September, 2001

Want to Help Solve Some Mysteries?

Can you help clear up some long-standing mysteries? Following is a list of stock certificates that I know almost nothing about. Most of these listings originated over the years with unillustrated, multi-item auction lots.

Please send 8½ x 11 copies or electronic images of any certificates you may have. In many cases, I know of other certificates for these companies, but none for the dates listed. If there is any response to solving these mysteries, I will list mysterious bonds in a future newsletter.

1873 Erie Railway pass issued to William Cornelius Van Horne as general superintendent of the St Louis Kansas City and Northern Railway. The year before, at age 29, Van Horne had become the general superintendent of the Illinois Central.
Eight years after this pass was issued, Van Horne became general manager of the Canadian Pacific, and helped push that line to cross-continent completion in 1885. He later became the president and chairman of the board of the Canadian Pacific, as well as executive in several other railways. He was knighted in 1894.
So far, Van Horne’s signature has only been reported from Cuba Railroad stock certificates. Several examples are known from 1906 to 1910 with his autograph as president..

Mysteries Left to Solve

The Addison Rail Road Co (green)
Air Line RR (Texas)
Alabama & Florida of Alabama
Alaska Midland
Allegheny & Western Railway Co (pre-1898)
Allied Railway Equipment
American Car Co
American Street Railway Paving & Improvement
Arkansas RR
Arkansas Southern Railroad Co (pre-1898)
Atlanta Knoxville & Northern Railway Co
Atlantic Shore Ry Co
Augusta & Knoxville RR
Automatic Electric & Mechanical Railroad Signal Co
Barclay RR & Coal Co
Belvidere Delaware RR Co (pre-1909)
Brunswick & Florida RR 
The Buffalo New York & Philadelphia Railway Co
Cayuga & Torresdale Street Ry
Cedar Rapids Iowa City & Southern Construction
Chaffee RR
Charles River Street Railway Co (pre-1883)
(The) Chicago Kalamazoo & Saginaw Railway Co
Chicago St Louis & Kansas City
Chicago Terre Haute & Western
Chicago & Western Indiana Traction
The Buffalo New York & Philadelphia Railway Co
Cayuga & Torresdale Street Ry
Cedar Rapids Iowa City & Southern Construction
Chaffee RR
Charles River Street Railway Co (pre-1883)
(The) Chicago Kalamazoo & Saginaw Railway Co
Chicago St Louis & Kansas City
Chicago Terre Haute & Western
Chicago & Western Indiana Traction
Chickasha Street Ry
Choctaw & Chickasaw
Cincinnati & Baltimore RR
(The) Cincinnati Jackson & Mackinaw Railway Co
Cincinnati & Muskegum Valley RR
City & Suburban Ry Co
(The) Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Co (1850-1878)
(The) Columbus Hocking Valley & Toledo Railway Co
Commonwealth Avenue Street Ry Co
Connecticut Central Railroad Co
Covington Short Route Transfer
Cumberland & Pennsylvania RR Co
Dakota & Pacific
Detroit Harbor Terminals
Doylestown Ry
Durbin Automatic Safety Car Coupler
Easton & Northern RR
Electrical Automatic Railroad Safety Signal
Ephrata & Lebanon Street Ry
Evansville Belt
Fairmont & Helens Run Ry
Fall River & Providence RR
Fort Street & Elmwood Railway Co (post-1872)
Frankfort & Utica Street Ry
Geneva & Corning
Germantown & Northern
Goshen & St Louis Ry
Grafton Center Railroad Corp
Green Bay & Wisconsin
Green & Coates Street Philadelphia Passenger Ry Co (post 1907)
Greenwich Tramway
Hackensack & New York Extension
Hempfield RR
Horn Pond Branch
Housatonic Rail-Road Co (1850s)
The Ithaca Auburn & Western Railway Co
The Kansas City Wyandotte & Northwestern Railroad Co
The Kansas & Nebraska Railway Co of Kansas

LaGrange Connecting
Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Co (post 1870)
Lancaster & Eastern Street Ry
Lancaster Mechanicsburg & New Holland Ry
Lancaster & Quarryville Street Ry
Las Vegas & Hot Springs Electric Ry & Power Co
Liberty & Vienna
Lookout Incline Ry
Lookout Mountain Incline Ry
Lykens Valley Rail Road & Coal Co In Dauphin County
Lynchburg Halifax & North Carolina Rail Road Co
McGhee College & St Louis Coal Mining & RR
Meridian Brookhaven & Natchez
Middlesborough Mineral Railway Co
Midland Railroad Co (Massachusetts)
Milwaukee Benton Harbor & Columbus Ry
Milwaukee & Minnesota
Mississippi Valley Railroad Co
Moline & Peoria Ry Co
Monorail of Baltimore City
Montville Street Railway Co
New Orleans Algiers & Opelousas Ry
New Orleans Opelousas & Great Western Rail Road Co (pre-1855)
New York & Albany RR
New York Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad Co (pre-1885)
The Northern Central Railway Co (1950-1969)
Northern Puerto Rico RR
Northwest Branch Ry
The Ohio & Northwestern Railroad Co
Ontario & Quebec Ry
Penhorn Creek Railroad Co
Pennock Battery Electric Light & Ry
Peoria Belt
Peoria Terminal Railway Co (post-1901)
Plymouth & Brockton Street
Portland Terminal Co
Pressed Steel Car Co
Puget Sound Chelan & Spokane
Raitan North Shore RR Co
Ray & Gila Valley RR
(The) Rensselaer & Saratoga Rail Road Co (pre-1857)
Rockaway Valley RR Co
Rogers Locomotive Co
Rumford Falls & Buckfield Railroad Co
Sacramento Northern Railroad
Savannah & Statesboro
Scranton & Northeastern
Sound Shore RR
Spartanburg & Union
Springfield & Xenia Traction Co
St Andrews & Quebec RR
St Louis Transit Co
St Paul Southern Electric Ry
Toledo Wabash & Western Ry
Toms River RR Co
Toronto Grey & Bruce Railway Co
Tulsa Street Ry
Union Belt Line Street
Union Tank Car Co
Van Brunt & Erie Basin
Virginia Transit
Walden & Melrose RR
Ware River Rail Road Co (pre-1906)
Washington & Ohio RR
West End RR Co
West End Connecting RR Co
West Side Community RR
West Virginia Central & Pittsburg Railway Co
(The) Western Virginia & Kentucky Rail Road & Coal Co
Whitehall & Plattsburgh RR
Wilmington Charlotte & Rutherford Rail Road Co
Wilmington New Castle & Delaware City Railway Co
Worcester Railroad Co

267 New Certificates from June

1st Edition 2nd Edition Currently
Number of certificates listed (counting all variants of issued, specimens, etc.) 8,559 14,112 15,224
Number of distinct certificates known 7,152 11,146 11,954
Number of certificates with celebrity autographs 699 1,175 1,219
Number of celebrity autographs known 232 342 349
Number of railroads and railroad-related companies known 17,276 19,805 20,371
Number of companies for which at least one certificate is known 3,516 5,001 5,302

Ever hear of The United Traction Company & Electric Railway of North America? Me neither! I found this certificate at a rail show in June.This is a well-engraved fantasy certificate by American Bank Note Company with one of its classic interurban vignettes. It is indistinguishable from normal certificates except for a few minor features. The owner’s name is printed. The certificate is printed on planchette paper, but dated ‘May 10, 1907’. The pinhole cancellation date reads ‘4-10-87’. On the back is a notice that reads, “The United Traction Company & Electric Railway of North America does not exist. This certificate has no monetary value and was created as a reminder that market trends should never be ignored and to serve as a conversation piece suitable for hanging in your office compliments of the National Bank of the Rockies.”

I finally struck a chord in the June issue. I received more responses to that question than any other question I have asked in the last three years!

I asked if anyone collected certificates based on the numbers of shares. I wondered why so many dealers listed shares instead of serial numbers in their catalogs. I thought I was missing something.

Most collectors said numbers of shares were not important to them at all. A few advanced collectors said they were attracted to high share values when they represented large or controlling interests in companies.

Thankfully, several dealers also wrote letters. All admitted that they referenced numbers of shares out of habit, custom, and imitation of other dealers. In some cases, they said they included numbers of shares just to have something to say about very plain certificates.

I looked over my old price lists and freely admit that I did the same thing when I was in the business.

Respondents did not say much about serial numbers. The few who did, agreed that they like seeing serial numbers included in descriptions of scarce certificates. (I correspond with some collectors about serial number censuses, so I know it is very important to some people.)

One writer wondered conspiratorially why dealers did not include serial numbers.

In defense, I point out that a couple of European dealers record serial numbers of all their certificates. And Smythe and Winslow often include serial numbers of some of their rarer certificates.

Finally, correspondence with one e-mail writer prompted me to add serial numbers to the searchable online database. Now you can see all the serial numbers I currently know about.

Or, rather, all the serial numbers I have added so far.

Regrettably, I have only recorded serial numbers for the last couple of years. Consequently, I am going back through all my references and recovering serial numbers I overlooked for a decade. Talk about time-consuming! I can only add about 500 numbers per week. So, please be patient because I have a long, long way to go!

Catalog Needed

Do you have a copy of Smythe catalog 166 you can let me copy?

State Seals on Stocks and Bonds

States and provinces in the U.S. and Canada use official seals to validate their business dealings and laws. I imagine states in Mexico do the same.

State seals are similar to corporate seals. They are about 2½ inches in diameter, made of metal, and used in hand-held tools to emboss official paper documents.

(Left) Official Colorado state seal
Modified Colorado state seal from bond of The Moffat (Right) Tunnel Improvement District

State seals are political in nature, so they are designed to represent qualities that states deem important. Some designs are quite complicated, given the small metal disk upon which the designs appear. However, codification of the designs is often more intricate than even the designs themselves.

State codes generally prohibit exact reproduction of seal designs except for official state business. Nonetheless, state seals are strong and identifiable designs, so businesses often modify them for commercial use.

Modified state and provincial seals appear on at least 636 varieties of railroad certificates. Pennsylvania’s state seal is the most heavily-used. Seals from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia are also very popular.

Interestingly, the most commonly depicted image on Pennsylvania railroad certificates is actually not the state seal. It is more properly be called a “Coat of Arms.”

(Left) Central design of Pennsylvania's official seal
(Right) "Coat of Arms" from Pennsylvania's state flag

The actual state seal shows an eagle, a ship, a plow, and sheaves of wheat. The most popular Pennsylvania design is the one that appears on the state flag. It shows two black horses flanking the principal design elements of the state seal. On certificates, the design is usually modified with more robust horses and one of the horses is usually white.

You may view all the U.S. state seals on my web site at: 

I am designing a “Finding Chart” for state seals. State seals are usually heavily modified, so I want to include only the elements that appear on certificates, not just the official elements.

To help me out, would you send copies or scans of any state seals that appear on your certificates? While there are lots of photos in catalogs, they are just too small to see details. An enlarged copy of the seal portion is really all I need. (The Colorado seal from the Moffat Tunnel bond is a good example.)

Special Letter that was was sent to correspondents with this issue of the UPDATE Newsletter...

August 29, 2001

Collectors and dealers continue to ask... "When is the second edition coming out?"

As you probably know, the second edition was originally scheduled for release in January, 2001. I "pulled the plug" on new listings on the first of December. At that time, there were 14,112 certificates cataloged, compared to 8,559 certificates in the first edition.

Unfortunately, health concerns in the publisher's family forced a postponement. I want you to know that publishing of the second edition is still a high priority for both the publisher and me, but its schedule is uncertain. It should be possible to get the book out in 2002. Whether it turns out to be early or late in the year, though, depends on unpredictable developments.

I consider Fred Schwan, the owner and publisher of BNR Press, a good friend. (You may know him as the author of the definitive book on Military Payment Certificates.) As a friend, I intend to do my part to help decrease pressure on him, just as I would want him to do for me if our positions were reversed. While we all want to see the second edition in print, the truth is, it is just a book. We need to keep perspective that many things in life are more important than books.

So, for the time being, I will be the intermediary. I will keep track of everyone who contacts me concerning the book's scheduling and potential advertising.

Even if you have contacted me before, feel free to keep writing. It does not hurt to remind me. (If you are getting this letter as part of the UPDATE newsletter, you are already in my system.)

I cannot promise when the second edition will emerge. But I can promise you that I will contact you when the schedule firms up.
Until then...

  • Visit my web site at On the site you will find:
    • links to dealers,
    • large amounts of text about stocks and bonds,
    • the complete searchable database of EVERY certificate I currently know about,
    • sections about mysterious vignettes and questionable companies,
    • links to operating railroad companies,
    • and much, much more.
  • Continue sending copies of images of new certificates. Whenever BNR Press publishes the second edition, both Fred and I agree that we want it as up-to-date as humanly possible. Since the December deadline, the database has already grown by over 1,000 new listings! We now have an uncertain amount of time, so I beg you to continue to contribute information.
  • Let me know if you want to advertise in the next edition. I will not sell advertising space, but I will keep your name on file. I will do everything I can to make sure BNR Press contacts you long in advance of publishing.
  • Contact me with whatever questions and news you have. I will always return your letters and e-mails within a couple of days.