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.

Scrip

Scrip certificates

"Scrip" means different things to collectors in different hobbies. The paper money hobby recognizes scrip as unofficial money. The stock and bond hobby also recognizes scrip as unofficial money, but also describes several additional kinds of collectibles as "scrip."

"Scrip" can be confusing because the term meant had variable meaning among companies. I include scrip in my project IF AND ONLY IF the scrip makes direct and legitimate reference to stocks and bonds.

(Some scrip was purposely designed to deceive. I do NOT include those kinds of items in my project because they do not involve legitimate stocks or bonds. More about those items later in this page.)

Scrip commonly falls into five categories:

  • These three types appear in this project.
    • partial shares of stock or receipts for money redeemable as stock.
    • partial amounts of bonds or receipts for money redeemable as bonds.
    • checks issued in place of dividends, usually redeemable in stocks or bonds and included in this project only when they make DIRECT MENTION of stock or bond ownership.
  • These two types of scrip are excluded from this project.
    • unofficial paper money.
    • currency-sized tickets.

Obsolete currency causes the greatest confusion.

I receive large numbers of inquiries concerning paper money issued by railroads. Railroad currency circulated in place of legal tender in circumstances and places where legal tender was not available.

Here is a good rule of thumb.

If a certificate LOOKS like currency, it was meant to circulate as currency.

While I enjoy railroad currency, ALL paper money is beyond the scope of this my project.

Obsolete currency from the Philadelphia Newtown & New York Railroad Co. Items like this are cataloged by the paper money hobby and are therefore beyond the scope of my project specialty about stocks and bonds.

Most obsolete currency was printed before 1863. Railroad companies often printed certificates to resemble currency so they would circulate among the general public. While railroad currency (officially scrip) may have eased the demand for legal tender, its main purpose was to attract hard-to-find cash to railroad companies. Railroad companies often purposely and deceptively worded their currency to imply ownership similar to bonds. Some currency even promised to pay interest upon redemption within 6 months to two years.

I do not include obsolete railroad currency in my catalog for these reasons:

  • I firmly believe obsolete railroad currency was printed and issued strictly as paper money. I believe that some companies purposely titled some currency as "bonds" in order to fit through legal loopholes that legislated which businesses could issue paper money.
  • I have not found a single piece of railroad currency that offered a contract to holders of its currency. No contract, no bond!
  • Obsolete railroad currency was already well-known and well-cataloged in the paper money hobby before I started this project in the late 1980s. The paper money hobby substantially predates the stock and bond hobby.
  • Auction houses and currency dealers sell obsolete currency as part of the paper money hobby. Researching and tracking prices of obsolete currency would be burdensome and take away from the main purpose of this project.

Railroad "Bond" currency. Here are examples of railroad currency that cause the most confusion. No matter how someone tries to stretch the definition, I do not believe these kinds of items constituted true "bonds."


 

Obsolete currency from The Scioto & Hocking Valley Railroad Co. and the Columbus & Lake Erie Railroad. I DO NOT and will not catalog items like this.

Were these items really bonds?

Regardless of labeling, I call these documents "currency." I have never discovered evidence that has convinced me that these items were true bonds.

Here's why.

Bonds are binding agreements between parties. One party (the investor) agrees to loan money to the other. In return, the second party (the company) promises to repay the initial investment and to pay interest for the use of investors' money. True bonds display specific contractual obligations between companies and investors. The text on bonds explains what happens when companies fail to meet their obligations.

I have never seen railroad currency explain what would have happened if companies defaulted. I have never seen anything that remotely implied a contractural relationship between companies and bearers.

The logic seems clear to me. If documents do not clearly and explicitly explain the nature of agreements and what will happen in the event of default, no binding agreement exists. If there are no binding agreements, then such documents cannot possibly be construed as "bonds," regardless of how they might be labeled.

They were simply "promissory notes". They all promised to repay. No argument there.

But what was supposed to happen if companies failed to meet their promises? Nothing!

Please understand that our disagreements over nomenclature have nothing whatsoever to do with collectible values. Our disagreements affect the kinds of documents that I describe and include in my project and which ones get rejected.

Railroad currency is highly collectible.

See this list of recognized references to obsolete currency. Remember, always buy the book before the collectible.

Some people still think I SHOULD include railroad currency in my stock and bond project

For them I offer a more detailed discussion HERE.

Send an email message with corrections, questions or comments about this page.
(Last updated October 31, 2015)

 

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