Helping with this project

This hobby needs your help and EVERY certificate collector has something to offer.

My catalog and this website are dedicated entirely to collectors. My goal is to help keep the collecting of railroad stocks and bonds FUN. Hobbies like coins and stamps are mature, but this hobby is still quite new. So new, in fact, that every collector has something or knows something that can contribute to the hobby. I guarantee that you have something to contribute. Join my impossible quest of cataloging every certificate that involved railroading in North America. The cold hard truth is that I need your help. I cannot possibly do this alone because:

  • The hobby is too diverse.
  • I will not live long enough.
  • I do not have enough money.
  • It would not be any fun.

The best place to start

There are many ways you can help. You can start by spending a few minutes looking at Information Recorded. That page will give you a quick rundown on the types of information I record.

Certificates or other information I have missed

Most collectors have at least one certificate or variation not listed in the database. Even if they don't, they certainly have serial numbers and dates not yet recorded.

Start by examining your most common certificates. Compare your certificates with my listings. Even if you don't find a feature I missed, you can still contribute dates, and serial numbers. I often lack images of very common certificates. In fact, they are the least contributed types of certificates. You see, I really only have time to record information about certificates that sell for $20 or more. Consequently, I miss everything that sells below that amount.

If you can provide images, I want to record your certificates, no matter how common they may seem.

Also, be alert for undiscovered varieties among cataloged certificates. Most collectors don't look variations among common varieties. Beginners do, and that is why beginners have reported many minor variations that everyone else — including me! — overlooked.

I will stress this again. All collectors, even raw beginners, have something to contribute. And, so far, almost everyone who has tried to help has found something new to add.

I add hundreds of new serial numbers every month. It is an EXTREMELY time-consuming chore. To save time, my primary criteria for adding new certificates, new information about existing listings, dates, and serial numbers depends on how you are willing to contribute:


Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

Scans are the single best way to help. Many collectors think their scanners are too small, but that is untrue. Small scanners work perfectly well if you simply scan your certificates in two or more  overlapping pieces. Orientation does not matter, although I suggest you try to keep the tops of successive scans pointing the same direction. Make your scans in a way so you get AT LEAST an inch and a half of overlap. Send me the pieces and I will stitch them together.

If sending scans, I recommend:

  • scan at 300 dpi
  • turn off auto exposure (if possible)
  • do NOT scan backs (I do not record anything about backs)
  • do NOT scan stubs (I remove them)
  • do NOT scan coupons (I remove them)
  • do NOT reduce images
  • save as JPGs, medium-high quality (not highest)
  • TIFs, PNGs and GIFs are okay, but I convert all to JPGs
  • scan important autographs at 600 dpi
  • scan certificates against light gray, very light blue, or white backgrounds
  • do NOT scan against colors
  • scan large certificates in two or more pieces with AT LEAST 1.5" overlap
  • no need to "zip" images if sending single images
  • zip images if emailing groups of five or more
  • send larger groups of images by (free)
  • PLEASE do NOT embed images in emails; send as attachments
  • PLEASE do NOT send images as PDFs, Excel, or Word files

There are several tricks to scanning certificates. The very thin lines in vignettes confuse auto exposure. You will get better scans by turning auto\ exposure off. I have a number of tips in a special section of this website dedicated to scanning certificates.


Photos are okay. Just realize that all suffer from problems like poor lighting, color shifts, shadows, glare, and distortion. As long as certificates are in focus, I am usually able to extract valuable information. I suggest:

  • take certificates out of holders
  • photograph certificates against uniform-colored surfaces (light gray posterboard is good)
  • shoot straight down on them (the more rectangular certificates appear in photos, the better)
  • you do NOT need to describe or identify certificates
  • you do NOT need to put anything in your photographs for scale
  • you do NOT need photos of backs, stubs, or coupons (I discard them)

Smartphone cameras can take perfectly acceptable photos as long as lighting is adequate and shadows are eliminated.


At one time, I received the majority of information via photocopies (Xerox, etc.). I receive very few photocopies anymore, although they remain perfectly adequate.

  • reduce certificates to fit on 8-1/2 by 11 paper if desired
  • copy in pieces if necessary
  • either black and white or color copies are okay
  • make a note at the bottom about the "real" color of your certificate
  • no need to record sizes
  • no need to copy backs, stubs, or coupons

Whether you send scans, photos, or photocopies, please send only images of certificates you own. I ask you to PLEASE DO NOT SEND images captured from eBay, dealer websites, or collector websites. There are simply too many certificates out there . If I recorded every image like that, we would have a nice database and I would have no life.

Information in spreadsheet form

I appreciate your offer, but I beg you,
PLEASE DO NOT SEND SPREADSHEETS of your certificate inventory. Spreadsheets prevent me from:

  • confirming accurate identifications of certificates
  • spotting new varieties
  • reviewing images in the future
Spreadsheets also
  • contribute less information than images
  • require MUCH MORE TIME than images.

Links to images or information on the web

Again, I appreciate your thinking of me. but again I ask for contributors, PLEASE DO NOT SEND LINKS to : 

  • items for sale on eBay or elsewhere
  • dealer sites
  • private collector sites
I already acquire information about certificates that sell on eBay for $20 and higher. I really appreciate your thinking of me and taking time to contribute. The real issue is my lack of time. I will catalog eBay items if and when they sell for $20-plus

Price guidance

I always seek price guidance for any items you are willing to inform me about.

What I am REALLY from you is the price YOU would be willing to pay to reacquire a certificate if something happened to YOUR certificate. You might be willing to pay significantly more than you originally paid. You might like to re-acquire a similar certificate at a lower price. Or maybe you might be glad that the certificate is gone. REAL PRICE GUIDANCE is what you would readily pay if something happened to one of your possessions.

Certificate prices

If and when you send information or images of certificates in your collection, I will greatly appreciate learning how much you paid. Prices in guidebooks and on dealer websites are fine, but not fully accurate. Your purchases are REAL.

When asking about prices paid, I am looking for the entire amount paid for certificates BEFORE SHIPPING COSTS. Please include commissions, Value Added Taxes, and local sales taxes. Round prices to the nearest dollar and IGNORE POSTAGE. I do NOT need to know where you purchased.

Inspections and corrections

Union Pacific Railroad inspection crew

Union Pacific Railroad inspection crew

There are several million words on this website. There ARE mistakes! That means I REALLY need your help finding them. Please report any mistakes you find or anything that doesn't make sense.

Information about questionable companies

If you enjoy corporate research, and want some problems to chew on, see my special page on Mystery companies.

What about information about railroad companies?

Many of you are incredibly serious about railroading. And many of you have discovered very obscure facts about companies.

My goal is to catalog certificates from every company that operated or intended to operate in North America. People with a lot more knowledge than me record tremendous amounts of information about railroads in books, magazines, and on the web. For that reason, I do not record every morsel of information that comes my way.

I seek and keep information about railroad companies when that information directly involves the understanding or interpretation of certificates. I always appreciate additional information such as:

  • states of incorporation
  • dates of incorporation
  • dates of dissolution
  • nicknames (official or unofficial)

I record names of presidents, chief executive officers, and chairmen of boards when I learn the full timespans of their service to the nearest year (no need for month and day). I do not record names unless I know both starting and ending dates of service.

I stress that this site is about collectible stocks and bonds. Information about track alignments, accidents, secondary personalities, passenger trains, corporate takeovers, and intricate financing is far beyond the scope of this website. Yes, I agree that kind of information is FUN. I am always researching something. Realistically, people seeking hard-core information about railroading and railroad companies are going to find better information elsewhere than on this site. Think about this project as providing ground-level information about certificates. Any other information about railroading is a "30,000-foot view."