Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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Cox's Corner
June, 2008

Scripophily 2008-06

This article appeared in:
Scripophily, Jun, 2008

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The Question of Restoration and Repair

Essentially all collectors have certificates with tears, soiling and other problems. Sooner or later, many ask, "Should I have my certificates professionally repaired?"

To me, that particular question is too hard to answer. It is overly broad. The way to really decide an approach is to divide the problem into smaller, easier-to-answer questions.

To gauge their own attitudes, collectors should ask, "Am I currently willing to buy repaired or restored certificates for my own collection?" "If I buy such certificates, am willing to pay as much for repaired certificates as those in original conditions?"

Questions about repair absolutely need to be set against the backdrop of one of the primary rules of collecting, "Do no harm." If ownership is going to harm either collectibles – or their values – then it is probably best to let other people own them.

Protection from further damage is probably the most common motivation for repair. With that in mind, collectors should ask, "What is wrong with using good Mylar holders?" "Why not just keep my certificates in good protective albums?" If collectors are afraid that handling is going to damage certificates further, then they should probably ask, "Why am I handling certificates in the first place?"

Maybe the problem is the very real fear of acid deterioration. If that is the case, then it might be advisable for collectors to ask, "Does my preservation need to be any more aggressive than de-acidification?"

A primary consideration in any kind of restoration is reversibility. "Can my planned restorations and repairs be reversed?" For perspective, collectors should consider that in 1931, newly-invented cellophane tape might have seemed a perfectly reasonable way to repair ripped certificates. Seventy years later, adhesive residue from that period decreases values much more than original tears. Maybe collectors should ask, "Will today's repairs seem like improvements in ten, twenty or a hundred years?"

Within the anticipated time span of ownership, "Will the amount I spend on repair and restoration prove to be an investment or a loss?" "How much will my certificates need to increase in value for me to recover my expenditures?"

To repair or restore is a personal decision, made dramatically easier by simply asking smaller, pertinent questions. Collectors should never let their desires for pristine collectibles be their only considerations.

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