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.


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

How to sell your certificates

Sooner or later...

Sooner or later, you, will think of selling your collection. Or your heirs will. Make sure your survivors know how to sell your collection in case you die unexpectedly. Handle as many details in advance so you can protect your survivors when you are no longer around.

.Assuming you want to liquidate your collection voluntarily, you have three options:

  • Sell on your own, directly to other collectors.
  • Consign your collection to auction companies.
  • Sell to dealers who specialize in stocks and bonds.

Let's look at each of these options.


Selling on your own is deceptively hard. If you try to sell to other collectors, you will experience the same problems as dealers, plus two that they have already overcome.

  • You lack their experience.
  • You lack their customer base.

There are three major ways to sell your collection yourself.

On-line auctions

You must create advertising copy that sells. Additionally, you must scan your certificates in color. It will take practice to get good at online auction selling. You will be limited to the number of items you can sell on any one site in a short time. And you will have only partial control over prices. Watching how other people sell and imitate the best. If there is a downside, it is that many Internet buyers are inexperienced and will drive you crazy with strange questions and slow payment. See Hints for Sellers if you are considering this method.


Selling by mail means you will need to create some sort of catalog and you will need to advertise. In effect, you will need to set up a short-time mail order business. This is certainly more expensive than online auctions, but you will be able to better control your sales prices. If you are considering this approach, read several good books on mail order.

Collector shows

You may rent tables and try to sell at local coin shows. Results are almost sure to disappoint you. Ask opinions of local coin, currency, and stock and bond dealers before you decide to take this approach. The upside is that you will often have the opportunity to trade for other collectibles. And you have 100% control over prices.

Online auctions seem the easiest way to go, but such auctions may not net you the most money. I have covered the subject of on-line auction selling elsewhere on this website. If you take this approach, please, please, please do your research.


Conventional auction selling is relatively easy. I am talking about live auctions conducted by established professionals, not online auctions.

Try to be realistic about the amount of money you will make. If your collection contains scarce items and rarities, professional auctions are probably the best way to go.

There will probably be several months between consigning your collection and receiving your check. An auction house will need to place your collection in the best sale, which may not be the first sale. Then, there is lead time needed for description and catalog production. Once the sale takes place, the auction company will need to wait until all the accounts are settled. If you need money quickly, tell the auction company and ask for suggestions.

Expect to pay a 10% to 15% commission.

Successful auctions depend on getting good floor attendance and attracting a large number of mail bids. These, in turn, depend on catalog appearance and the extent of pre-auction promotion. Well-attended, well-promoted auctions will generally net you substantially more than online auctions.

I've heard many collectors suggest that auction companies sell their whole collection intact. This is normally a very bad idea.

In effect, collectors who take this approach believe that at least two potential bidders will want to buy a complete collection. That is almost NEVER the case.

No one will be as impressed with your collection as you are. Moreover, advanced collectors who might be impressed with your collection will already have substantial collections of their own.

If you are wondering whether to sell your collection intact or piece by piece, listen to your auction company. They know their market much, much better than you. The most well-established companies have been around for decades. Trust their judgments. They are in the business of making you the most money possible.

Check my DEALERS page for leads to excellent auction houses that specialize in collectibles. I will NOT recommend one auction dealer over another, so please don't ask.


If you want money quickly and want to save time and trouble, you might find selling to dealers the best avenue to take. This is especially true if your collection contains ranges of items from common to scarce.

Selling to a dealer is more personal than the other methods. In fact, with auctions and mail sales, you will never meet your buyers and you may never even talk with them.

And selling an entire collection can be an emotional experience for many people. If you have an inflated impression of value, you may be disappointed with many offers you get.

So, before you approach dealers for offers, be sure you read another page on this website that talks about pricing.

Remember, the prices shown in the database reflect what YOU will generally pay for certificates from American dealers, NOT what dealers or auction buyers will pay you!

Most dealers specialize in some manner. This means they will want to buy only those items they think they can sell quickly. Therefore, contact dealers who sell the kind of material you have. Ask if they are interested in your collection. If so, send your collection and let them see your certificates in person. If they like what they see, they will make offers based on current demand.

Professional dealers go through several steps in making their offers.

  • They will try to predict salability. They can only make money from items that will sell fairly quickly. They will discount items they think will not sell.
  • They will consider their own inventory and how your collection will fit in. Will buying your collection improve their inventory, or inundate them with slow movers?
  • They will estimate sales prices and calculate how much they can afford to pay.
  • They will decide whether they have funds to buy your collection.

You already know that buying a collection is hard and takes many years to accomplish. Selling is harder. Prepare yourself for honesty. No dealer will be as emotional about your collection as you.

Experienced dealers will make offers with deceptive quickness. Never confuse their speed with frivolity. Experienced dealers are both very quick and very cautious when they make offers.

Generally, dealers will make offers for your whole collection. It is usually a bad idea to ask them to make offers on individual items.

Whether they specialize in rarities or not, dealers are always after items in high demand. That is where they make their profit. Except for a few specialized dealers, most dealers do not expect to make profits on low-value certificates.

Regardless of whether you contact dealers who sell by mail, by storefront, or at shows, they will offer you:

  • more for rarities,
  • more for fast-selling items,
  • more for items they have on want lists,
  • more for items in good condition,
  • less for slow-selling items,
  • less for common pieces,
  • less for plain pieces, and
  • less for warrants, CDs, scrip, etc.

Contact some of the excellent dealers on my DEALERS. They need to buy your material to stay in business. But, I will NOT recommend one dealer over another, so please don't ask.

Which of these methods do I recommend?

I will not recommend one approach over another, because I do not know your situation or your collection. Each method has its advantages.

Send an email message with corrections or comments about this page.
(Last updated November 14, 2015)


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