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Scripophily Definition

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What Is Scripophily?

Scripophily is the practice of collecting antique stock certificates, bond certificates, and similar financial documents due to their historical or aesthetic value.

Key Takeaways

  • Scripophily is the practice of collecting antique stock certificates, bond certificates, and related financial documents due to their historical or aesthetic value.
  • Scripophily combines the English word “scrip”, which means an ownership right, and the Greek word philos, which means “to love”.
  • Scripophilists collect certificates for a number of reasons, including company affinity, the aesthetic value of the certificates, history of ownership, and signatures of previous owners.

Old Stock Certificates: Lost Treasure?

Understanding Scripophily

Scripophily combines the English word “scrip”, which means an ownership right, and the Greek word philos, which means “to love”. Scripophily is a hobby devoted to collecting stock certificates, bond certificates, and similar financial instruments for their historical value and rarity. Similar in many ways to stamp collecting or coin collecting, scripophily is a specialized field of numismatics, focused entirely on the historical significance of paper stock and bond certificates.

Although in recent years the advent of electronic trading and record-keeping has made paper certificates obsolete for most companies trading on the public market, authenticated certificates for stocks and bonds were commonplace in the markets, serving as proof of investment. Paper certificates were authenticated or decommissioned with signatures, stamps, and similar markings.

As a hobby, scripophily began to rise in popularity in the late 20th century. Numismatists interested in scripophily began to collect stock certificates, particularly those issued by companies no longer in business, and thus without cash value in the market. Scripophilists collect certificates for a number of reasons, including company affinity and the aesthetic value of the certificates. Some collectors are interested in certificates because of their history of ownership, and some certificates are valued for the signatures of previous owners.

Special Considerations

Factors that can play into the value of an antique stock or bond certificate include the physical condition and paper quality of the certificate, the engraving or printing of the certificate, the rarity and the face value of the certificate, and subsequent markings such as tax stamps or cancellation markings.

Bob Kerstein, the CEO of Scripophily.com, reported selling a certificate from the Apple Computer IPO for $1300 in 2012. Because Apple no longer issues paper certificates, the sale price of Kerstein’s certificate more than doubled the current Apple per-share price at the time.

$70,000

The opening bid for an 1867 Union Pacific Railroad Land Stock Certificate issued by Credit Foncier of America (pictured below) was just under $70,000 on eBay. The listing claims that it is the last remaining such stock certificate in the world.


Stock certificate from 1867.

Scripophily and the Modern Re-Emergence of Stock Certificates

In recent years, some companies have embraced the value of paper stock certificates as collector items, issuing paper certificates to investors upon request. Meta (formerly Facebook), Martha Stewart Living, and Pixar have all begun to issue paper certificates to collectors who request them, so long as the certificates meet certain SEC stipulations. More than 100 companies make collectible paper certificates available via GiveAShare.com.

Typically, modern paper certificates are issued for single shares, and by SEC regulation are marked as non-redeemable and non-transferable. Additionally, traders of certificates of active stocks are required to sell certificates for at least twice the amount of the current value of the actual stock.

Where Can I Find and Buy Old Stock Certificates?

There are several websites dedicated to scripophily. You may also be able to find them at specialized antique shops or auctions. Some of these platforms will also appraise your paper certificates and help you sell them.

How Much Are Old Stock Certificates Worth?

The value of an old stock certificate depends on several factors, such as its physical condition, collector desirability, rarity, and name recognition of the issuing company. Prices can range from tens of dollars to several thousand dollars or more.

Is an Old Paper Stock Certificate Still Valid?

It depends. If the company that issued the certificate still exists, check the CUSIP number printed on the certificate. You can reference this number with your state’s financial regulator, with your broker, or with the SEC. If it is still valid, you can transfer it to your broker through the issuer’s transfer agent.

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