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Past Times Newsletter - December 2001
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art, and Arts & Crafts
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o Happy Holidays from Ruby Lane!
o Scripophily: Collecting Antique Stock and Bond Certificates
by Tom Lareau of Tom's Vignettes
o Collecting Christmas Books by Ken Gloss of The Journal of
Antiques and Collectibles
We want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy
holiday season, and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!
CERTIFICATES BY TOM LAREAU OF TOM'S VIGNETTES
Like many people attracted to history and old artifacts, I
collected stamps and coins at an early age. At a show some
years ago, I took a close look at some antique stock and bond
certificates. I was hooked. Scripophily, the hobby of
collecting old stocks and bonds, offers a richer experience to
collectors. First, the vignettes on many old certificates are
often stunning in their aesthetic beauty, depicting old
industrial facilities, railroads and railroad stations,
seaports, street scenes at the turn of the century, mining
facilities and more. Secondly, the historical link is more
direct with stocks and bonds compared to stamps and coins.
Stocks and bonds are intimately linked with economic
development, and historical events and people. A stamp or coin
may commemorate a historical event or person, but a stock
certificate signed by the individual who made history is a much
more direct link to the past. Finally, many old and attractive
certificates are reasonably priced. A stamp or coin with only a
few hundred printed or minted trades for hundreds or thousands
of dollars. In contrast, many similarly scarce certificates are
available for $100 or less. Scripophily is a youngster in
the collecting world. Only a few individuals collected old stock
and bonds in the 1960s. The hobby started seriously in Germany,
spread to England and then the U.S. Scripophily began to grow
rapidly with the discovery of several large hoards (for example,
the Pennsylvania RR bankruptcy hoard) that were dispersed
through auction house glossy catalogs. Today, tens of thousands
of collectors participate in a rapidly growing collectible area.
Often, dealers and experienced collectors suggest collecting a
specialty (railroads, mining, 19th century industry, etc.)
rather than a little of everything. I believe one ought to
collect what is appealing, and not worry about specialty
boundaries. For example, one might be interested in the
evolution of technology, and collect widely across time periods
or industries. The enormous variety of certificate vignettes
offers considerable opportunity to define collectible interests
creatively. One can trace the historical development of
different railroad steam engines (Tom Thumb to diesel), trolleys
(horse powered to electrified), different mining processes, the
evolution of urban structures and areas, all through the
vignettes on old stock and bond certificates.
The value of a certificate reflects a variety of factors, most
importantly, rarity, age, aesthetic appeal, condition, and
whether it is signed by an important entrepreneur, politician,
or other famous person. In the long-term, the more desirable
material likely will appreciate, perhaps a lot. But other
certificates may not appreciate much. And, there will be
surprises on the upside as well as the downside. For example,
Packard Motor Car certificates once were relatively scarce and
sold for several hundred dollars. Then, a large group of them
was found. Today, they sell for $15 to $20 each. The
implication, in my view, is that one should collect for the
enjoyment certificates provide, not because one anticipates
price appreciation. There are better, less risky, ways to
invest. Still, I think that if one puts together a coherent
collection of stocks and bonds over a long time span, that
person is likely to do well.
To learn more, there are a several good books and web sites.
Two of my favorite web sites are: (1) COXRAIL.com (a
non-commercial site focused on railroad certificates; this site
is maintained by Terry Cox, author of Stocks and Bonds of North
American Railroads) and (2) WHACO.com (also a non-commercial
site, supported by the Washington Historical Autograph and
My Ruby Lane shop, Tom's Vignettes, has over 100 items listed
every month, with many new items introduced regularly. If you
have questions about items I am selling or general questions
about collecting stocks and bonds, email them to me, and I will
do my best to answer.
We invite you to visit us at Tom's Vignettes .
JOURNAL OF ANTIQUES AND COLLECTIBLES
Keep the Spirit of Christmas all year round!
For those who love Christmas and want to keep its spirit alive
year round, collecting Christmas memorabilia is one of the
easiest ways to do so. Christmas collections can branch into
hundreds and hundreds of different offshoots. In every one of
those areas, a collector can find fascinating things and have
fun, within any size budget.
Many people who are interested in the religious aspect of
Christmas, the birth of Christ, collect Bibles. Bibles make
wonderful gifts for the holidays and can be used in a functional
or decorative capacity, depending on how ornate the version is.
With a few exceptions, Bibles are inexpensive because it is the
most printed book of all time, and probably always will be.
Christmas sheet music is another wonderful area to collect,
because there is a vast selection of items under $10, although
some can be priced a little higher, depending on the rarity of
the piece and the illustrations on the paper. Sheet music that
shows Santa and looks very Christmas-like is more expensive.
Books of carols, hymnals, and psalm books can also be gotten
very reasonably. Many people come into the store around holiday
time looking for copies of classic songs so they can sing them
with their own families.
The classic collectible Christmas book is Dickens' A Christmas
Carol, first published in 1843. This story has been done in so
many versions -- plays, movies, and theater -- that it pretty
much embodies the idea of the modern Victorian Christmas in our
culture. The first American edition, which was issued in
Philadelphia, is similar to the original, but the illustrations
are a bit different. Actually, many illustrators have
interpreted this story, making the editions collectible for the
different pictures they contain. A Christmas Carol is one of the
keystone books to any type of Christmas collecting, and can cost
anywhere from $5-1000 for a good copy, or range from $3-7000 for
one of the more decorative and rarer editions. A Christmas Carol
was so popular in its time that Dickens was asked to write four
other Christmas books, but none were as successful as his first
Other collectible books contain pop-up Christmas scenes. The
Night Before Christmas is in this category, and is a story that
I always read to my own children. It's a wonderful poem and can
be collected in hundreds of different forms. It first appeared
in a New York newspaper, but it is almost impossible to get a
first edition of that because of the age of the paper and the
difficulty in preservation. Although a first edition of The
Night Before Christmas is rare and costly, there are many nicely
printed editions that aren't expensive and can be found for
Even books that later became Christmas movies are enjoying a
resurgence of interest by collectors. Miracle on 34th Street was
popular with the first movie release, and again with the modern
release. When the movie is popular, it reminds people of the
book and they become interested in reading the original version
of the story.
Many people collect books on Christmas food and cooking. It can
be fascinating to see the changes over the years in what people
were serving for holiday meals. Over the years, one thing has
remained constant - these meals are usually heavy on meats and
include a lot of pies, cakes, and candies. One ingredient that
you won't find prevalent in older books is fruit. Years ago,
before transportation became a given, having a piece of fruit at
Christmas was a tremendous luxury, even something to be used as
a present - like an orange in a child's stocking.
Some collectors search for books and ephemera that deal with how
Christmas is celebrated: how Santa came about, the myths
associated with Christmas, stories about Christ, or the images
and advertising of Christmas. Almost everything you can think of
that has anything to do with Christmas has a book or something
else to collect, be it postcards, greeting cards, music,
advertisements, or scripts.
One very collectible image of Christmas is the Santa Claus
created by Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly. Nast was actually a
cartoon satirist in New York, and he created the image of the
big man with a beard coming down the chimney, which has stuck to
this day. One of the images of Christmas I particularly like is
Winslow Homer's depiction of the troops in battle during the
Civil War, which shows how hard it was for them to be away
during this season.
People also like to give books as gifts at Christmas. One of the
reasons a book like A Christmas Carol came out year after year
was because people would buy it to give as a gift. Another such
book was The Wizard of Oz, which came out at Christmas time in
1900. Every Christmas for the next 40-plus years, a new edition
was released because the original was so popular.
Christmas is a joyous, festive time, which is why it's an area
people like to collect. The books, sheet music and images they
find bring back memories of happy times. Every time they bring
out their collections, they are reminded of the day they came
across the book or of the person who gave it to them. Christmas
collections are very much connected to the collector and are a
way for them to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.
Visit The Journal of Antiques & Collectibles at The Journal of
Antiques and Collectibles.
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