OPEN LETTER TO COLLECTORS
Time is an extremely critical issue with me. It is my #1 concern. I am over 73 years old. Statistically, 90+% of my life is over. I mean no ill to anyone who feels differently, but I do NOT have time for typical internet clutter like e-mail jokes, political screeds, chain letters, links to online auctions, and YouTube videos. I have aggressive filters that prevent most of that stuff from getting into my email box.
Saving time. I genuinely appreciate everything collectors can do to help me save time. Short letters and single subjects are very helpful. If I have not done something as quickly as someone might have imagined, it is probably because I might not have yet found the time. If I have forgotten or overlooked an earlier correspondence, please remind me.
This is a one-man operation. I handle everything including certificate descriptions, database management, image repair, website design, and programming. Please appreciate that, "There are many of you and one of me." I may not answer right away, but I WILL answer.
This project is one of the things I do in my "free" time.
This project is a volunteer effort. All/ costs come from my pocket.
I believe all current collectors can and SHOULD help their chosen hobbies. All of us. And I firmly believe that every collector, from raw beginner to seasoned expert, has something to contribute. Furthermore, I firmly believe we all are direct beneficiaries of collectors who have gone before us. Consequently, we have a solid responsibility to help collectors who will follow us.
Consistent with that view, I choose to help future collectors by giving away all the information I receive. I will keep all names private unless requested otherwise. I consider all contributed information to be contributions for future collectors.
Much of the certificate information and images on this website has originated with someone else. Dealers, auction catalogs, magazines, books, and — most of all — several hundred private collectors in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Belgium, Italy, England, and France, plus others from whom I never learned their locations.
I warn everyone that I DO NOT participate in the secrecy game. Don't tell me about certificates if anyone wants to keep them secret. Do not tell me about serial numbers if someone believes keeping them secret will make someone's certificates more valuable.
I ignore efforts to convince me to raise prices arbitrarily to make certificates appear more valuable. The market determines prices, not me. And the market always wins. (See several pages of deeper discussions about Pricing to learn more about the subject.)
The tired, old "one-of-a-kind" argument will not make me raise prices either. The world is packed to the rafters with one-of-a-kind items! Experienced collectors understand that "rare" does not automatically mean "valuable." Nor does "valuable" automatically mean "rare." Price is a direct function of desirability. If rare items are desirable, they will be valuable. If rare items are not desirable, they will be cheap. Desirability is the key to pricing collectibles, not rarity. (I talk about the Rarity Myth several times on this website.)
I am not a dealer. I do not buy collections.
There are about are numerous professional and semi-pro English-speaking dealers out there who sell railroad certificates. All the top European dealers speak English. If planning to buy or sell, please contact them. I list all the dealers I know about on my Dealers Page. If anyone knows of more, please tell me.
Please contribute images of certificates. I actively solicit color images of certificates. The best and easiest way to send images is by scanning. (Don't know how to scan certificates? Believe your scanner is too small? I have an entire section of this website dedicated to the subject of Scanning Certificates.)
I am reasonably good at improving less-than-perfect images. I cannot, however, rescue every image sent. Images produced by a camera or cell phone can sometimes be used, but it is important to realize that ALL photographs have some degree of distortion and poor lighting. Ideally, images that appear on this website meet these minimal standards:
- minimum of 640 pixels wide.
- clear and sharp.
- show full margins.
How to know if an image is adequate? If the smallest type on a certificate appears clear and sharp, it is adequate.
I require 300 dpi SCANS for "high-resolution" images. Higher resolution scans are okay, but I reduce all to 300 dpi for storage purposes. I recommend saving as medium-high quality JPGs. I can use images in almost any format, but I convert all to JPGs to save space.
New varieties and new serial numbers? I try to avoid adding new errors, so I no longer add listings for any new certificates until I have seen images.
Please contribute images of autographs. Again, my impossible goal is to show images of all important autographs. Like certificates, images of autographs must meet minimum standards.
- Autograph samples must be at least 600 pixels wide and in color.
- To be safe, scan at 600 dpi.
- Autographs must be legible.
- Autographs must come from people of enduring celebrity. Not every politician, Civil War general, company president, or millionaire qualifies. (I have a special page explaining Autograph Listing Criteria.)
Serial numbers are always appreciated if accompanied by images. The easiest way to help with serial numbers is to send copies, scans or photographs of certificates. I WILL NOT transcribe numbers from spreadsheets because the information is too time-consuming to enter. Raw lists of serial numbers allow no possible way to check accuracy now or in the future. (I have a special page explaining How You Can Help. I can sometimes make exceptions for accumulators who amass multiple certificates of identical types. Please write and we'll discuss.)
I kindly ask that no one send unsolicited links to any online sources of information unless we are already discussing some issue or ongoing research.
NO links to eBay sales ever.