No time to scrap the scrips

Alternative investments: as share trading goes paperless, there is fresh value in old certificates

THE TALK is of share certificates being replaced by computer entries. But, ironically, old share certificates in long-gone companies are proving to have value of their own, for aesthetic reasons.

The certificates are sometimes beautiful: bought for framing, brightly coloured and decorative, and may even portray the company. Many are redolent of times when commerce might seem to have been more romantic - shares in businesses in frontier America or pampas Argentina, or issued by the big names of the industrial revolution, such as the Great Western Railway. There are bond certificates from imperial China or Tsarist Russia.

"In the early days, share certificates were a good way of depicting what a company did, perhaps to show a smoking factory that probably did not even exist," says Keith Hollender, a dealer who runs the Scripophily Shop - scripophily being the term for collecting share and bond certificates.

At the moment the market in certificates is picking up, with the lift in prices being assisted by market reforms in the former communist countries and China, where many old loan certificates have been redeemed. This has taken many bonds off the market, and the prices of those remaining have been helped by their increased scarcity, although there is little prospect of a payback value for those remaining.

The value of the most sought-after certificates has risen steadily in the past few years. American Express share certificates from the 1850s, signed by famous names Wells and Fargo, which 10 years ago were selling for pounds 200, can now fetch pounds 1,000.

Collectors tend to specialise in a single area, either industrial or geographic. Railways are the most popular, and certificates of mines and banks are keenly collected, but special interests can be esoteric. One Israeli collector only buys shares of companies involved in mushroom production.

"I am a dealer and collector," says Leslie Tripp of Scripophily International Promotions, who advises Phillips, the leading auction house in Britain for share certificates.

"My family is connected with Cornwall and with tin mines, so my collecting is of Cornish tin mines, because I know about them and because I think our heritage will be lost if they are destroyed."

Values of certificates tend to be determined more by their looks than by their rarity, because there are comparatively few collectors. Although, for example, there are Cornish tin mine share issues where only five certificates survive, prices remain low because hardly anyone collects them. This suggests that if scripophily does become more popular, some prices could rise significantly.

"Most British shares don't have pretty pictures, which are more common on overseas ones, such as American or Canadian," says Mr Tripp. "If they have a vignette, then more people collect them. A company may have only issued 50 or 60 shares, but if no one has heard of it, and there is no interest in the subject, you can pick up a share (certificate) for next to nothing."

Only a few share and bond certificates issued since the 1920s have much value as collectables. One unusual exception is Playboy shares, which used to portray a Bunnygirl.

Shares of companies involved in fraud, with the fraudster's signature on the certificate, are also much sought-after.

Demand for certificates is strongest in Germany and the US, with regular auctions taking place in several European cities. There are an estimated 40,000 collectors in Germany. Many collectors work in the financial markets.

In Britain, Phillips holds a scripophily auction every three months, with mini-auctions taking place at the International Bond and Share Society's monthly meetings in London. The society also organises postal auctions. Dealers such as Mr Hollender and Mr Tripp sell by mail order or to callers at their premises.

q The Scripophily Shop, telephone 0171-495 0580; Scripophily International Promotions, 0171-437 4588; Phillips Auctioneers, 0171-629 6602; the International Bond and Share Society, 0181-450 9824.

Suggested Topics
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

Network Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition