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About six months ago, I came into possession of the inventory of a long time collector whose collection was being prepared for auction. The inventory consisted of about 4,200 index cards which recorded every certificate he had purchased over a period of twenty years. On each card, he recorded serial numbers, purchase prices and purchase dates as well as sell dates and prices if he had sold or traded anything. Unfortunately, there are no copies of his certificates and there are only a handful of sparse descriptions. This collector is/was a meticulous record-keeper.
As most of you know, my specialty is recording details about North American railroad certificates. (I also compile information about certificates from North American coal companies, but have not yet announced that fact.) So far, I have gone through about half the index cards, recording details of the collection as I find time. Within a few months, I intend to scan all the cards and make them available to others who might like to catalog other specialties.
This anonymous collector collected from numerous specialties. Only five to ten percent of the entries represent railroad certificates. Since I record serial numbers of all certificates I encounter, I can match some of his purchases with both American and European auctions and dealer inventories of the 1980s and 1990s. Sadly, the cards prove he had never corresponded with me. That's too bad, because his cards tell me he would have had an enormous amount of information he could have shared.
Therein lies my real reason for writing.
Our hobby, like the stamp and coin hobbies, is skewed heavily toward older collectors. According to the July, 2013 issue of The Numismatist, 57 percent of the 26,000-member American Numismatic Association is aged 50 to 69 years old. Almost two-thirds have collected for 40 years! It appears the age profile of our 500-member organization is nearly identical. We might look at these numbers and conclude both our hobbies need to attract younger members.
We could also look at these numbers and see repositories of staggering amounts of knowledge and experience. At our level of experiences (I'm 63), we should be spreading our knowledge as far, as wide and as fast as we can. It is my firm belief that every collector, young or old, has something to share. Yes, I know, people always have a bottomless supply of empty excuses for not sharing information. In my opinion, there is never going to be a better time for sharing knowledge than this very minute.
How? First, look at this magazine. Every article in every issue is written by someone greatly interested in some aspect of certificate collecting. No one does this for fame. We do this because it is fun. I already know you enjoy collecting and you probably enjoy several things in this magazine. So why not send an email or letter to the author? It won't take you long. If nothing else, just say thanks. Ideally, if you found an article worth reading, you might share some bit of insight that the author missed. Maybe you have a certificate variation he didn't know about. Maybe you have an idea about another subject he might consider. The possibilities are endless and you probably have no idea how helpful you can be.
Secondly, if you like something in the magazine, tell the editor. He won't bite. I guarantee he will love to know there are people out there beyond his mail box who appreciate his work.
Thirdly, if you own a computer, buy a scanner and start recording your collection. If you don't own a computer, make copies. It's good for your insurance purposes and it can be good for whoever might be cataloging your specialty. You may not currently know about them, but there are people tracking certificates in several specialties and they need your help. If you don't know of anyone cataloging your specialty, they will appear at some point. Having been at this for a couple decades, I can testify that the earlier you start scanning and sharing your collection, the more valuable your information will become with time.
(Need to know more about scanning? Check my website at www.coxrail.com/Scanning/Scan-Home.asp. You will find many pages of hints targeted specifically at scanning stocks and bonds.)
Yes, I know, everyone is busy, busy, busy. At our ages, I wonder who isn't! That is clearly no excuse. If someone has time to collect, they certainly have time to share information. I really wish the person responsible for the index cards had contacted me while he was collecting. There are many questions his cards don't answer. Sadly, he owned quite a number of certificates for which I have no description. I can only sit here in Colorado, shake my head and wish I could have seen those missing certificates. I really wish he had written. I bet my readers do, too.
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