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"Not in Cox"
If you've collected certificates for awhile, you have probably seen certificate descriptions that say "not in Cox". I am honored to find my name in the collecting lexicon. However, let's talk about what the phrase really means.
What "not in Cox" means. It really means I had not seen reference to a particular certificate by November, 2003. Never mind that several thousand certificates have been listed since that time.
Generally, someone is wanting you to think the certificate is scarce. That may be true. It may not.
And besides, just because something is scarce, does NOT mean it is valuable. Rarity does NOT automatically imply extra value. (See my April 2008 newsletter for a discussion of rarity and price.)
"Not in Cox" is a moving target. I started collecting information about railroad stocks and bonds around 1988 or 1989. BNR Press kindly published the first edition of my catalog in 1995. By that time, I had identified 7,152 distinct varieties of stocks and bonds,
Once that book circulated, I started getting thousands!!! of copies and scans of certificates from collectors around the world. By the time I published the second edition in 2003, the number of distinct varieties had grown to 14,132. By mid-2008, the number of distinct varieties had broken 17,600. By early 2010, over 18,300, and by October, 2015, over 26,000!
We are no longer finding new varieties as fast as we used to, but people are still reporting several new varieties every week. Finding new varieties is still easy. If a certificate is "not in Cox" today, it might be tomorrow.
Take for instance certificates of the Denver & Fort Worth Railroad Co. No certificates were known when the first edition came out in 1995. Only about 10 certificates had appeared by the time the second edition appeared. By early 2009, about 75 certificates had been recorded. I currently estimate 200 or more certificates may exist.
Unlisted certificates are not necessarily rare nor necessarily valuable. Just because certificates are not yet known to me may not mean they are overly valuable. It often takes several years for collectors to determine desirability, rarity and value.
Certificates are often more valuable a few years after they first appear. It sounds somewhat counter-intuitive, but when new certificates appear, collectors are often reluctant to spend a lot of money right away. When "new" certificates appear, they may represent the first certificates to be released from newly-found hoards. Or they may represent single certificates hidden for decades in safe. Uncertainty calms speculation.
Just because there seems to be a new hoard of certificates in the market does not mean the hoard is very large. A single book of 50 stock certificates might represent a 'hoard.' Depending on how desirable certificate may be, hoards of 50 certificates might seriously depress prices. Conversely, if collectors knew there were 50 - and only 50 - certificates, prices might actually be higher than if the number remained unreported.
Why do sellers use the phrase "not in Cox"? Generally speaking, sellers are not out to make you better informed. Sellers are out to make more money.
Can you find certificates "not in Cox?" Yes. In fact, rather easily.
Some are very expensive certificates. Most aren't. In fact, I spend almost no time researching certificates that sell for less than $25. While almost no one seems to believe me, there are many new varieties to be found among low-priced certificates.
Another area of almost certain discovery are equipment trusts. Equipment trust certificates were generally issued in different series, often differing by issue dates, dividend rates, series names, trust company names, and dates of redemption. Numerous sub-varieties of equipment trust certificates often look so similar that hardly anyone ever takes notice.
Not interested in collecting equipment trusts? What if I told you that many varieties of equipment trust are represented by 25 or fewer examples? If you find a new variety of equipment trust "not in Cox," it is probably not particularly valuable, but it might be very scarce.
Does the phrase "not in Cox" affect prices? Not according to every analysis I've run. While sellers frequently use the phrase to entice higher prices, I'm sorry to inform them that it does not work.
In some sales, I thought "not in Cox" had positively affected prices ... until I analyzed the number of unsold items. After analyzing several large sales over several years, I have never seen a predictable positive or negative relationship between prices and the use of the phrase "not in Cox".
Sadly, I have also seen many examples where unsold lots carried the description of "not in Cox", but represented unique or nearly unique certificates. Go figure.
Again... I am deeply honored when sellers use the phrase "not in Cox." Unfortunately, I am not sure it is really doing them much good.
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