Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

A guidebook and catalog of prices
(I neither buy nor sell stocks and bonds)

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Search the Coxrail database for descriptions of 23,700+ certificates from over 7,400 North American railroad companies.

Do individual coupons have value?

One of 50 coupons from an 1909 Erie & Union Railroad Co bond.

In my opinion, NO!

Since 2004, correspondents from around the world have alerted me to online sales where people are attempting to sell individual coupons as collectibles.

Notice I said "collectibles." If you are wondering whether coupons retain value as securities, move to the bottom of this page.

Two types of coupons routinely appear for sale on eBay. The majority come from collectible bonds that are freely and cheaply available from dealers, auctions and eBay. Those coupons are merely removed from bonds, clipped apart and then offered for sale in efforts to turn inexpensive collectibles into $100 dollar collectibles. The second type are coupons that were redeemed as intended. Bondholders were instructed to remove coupons twice a year and return them to companies in order to secure semi-annual interest payments. I have no idea how this second group of coupons found their way from companies back into the hands of collectors. However, a substantial number of those coupons do exist and actually represent pieces of bonds that are now extinct.

Theoretically, coupons from long-destroyed bonds COULD be considered collectible. They COULD be listed in catalogs such as mine.

I have decided however, that I will NOT list individual coupons in this project, regardless of their origins. I take this position for two reasons:

  1. I do not have time to track very low-value items. It is a simple and unalterable fact that it takes the same amount of time to record information for $50 or $5,000 certificates as it does for 50-cent coupons.
  2. I do not want to promote the destruction of valuable collectibles. Would-be collectors need to understand that most coupons available on eBay come from inexpensive collectible bonds. It should be obvious to most observers that collectors want documents in conditions as close as possible to their original. By removing coupons, the values of remaining certificates are decreased.

Collectors have reported to me that they believe some people are destroying perfectly good coupon bonds in order to get money from unsuspecting beginners.

It is for that single reason that I argue that coupon-chopping is very, very bad for our hobby.

Here's the maneuver. Procure inexpensive coupon bonds that still have coupons attached. Remove the coupons, and sell coupons individually for one or two dollars. Conceivably, if sellers can trick a sufficient number of beginners, they can take a bond worth $10 or $20 and make a couple hundred dollars profit.

Sheet of 40 coupons still attached to a 1902
Pueblo & Suburban Traction & Lighting Co. bond.

I receive many inquiries about coupons and most seem to come from people unfamiliar with our stock and bond hobby. A very large percentage of those inquiries suggest that correspondents believe coupons are "bonds" or some form of tiny currency.

It tears me apart to be forced to tell them that individual coupons have limited value as collectibles.

Admittedly, some coupons might have value to more advanced collectors IF they came from bonds that are no longer in existence. In twenty years of tracking stock and bond prices, however, not a single experienced collector has reported to me that they have ever bought individual coupons. Not a single collector has ever told me they consider individual coupons to have value. Even though I have asked, not a single major dealer has ever told me they think individual coupons have collectible value.

Please understand that I am not saying that no one collects coupons; I am merely saying no dealer or advanced collector has reported to me that they support the buying and selling of individual coupons.

My deepest concern about coupon-clipping is that once beginners realize that they have been tricked into thinking coupons have value, they are going to blame the hobby instead of sellers. I don't want that.

Yes, yes, I know. The stock and bond hobby is not an ethical enforcement squadron. There is no mechanism by which the hobby can keep beginners free from all possible deception.

However, I believe in the strongest possible way that it is UNACCEPTABLE to take advantage of ignorance!

Let's face it. There are excellent opportunities to help beginners get off to good starts. I have corresponded with hundreds and hundreds of experienced collectors and dealers. I will go out on a limb and suggest that ALL are willing to help beginners in one way or another.

If YOU have already bought clipped coupons, please consider your purchase price was a low entry fee for learning about the hobby of collecting genuine, historic stocks and bonds.

While I am only a single person, I promote this hobby as strongly as a can. I feel very, very strongly that this is a terrific hobby with genuinely scarce certificates still available at great prices. Before you buy more coupons, why not explore the hobby some more? Why not decide for yourself whether spending more money on coupons is in your best interest? If you bought coupons as tiny collectibles, why not expand your collection by purchasing the actual bonds from which they came?

I further plead with you to visit the many wonderful dealers I list.

What if you think your coupon retains value as a security?

It is possible that some uncancelled coupons might retain security value. Unfortunately, I cannot help you.

I have no knowledge of security values. therefore I cannot advise whether stocks, bonds, coupons, or related documents have value as securities.

I prefer that you check with experts who make it their business to research antique and extinct securities. It is a specialized field and they charge for their services. Please see my Security Values page for more info.

 

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Papermental logoHelp support this free site! Please visit my eBay store called Papermental by Terry Cox. My inventory includes railroad passes, railroad ephemera, newspapers, magazines, engravings, and all sorts of paper collectibles.

Please contact me if you have certificates not yet listed. (See How You Can Help.)

I suggest using WeTransfer or similar file transfer sites when sending large files or large numbers of files.

PLEASE contact the many fine dealers listed on my dealers page to buy certificates.