May/June 2020 edition
Issue #10, AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
What is it?!?
What is it? What does it have to do with automobilia? Scripophily is the hobby of collecting stocks and bonds or, in my case, collecting automobile, motorcycle, and unique petroliana stock certificates and bonds.
It all started for me one afternoon in the mid 1980s. I was looking at an automobile magazine, and saw an advertisement for Pierce-Arrow and Stutz reproduction stock certificates for $10 and decided to order them. Once I received them, the artistry fascinated me and I was hooked. Curiosity became an obsession and I started researching the availability of authentic documents.
I began placing want ads in numerous automotive publications and was pleasantly surprised with the response. Once the Internet became a reality, it was much easier to search for the unusual. Common marques such as Ford, Chevrolet, and Chrysler were readily available, and became part of my collection. Lesser known manufacturers such as Leach-Biltwell, Templar, Drexel, Comet, Ben Hur, Davis and many others were added until my collection is now over 100 documents with the majority dated pre 1935.
Each certificate is a work of art, multi-colored, and many depict a drawing of the vehicle or the factory where it is manufactured. Pricing is based on supply and demand. The following factors play a role in the value and includes beauty, age, rarity, issued or unissued, specimen which is a prototype, condition, historical significance and autographs. Most of the early stock certificates were signed by the President of the company.
Pricing can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. The most expensive known stock certificate was the 1914 Ford Motor Company certificate, signed by Henry Ford, which sold several years ago for $150,000.
Grading standards are used to determine the values and most vendors use the following guidelines:
• Uncirculated --- clean and crisp as issued
• Extremely Fine --- clean, traces of a fold, almost as issued
• Very Fine --- minor fold or creases, showing slight wear
• Fine --- very creased or worn, still perfectly clear
• Fair --- extremely creased and worn, item widely circulated.
Sources for stock certificates and bonds are numerous. eBay always seems to have available items… but you need to be sure they are authentic, not reproductions.
The rarest certificate I have is the 1920’s four color Pioneer Gasoline Company. The vignette depicting a buffalo, Indians, a gasoline truck, wagon train, and manufacturing is also one of my favorites. One other rare piece is the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, which was the predecessor to GMC. Value is over $2,000.
Any certificate signed by the company president commands a premium price i.e. REO Ransom E. Olds, Harroun Ray Harroun. Approximately 40% of my collection is signed by the company president.
I am always looking for the unusual. I placed my ad in AutoMobilia Resource and was contacted by a reader offering a Kissel Motor Car Company bond which was on my wish list. I am also looking for an Anderson, Pope and Maxwell, but usually purchase any obscure manufacturer.
There are vendors who specialize in providing authentic documents. I would recommend LaBarre Galleries, Scripophily, Scott Winslow, Old Stocks and Roland and Company. All have very good websites with prices and descriptions. There was also a book published in 1997 called “American Automobile Stock Certificates” by Lawrence Falater. eBay has used copies available and it is a very good reference book.
In my opinion all of the certificates are works of art. You can still find Ford, Stevens Duryea, Tucker, Studebaker, Marmon, Chrysler and others for well under $100. There are lesser known manufacturers offered as well. You have to spend the time to educate yourself and develop relationships. It is difficult to determine the exact number left ,but it appears the common marques still have sufficient quantities available.
Over 2,500 unique marques of cars have been sold in the United States over the past 100 plus years. Each manufacturer has an individual story to tell. Most had to have investors to finance their dreams with the result that stock certificates and bonds are all that is left of recorded history.
To read more great columns like this one from expert Ken Yerama...
Ken Yerama is a lifelong collector of automobilia. In addition to his document collection, his “car room” houses over 330 diecast models, neon signs, automotive, motorcycle and petroliana pins and numerous dioramas he built to house his collection. He is a member and judge of numerous car clubs. When not collecting he enjoys tinkering with his 1932 Chevrolet Cabriolet Roadster. Reach Ken at 331-903-3954 or firstname.lastname@example.org