. As a result, prices will fluctuate according to supply and demand. However, the following six criteria usually influence the appraisal process and should be used when building your own collection.

1) SIGNATURE: Signatures of famous people on a certificate will greatly enhance its value. In some instances, documents have been issued to personalities who in turn have endorsed the pieces on the back. However, most of the valuable autographs are those of company officers signing on the face of certificates. The variety itself is very interesting and includes people such as John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil Co.), Commodore Vanderbilt (New York Central Railroad Co.), Fernando Wood (New York City Mayor and Congressman), Russell Sage (Financier) and Charlie Chaplin (Actor).

2) HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The importance of scripophily is due to the historical significance of all stocks and bonds. Over the years, those documents have financed numerous causes, industries and companies which have in turn greatly influenced our past. As many collectors are interested in "meaningful" pieces, the historical circumstances in which a financial document was issued will definitely enhance its value on the market.

3) CONDITION: Certificates in good condition cost more, but are a better investment and will be much easier to sell later. The following considerations can help to determine the best condition available: Age, Size, Place of Issuance, Paper Quality, Type (bearer vs registered) and cancellation marks.

4) RARITY: By definition, rare documents will generate an imbalance between supply and demand, thus increasing their value. The major factors influencing rarity are: Number issued, Market Interest, Age and Redemption (number which has survived exchange or repayment).

5) DECORATIVE QUALITY: Over the last few years, the premium on very decorative pieces has risen sharply. Moreover, as more collectors are framing their certificates, they seek out attractive material. Needless to say, a document with a nice vignette is preferable to one without!

6) AGE: The age of a particular certificate is the cornerstone to value assessment. Great age adds historical interest and often indicates rarity. Moreover, the art work on older pieces is generally much more intricate. In today's market, there is a definite value line separating documents issued prior to 1900 from those more recent.

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