Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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Coal Certificate Project

As if I don't already have enough to do. For several years, I've dabbled with recording sales of stocks and bonds from North American coal companies. It has been an on and off project, squeezed in with my larger effort of recording stocks and bonds from railroad companies. It has been hard to justify a full-out effort on coal certificates because the specialty is terribly limitedand there are few specialists.

Truth be told, I had never kludged together a clear vision of my purpose for recording coal certificates other than the fact that I enjoyed them.

There have been mumblings among mining certificate specialists that they want to produce a catalog. After fifteen years, I still don't know when a catalog will come to fruition. If it does, I will contribute my efforts to insure that coal mining is well-represented.

My background is in coal geology. I have a degree in geology and worked in the coal industry for many years. My previous history with coal that made me want to do something fun and constructive with certificates, even if I could not see a clear reason for doing so. Oh, well, it's not the first time I have started projects without clear goals.

Types of companies to be listed. My goal is to list companies that mined (or planned to mine) coal somewhere in North America for the purpose of generating heat. Generally speaking, those kinds of companies tended to signal their involvement in the coal industry by including words like "Coal" and "Mining" in their corporate names.

The problem, of course, is that the coal business is diffuse and spread across most of the United States, Canada, and part of Central America. There are no rules in naming companies and the coal industry has many ancillary connections to businesses crucial to the production, transportation and sale of coal. I struggled with how to keep a focus on the business of mining and ultimately decided it was entirely impossible without countless hours of research.

I ultimately asked a handful of contributors to help me. Most have been helping me with my railroad project for several years, and had expressed interest in the coal project. I solicited their opinions, and their replies were insightful. I trust their opinions and they were sensitive to my goal of limiting my time spent on research.

As a consequence, I have decided to be more inclusive rather than restrictive. You may see my decisions, views and predictions in a special new page titled:

What companies will be included in the coal certificate database?

I actively solicit everyone's help. Regardless if you have only a single coal-related certificate, I will appreciate learning about it.

Key words to look for on certificates involved in the coal industry:

  • Anthracite - a type of very hard metamorphic coal produced in eastern Pennsylvania and a small number of other places in North America.
  • Bituminous - a type of high quality coal, usually shiny and reflective.
  • Block coal - coal sufficiently hard to allow extraction in large blocks and previously desirable for home use.
  • Cannel - a slurring of the word 'candle' used to describe a rare, oily type of coal that was as easy to light as a candle.
  • Coal gas - a flammable gas created from the destructive distillation of certain kinds of coal; originally created during the coking process.
  • Coal oil - an oil distilled from cannel coal and black, bituminous shale.
  • Colliery - a coal mining company.
  • Coke - a lightweight, gray substance used in the steel industry made by heating bituminous coal in the absence of free oxygen; similar in appearance to hard sponge. Beware that companies that made petroleum coke will NOT be included, because that particular substance originates from the refining of oil, not coal.
  • Diamond - a marketing term used to describe bituminous coal that breaks somewhat like glass and often displays small, mirror-like surfaces.
  • Fuel - while sometimes used to describe coal, 'fuel' is more frequently used to describe oil or natural gas; companies with "fuel" in their names often require research to determine whether there was any involvement in the coal industry.
  • Lignite - a type of soft, low-grade coal.
  • Smokeless - a purposely misleading marketing term meant to imply coal did not produce noxious or odorous smoke.
  • Stoker coal - coal that was properly sized for use in small industrial furnaces fed by stoker systems.
  • Sub-bituminous - a type of medium to low-grade coal.
  • Vein - a misnomer for a "bed" or "seam" of coal. (True "veins" usually have strongly vertical natures and serve as sources of gold, silver and base metals; unless distorted by mountain-building forces, coal seams tend to be strongly horizontal in nature).

Commodities and industries often associated with coal. Many companies used combination names to represent or imply extended involvement with industries other than coal mining. The most common names you will see on certificates include:

  • coal & oil
  • coal & iron
  • coal & lumber
  • coal & transportation
  • coal & railroad
  • coal & land

It was common for major railroads to own 'captive' coal mining operations because large and dependable coal production was crucial for fueling large fleets of steam locomotives. This was particularly true for the Baltimore & Ohio, the Norfolk & Western and the Union Pacific.

Lumber and timber involvements were also highly crucial when underground mining reigned supreme in Appalachia. Coal mines needed huge forests of timber for underground roof support. Equally importantly, coal mines worked below the surface while timber operations brought in large profits from above-ground. Land management and realty was highly important in order to control vast acreages needed for mining, regardless of whether that land was owned outright or controlled by long-term leases.

Many corporate names were less true in practice than their names might have implied. Generally speaking, whenever the word "coal" was combined in a corporate name with "oil", "gas" or "iron", coal mining often contributed limited income. Nonetheless, such companies are included in this database because they must have intended involvement in the coal industry at some time.

Holding companies. Realizing I will inevitably make some mistakes, I do NOT intend to list holding companies unless coal mining played a large role in their corporate income. Overly-diverse holding companies will NOT be listed.

Coal mining machinery. Unlike my railroad company project, I intend to list companies that provided machinery, parts and supplies only when they clearly made a connection with the coal business in their corporate names.

Retailers. Practically every town and city in America had retailers that sold coal for space heating and power generation. Those kinds of companies were sellers, not producers. Nonetheless, novices will never detect the difference. Those companies will be included in this project when they clearly mention a connection to coal in their chosen names.

Transporters. Because coal is a low value, bulk commodity, affordable transportation has always been a major determinant for success in the mining business. Transporters will be included in this project when they make obvious connections to coal .

Coal mining companies that extracted coal for purposes other than heat. If a company mined coal for the purpose of making coke, it will be included. On the other hand, some companies mined coal strictly for the purpose of extracting included uranium. In those rare circumstances, coal was used for nothing more than low-grade ore and therefore produced no energy for either heat or power generation. Those kinds of mining companies will not be included unless they specifically expressed their connection to coal in their company names.

Rarities. It is impossible to look into the mining specialty without running into ultra-common certificates from Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company and Glen Alden Coal Company. Those two companies saw heavy investment from brokerages, companies and individuals alike.

In practice, the vast majority of coal mining ventures were extremely small operations. Capitalizations often amounted to only a few thousand shares. American coal mining stocks have a history extending back to the early 1700s. At this point in time, it is impossible to know how many companies might be represented by extant certificates. You will find my estimates on my coal mining companies rules page.

I want to stress that we currently have very little information needed to determine rarity. It seems apparent to me that the majority of issues are very rare. For that reason, I advise collectors to NEVER assume that inexpensive items are common. Some are massively scarce.

The hobby NEEDS your help. I have stressed this point for years. Our hobby is so young that we have very few catalogs and guidebooks. Additionally, many of our references have grown terribly outdated.

At this stage, essentially every collector, beginner and expert alike, has the ability to contribute to the knowledge base. I cannot stress this enough. I am asking for YOUR help.

I am interested in receiving scans of every certificate related to coal mining. Here are my suggestions:

  • Send 200- to 300-dpi images of the FRONTS of certificates. No backs. No coupons. No stubs.
  • For size reasons, send images as JPGs as opposed to BMPs or TIFs.
  • If you don't have a scanner, black and white photocopies (xeroxes) will work. Reduce to fit 8-1/2 x 11 paper. Tell me colors, but no need to tell measurements. I prefer if you do not write on the fronts of copies.
  • Because of distortion, images from photographs are almost never usable for illustration on this website. However, they are acceptable for descriptions.
  • If your certificates are too large for your scanner, scan in several pieces and I will patch together. I will not use incomplete images online.
  • Tell me serial numbers if your photocopies or photographs are unclear or dark.
  • I realize you may think it unnecessary to send images of certificates already listed in the database. However, they are dramatically useful because my collection of images is so small. Understand that I greatly prefer images over listings of serial numbers. I will use your images to record serial numbers, of course, but I will also use them in future research. As more and more information comes in, it is frequently necessary (almost every day) to re-examine images for new details.
  • Do NOT send lists of serial numbers. Lists are too time-consuming to deal with. (Time is the one commodity in which I am in short supply!) By themselves, serial numbers are almost entirely useless for future research. If your time is so limited that you only have time to send serial numbers, I would rather you wait. Please wait until you find time to send images.
  • Send your contributions as ordinary attachments to emails to Limit individual emails less than 10MB.
  • If you want to send more than 10MB worth of images, send them using You may send up to 2GB of images for FREE using WeTransfer. No registration needed. (You may also post them in your Dropbox account.)
  • For ease of use, PLEASE do NOT embed images inside PDFs or emails. It takes me too long to extract images. Ordinary email attachments are greatly preferred.
  • I have many pages dedicated to scanning. You may start here.
Send an email message with corrections, questions or comments about this page.
(Last updated January 26, 2016)


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