Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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Cox's Corner
December, 2011

Scripophily 87

This article appeared in:
Scripophily, Dec, 2011

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What drives our hobby?

I feel vastly honored to have met so many fine people through this hobby. To people outside of collecting, it might seem odd to call them "friends". After all, we may correspond feverishly only once or twice in one year, and then go a couple years without writing again. I know several of us enjoy similar pursuits outside collecting, but we may never share a conversation face-to-face. Still, there are many people with whom I thoroughly enjoy corresponding and I call them my friends. Those relationships give me great pleasure in this hobby.

But what drives the hobby overall? What gives pleasure to everyone else? I was not doing anything purposeful when I started, but I guess I've been unofficially studying collecting hobbies since the age of eight or ten. I've bought and sold many different kinds of collectibles, but it wasn't until the last twenty years that I discovered that my main passion was collecting and categorizing information. It seems a little weird to say that I'm not really driven to own things, but I am assuredly driven by collecting.

Through numerous conversations with collectors, it has became apparent that collecting is its own motivation. I don't think it matters whether we collect certificates, auction catalogs, toasters, coins, post cards, dolls or art. It is the same drive. Some of us may have a lot of money to fuel that drive and some of us may be seriously hampered by its lack. Yet, when it comes to collecting, we can't stop. Collecting might not even be good for us, but we still collect.

I have always advised that beginning collectors go about their chosen hobby with a sense of purpose and a view for future value. I firmly believe that beginning collectors need to develop clear specialties and understand that cheap collectibles will always remain cheap.

Paradoxically, that is almost the exact opposite approach I take when discussing hobbies with advanced collectors. When my advanced collecting friends tell me they've started collecting something new and have amassed a bunch of cheap items, I applaud their efforts. I know where they are going. They are using low-priced items to learn the "rules of the hobby" and discover their true interests. They will quickly move into specialties they have never explored before. They are getting their feet wet. Cheap, beginner-level items are merely their entry fees.

This brings me to something we've probably all noticed. We can probably all accept that collectors go through developmental metamorphoses. As beginners, we seem driven almost exclusively by valuations. We seem to approach our collectibles as investment opportunities. We are unsure of price patterns and history and we want someone else to tell us if specific items are valuable and how quickly their values will grow.

Advanced collectors, on the other hand, tell me by their words and actions that they've outgrown the valuation trap. Many tell me they frequently give little if any attention to estimated values. If they want something and they don't have it, they're going to get it! Period!

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