Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

A guidebook and catalog of prices
(I do NOT buy or sell certificates on this website)

Search this website for information about collecting stocks and bonds.

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Search the Coxrail database for descriptions of 23,700+ certificates from over 7,400 North American railroad companies.

Hints for displaying your certificates online

Many collectors want to display their certificates for other people to enjoy and appreciate.

Personally, I am not under-enthusiastic about collectors showing their collections unless:

  • they realize they are taking on certain risks, and
  • they are willing to take sensible precautions.

STRAIGHT TALK SECTION

Take precautions such as:

  • Protecting collections from theft.
  • Insuring collections.

Avoiding theft. Every town on the planet has crooks and villians. It is a fact of life. Therefore, make your collection hard to find. The best ways to avoid theft are probably the simplest.

  • Be anonymous. Avoid publishing personal details. Avoid offering any details that point toward you. Use a screen name or disguised name instead of your own. Do NOT display your address. Avoid even telling the name of your town or city.
  • Store your collection in secure places. Safes. Bank vaults. Secure storage facilities. If possible, store large collections in multiple locations so no single loss will be total.

Insurance. I don't think I know any collectors who relish the thought of insuring collections. However, the moment you let anyone know you collect something, your risk increases. You should be able to acquire specialized collection insurance through the American Numismatic Association and other sources.

  • Talk to your insurance company and discover its specific requirements in case of loss.
  • Make good photocopies or scans of your certificates. Keep them in a locations separate from your collection. Images do not necessarily need to be secure, but they need to be separate in case of thefts, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes.
  • Ask your insurance company what proof of ownership it requires. Never assume insurers will be as happy about giving you money after a loss as they are in accepting your premium payments before a loss.

For insurance purposes, I suspect that photocopies or scans should show the entire fronts of the certificates. Make sure images are sufficiently good to show serial numbers. Make closeups of important signatures.

Unless your insurer gives you written assurances to the contrary, be sure that your scans, photos or photocopies are good enough to PROVE that YOU definitely owned a certificate. Never assume your insurance company is going to take your word for it.

Images of your certificates for the web

If you want people to view your certificates more than once, then your images must be something worth viewing.

Dark, out-of-focus, crooked photographs are NOT good enough. You goal is to give information and enjoyment to your viewers. Having looked at hundreds of thousands of images, I can assure you that good images get results and poor images get disgust.

Make sure your images are bright enough to see details. There are many free programs out there that will help you adjust brightness and contrast.

Straighten your images. Again, numerous free software packages will help you with this.

Make your certificates look rectangular. Only a handful of free programs will remove distortion and NONE will do it at well as Photoshop. If you don't want to take the time, then at least take photographs of your certificates by looking straight down on them. Do NOT just lay certificates on a table and take photographs. They will look awful and people will not come back a second time.

Scans of certificates are dramatically better than photographs. Scanners are so inexpensive these days that most advanced collectors should be able to afford a decent scanner. (Tip, buy a dedicated flatbed scanner; avoid multi-function scanner-printer-fax devices.)

If you don't own a scanner and don't want to buy one, look in your Yellow Pages for scanning services. Find someone who has the capability of scanning 11x17 images in color so you can scan most bonds in one piece. Better still, ask your friends and co-workers. Chances are near certain that you already know someone who will help.

Please check my website for numerous hints on scanning.

Here are three ways of presenting images of your certificates on the web. Which appearance will make viewers come back to your album a second time?

Oblique image of certificate with digital camera
Oblique image of certificate shot with a digital camera

Note:

  • uneven lighting,
  • lack of detail,
  • non-rectangular appearance.
Vertical image of certificate with digital camera
Vertical image of a certificate shot with a digital camera

Note:

  • uneven lighting,
  • improved detail
  • lens distortion.
Scanned image of certificate. Scanned image of certificate

Note:

  • even lighting
  • better detail
  • no distortion.

Avoid marking your images with obnoxious "watermarks." Many collectors are paranoid about people copying their images for use elsewhere on the web.

Speaking as someone who has had images, copyrighted text, and music used without permission, Get over it! At this point in the development of the web, it is a simple truth that people will reuse images without permission and you will probably never even know of it. If your pictures are actually good enough for other people to use, feel flattered and move on.

Here is a "watermarked" certificate with a semi-transparent overlay. It might prevent someone from reusing the image, but at what price? Does an image like this really make for enjoyable viewing?

Make your images large enough for people to see details, all the while keeping them small enough so people can see the whole certificate. I recommend keeping images around 600 to 700 pixels wide in order to fit on virtually all monitors without scrolling left and right. With today's monitors, you can probably even go to 1000 pixels wide. It is infinitely better to make viewers scroll up and down. Make viewers scrolls left and right and I guarantee they will give up after looking at only a few images.

For comparison, here is an image of a classic Jersey Shore Pine Creek and Buffalo Railway Company bond. This bond was issued to William Henry Vanderbilt and signed by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, William K. Vanderbilt, Frederick W. Vanderbilt, and Chauncey Depew. This particular example is 565 pixels wide. It was saved as a level 3 (of 12) JPG. The image occupies a mere 57.7 Kilobytes.

(image courtesy Martin Zanke)

Tell stories about your certificates

It is a weird human phenomena, but people can't walk away when you tell stories. Even if they've heard the story countless times. If you have a blog or some manner of telling stories about specific certificates, do so. Ideally, of course, you want your stories to be interesting and well-written.

Again, be vague about locations and people that might indicate who you are and where your collection can be found.

 

I strongly recommend buying the Cox Catalog from your favorite SCRIPOPHILY DEALERS. Catalog cover
If they do not yet carry, or are out of stock, you may buy directly from the author.
$49.95+post


 

 


Papermental logoHelp support this free site! Please visit my eBay store called Papermental by Terry Cox. My inventory includes railroad passes, railroad ephemera, newspapers, magazines, engravings, and all sorts of paper collectibles.

Please contact me if you have certificates not yet listed. (See How You Can Help.)

I suggest using WeTransfer or similar file transfer sites when sending large files or large numbers of files.

PLEASE contact the many fine dealers listed on my dealers page to buy certificates.