Most hobbies display a typical pecking order: unused items are normally valued more highly than those that were used. Scripophily is different.

Scripophily is a hobby dedicated to collecting old securities. Securities are documents that served as stocks, bonds, and options. A piece of paper could have been intended for use as a security, but unless it were properly signed and issued, it was just a piece of printed paper. Unissued paper stocks and bonds are still collectible, but collectors do not value them as highly as certificates that functioned as securities.


Documents that became true securities were touched by human hands, often many, many times. That means that fully issued certificates should show evidence of handling. There should be signatures of officers . Most will have embossed corporate seals. If stock certificates were traded, they will likely display signatures of registrars, possibly trust companies, and maybe signatures of stockholders who sold their investments days or years after purchase. Cancellation marks of all sorts are likely. Staple holes and folds are common. In other words, evidence of human handling and paper damage is a rock-solid reality of the hobby. Issued certificates should show signs of use.

So one really needs to question,

Do we need to handle certificates with white cotton gloves?

I'm not going to take a position on that particular question. Every collector should know implicitly that we are merely custodians holding certificates for awhile before handing them over to new collectors. I will advise that we try to prevent further damage to our collectibles. It's really not that hard to:

  • Wash hands before handling.
  • Move food and drink off the table while working.
  • Clear the work area.

Opening packages

Most collectors will buy certificates remotely and receive them through the mail. Items purchased from major auction houses and professional dealers will be packaged appropriately. Nonetheless, open packages with care.

Opening packages received from eBay sellers requires more care because packaging is so unpredictable. As a rule, eBay sellers over-package. I've received items that looked like they could have survived delivery to the front lines of a tortured, rain-soaked battlefield. Some packages have taken over five minutes to open. That's crazy!

Was tape REALLY necessary to seal this package?

Padded bubble envelopes

Well-meaning often send certificates inside padded bubble envelopes. That seems Innocent enough until one removes a certificate to find it embossed with impressions from polyethylene "bubbles." Bubble envelopes are liabilities in the scripophily hobby. I now advise everyone, "If you're buying from eBay, ALWAYS send messages telling sellers to avoid mailing in bubble envelopes.

Taped poly bags

Another trick used by eBay sellers is packaging certificates in poly bags and sealing with tape. There is a certain protective logic with poly bags in case it is raining when the postman stuffs the envelope through a mail slot. But tape? Are certificates going to miraculously escape poly bags during transit?

I warn against tape because It is really easy to get tape stuck to certificates during extraction. Consequently, I advise collectors to avoid trying to save poly bags by removing tape. Simply cut certificates out of poly bags and discard. Is a successful poly bag rescue worth the risk of damaging a valuable certificate?