Collector contributions

BNR Press released my first catalog early in 1995. Within a few months, collectors began contributing images of certificates they owned or found for sale. The earliest contributions were black and white images reproduced on copiers. Within five years, those contributions had grown to many thousand and I needed to issue a second edition. Unfortunately, delays hampered publication until 2003, by which time eBay had become a major force in the hobby. The growth in personal computers allowed the location and purchase of more and more scarcities as well as the acquisition of affordable desktop scanners. Full-color images became the rule. 

copy of Toledo Peoria & Western Railway stock certificate sent by contributor copy of South St Paul Belt Railroad stock certificate sent by contributor copy of Pittsburgh Cincinnati & St Louis Rail Way stock certificate sent by contributor
Earlier types of contributions. Prior to the development of the internet and reliable email protocols, most collector contributions were paper photocopies received through the mail. Dealer prices lists were highly valuable and gave me huge amounts of information about the numbers and types of certificates available. The information that came from collectors, though, was more precise because they were larger pictures of certificates from their collections

Most collectors develop unique interests and specialties. I have always insisted that EVERY collector and dealer has something they can contribute to this project and therefore the hobby in general. Dealers have contributed lots of information, but the truth is that they usually have better things to do than scan certificates and send images to me. Nonetheless, some have contributed since the earliest days of this project. 

Since I know the type of information I record every week, I also know that even the rawest beginner has something to contribute. I beg beginners to contact me. Even with this plea, getting them to contribute has proven terribly problematic, Therefore, most contributions of images  I receive today come from intermediate and advanced collectors who have been in the hobby for several years.

Beach Street Connecting Railway stock certificate sent by contributor Typical result of scanning large certificate on letter-size scanner Even though smartphone cameras are great, images are always distorted to some degree
Later and current contributions. Consumer-grade scanners ultimately hit the market, prices dropped, and collectors began contributing scanned images. Image quality improved substantially and photocopies almost disappeared. However, since most affordable scanners were letter size, not all scans were perfect but at least were well-exposed and in focus. Once cameras were incorporated into smartphones, photographs started dominating certificate images. No matter their quality, cameras always distort certificates, so overall image quality has now began moving backwards. Thankfully, many certificate collectors and most – but not all! – professional dealers still rely on scanners to record their holdings.

At present, almost 500 collectors and dealers have contributed to this project since about 1987. Contributions really kicked into high gear after publication of the first edition of Collectible Stocks and Bonds of North American Railroads. I would love to list every one of those contributors here, but choose not to in today's world of heightened privacy concerns.

Every reader can join that list by simply sending some bit of information I do not already have. Please see, How to Help.