Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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Non-genuine certificates

Non-genuine certificates appear in the collector market from time to time, but none are common. I group them into five types, each with common characteristics:

low quality copies (NOT listed in this project)
entire certificate often printed in a single color
genuine company names
low quality printing
ordinary copy paper or parchment
signatures obviously printed with rest of document
seals (if present) obviously printed with rest of document
imitation certificates (NOT listed in this project)
often issued by model railroad clubs and historical purpose organizations
'company' names usually indicate sponsoring organization
signatures often handwritten in ballpoint pen
usually printed in black or a single color
paper of intermediate quality
rarely display seals
usually no trust or transfer company name
copies of rare collectible certificates
medium to high-quality
genuine company names
high-quality paper, but usually different than typical bank note paper
occasional examples printed by engraving companies
realistic appearance
salesman samples
printed by known engraving and printing companies
non-genuine company names
same paper as ordinary certificates
usually uncancelled
some with facsimile signatures
used for sales purposes
business school certificates
fictitious names
low quality printing
low quality paper
sizes smaller than normal
may be signed or unsigned
used for training purposes

Because of the high potential for deception, I list all certificates from the last three groups in this project. They all "look" like they could be genuine certificates from genuine companies.

Reproductions are tricky in that they represent genuine collectible certificates. In ordinary scans and photographs, reproductions would be indistinguishable from "the real thing." In person, there are differences that any intermediate and advanced collector would notice. Paper usually appears overly white, overly clean and sometimes overly "slick". The paper generally doesn't "feel right." Back printing is commonly missing. Ink color is almost always different than the original, but without the original for comparison, collectors might suppose ink color is merely "different." If original certificates had been printed by American Bank Note Company and its high quality competitors, most vignettes would have been printed by intaglio methods. Hence, most original vignettes would have had a slight, but noticeable "feel" to the fingertips. Reproductions lack that "feel."

Salesman samples tend to be genuine certificates produced by major engraving companies. Created to promote engraving and printing capabilities, certificates consequently exhibit engraving and printing at the highest levels of ability that companies could muster. The paper, numbering, engraving and front and back printing are otherwise identical to genuine securities. Except for their fictitious company names, these kinds of certificates are indistinguishable from genuine certificates and are therefore listed in this project.

Business school certificates were used to train students to deal with the various types of financial and security documents they might encounter in business. Business school certificates seem quite scarce and therefore quite collectible. (College currency is a popular subject in the obsolete collectible currency hobby.) Among these three listed groups of non-genuine certificates that qualify for listing in this project, business school certificates are the most poorly printed. Although I have no definite proof, I suspect that a few examples of business school certificates might never have been recognized for their true purpose and were consequently auctioned and sold as real securities.

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(Last updated August 8, 2020)


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