How Scripophily Got Its Name
Scripophily (pronounced skri-pahf-ily) is hardly a household word, even among collectors themselves. In April of 1978, the Times announced the formation of a contest to find a suitable name for interest in stocks and bonds collectibles. The newspaper chose “bondaphily,” but the term encountered a negative reception. Another reader, who happened to be a fledgling collector himself, offered a bond worth ten pounds to the reader who created the most appropriate name for the hobby. On May 9, 1978 the winner was announced. Arthur Howell of Brighton submitted the winning entry, “scripophily.” Mr. Howell derived his winning entry from the English word “scrip” (as in a provisional certificate as for shares, share certificates, or shares or stock collectively—an abbreviation from “subscription receipt”) and the Greek “philein” (meaning “to love”).
A stock certificate, or simply a stock for the purposes of this discussion, is a document that shows ownership of a certain portion of a corporation. This ownership is expressed in a specific number of shares owned or held in that company. Shares purchased in the original offering for the company are acquired at a set price. Later offerings, if any are made, generally take into account the prevailing market values for the stock.
Issued stock reflects the actual amount of paid-in capital from shareholders whose stock is equivalent to their receipt. An issued stock contains the name and address of the owner, the number of shares purchased, date of purchase, and the signature (either handwritten or facsimile) of a company official or officials. It is considered to have more historical charm.
Issued stock certificates are more desirable to a collector in just about any instance because of the history behind the issuance and because they often bear the signatures of officials of the corporation. The only exception is when certificates exist only in unissued form, as in the case of a company that was formed, but never sold stock and never actually existed in a tangible sense other than the stock they produced for sale.
An unissued stock is a leftover from the company that was never filled out, or issued to anyone. Often these were found with office records after a company closed. In some instances, issued stock of a given type did not exist. Unissued stock is often found in fresh, crisp condition without folds. For these reasons, collectors often collect unissued stock.
Parts of a Stock
Company Name. The company’s name invariably occupies a central and visible location on the stock certificate, generally just above its center where it immediately draws the attention of the viewer. Besides its prominent location, the company name often is set in a special font style or interesting bold lettering which stands out on the certificate. Sometimes it is an unusual name that makes the title standout even more. The company name provides an important reference point to begin an evaluation of a stock certificate. It also provides a reference point when tracing a company’s name changes, mergers, acquisitions, etc. over a period of time. Those companies having famous or noteworthy names, as well as unusual or odd names, are more avidly sought, at least on the basis of their name. Collectors do not base their decision to collect solely on the basis of a company name, as there are numerous other variables to consider.
State of Issue. The name of the state in which the stock was issued is almost always listed on the stock. Often the tag line “Incorporated Under the Laws of the State of…” precedes the actual state, or in a few instances, the territory name. It is always a very good policy to check this closely. The state of issue can have either a positive or negative effect on collectibility and market value. For example, a mining stock from Colorado would be desirable in any instance, but especially if it is also issued in Colorado. It is common for a stock to be issued in an eastern state such as New York or Delaware, or a Midwestern state like Illinois, even though the mining company is located in Colorado. In short, it is more desirable to have the company’s place of business physically located in the state of issue.
Carrying this analogy further, stocks issued and incorporated under Western states’ laws are more desirable because of their desirability, and market value of collectible stocks and bonds. Contributing to this situation is the fact that eastern materials tend to be found in far greater quantity and more frequently. In fact, Delaware has the dubious distinction of being the state with the most lenient incorporation laws in the United States. Many companies that are incorporated in Delaware actually do not operate in the state, but maintain a small office there for legal and appearances sake only.
Territorial materials, from states of the Trans-Mississippi River West, are highly desirable and are avidly sought after by collectors. Territorial designations were often quite short in duration. Combining that fact with the lure of the West, territorial stocks are quite desirable.
Number of Shares Purchased. The exact number of shares purchased will be shown on the stock, normally in the upper right hand portion of the certificate. At the time the stock was purchased, the exact number of shares was filled in. If the number purchased is not listed in the designated blank reserved for that purpose, the quantity purchased is often written or typed in on a blank line in the printed portion of the stock. In either case, the number of shares owned is indicated specifically so that when the shares are redeemed, only the exact number purchased could be cashed in.
While the number of shares purchased will vary widely from one to many thousands, this quantity will only affect the overall collectibility of a stock if it is an unusually large number of shares such as 10,000 or 50,000 or more. Otherwise the impact of the number of shares is negligible.
Price Per Share. The relative importance of the price per share is similar to that of the number of shares purchased. At some location on the stock will be found the price, whether it is $5, $10, $25 or whatever. The price itself almost never affects the collectibility of an item unless the shares were sold for a very small sum, such as 5 or 10 cents, or a large sum, such as $50,000 or $100,000. Otherwise, the impact of the number of shares is negligible.
Certificate Number. The certificate number was frequently filled in a blank space left for that purpose. It was normally filled in at the time of issuance. The certificate number might be a preprinted number. Regardless of the format, this number was nothing more than an accession number or placeholder to keep track of the number of certificates, not shares that were actually issued. Depending on the size of the company, that number may never have exceeded 100 or it may have numbered in the tens of thousands. While there is no definitive rule of thumb to determine a “good” low certificate number versus a “bad” one, certificate number “1” should command a premium.
Chronology. Dates are an integral element of stocks and bonds. The first thing to look for is the year of incorporation. It may be located anywhere on the certificate; however, it is not always listed. Next look for the date of issue. Most stocks are partially printed certificates that allowed the company treasurer or other similar official who was overseeing the sale of the shares to simply fill in the issue date. Statements such as “Witness the Seal of the Company and the Signature of its duly Authorized Officer this _________ day of _________, 19__”, would appear on the stock. It might be “18___” if issued in the nineteenth century, or “20__” if a new issue in the 21st century. The necessary information would then be filled in as required. Since relative age or time period figures into collectibility, it is important to have an accurate date.
Also, issued certificates are almost always more desirable than unissued ones. Possible exceptions would be rarities or autographed varieties where the importance of issued versus unissued takes a backseat to more significant considerations, as previously mentioned. Dates may take on even greater importance for the scripophilist when the certificate is dated in a particular period. For example, railroad stocks dated prior to 1840 are rare and particularly desirable in this 1830’s decade.
Signature. It is hard to imagine in this age of facsimile, photocopies and even rubber-stamped signatures that many years ago company officials actually signed the certificates issued by their company. Even the great financial barons like John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt and many others actually penned their signatures to make them legal.
Today, those signatures provide the basis for what is unquestionably the most vital determinant of scarcity, desirability, market value, and overall collectibility—namely autograph appeal. In most cases, famous signatures like those mentioned above are obvious and readily recognizable to the most untrained eye.
A little research into an unknown signature often will reap impressive rewards, as the individual may have been a local or state politician, financier, railroad baron, or military statesman with a rich historical past. Tracing a person’s history is a challenge, and an integral and fascinating attraction of the world of scripophily.
Cancellations. The issuing company always cancels stocks that have been sold, and then redeemed at the prevailing market value at the time of sale. This is done to prevent the certificates from inadvertently being redeemed again through accident, theft, or other fraud.
Cancellations come in a variety of forms. Early cancellations often were large, dark, and obtrusive lines through the body of the certificate. These crude and effective cancellations, often large “X’s”, were unsightly, but they definitely accomplished their assigned task. These gave way to pen lines through the actual signatures of company officials appearing on the stocks, sometimes of famous individuals. The negative effects of this practice are ameliorated somewhat; however, by the fact that these pen lines provide valuable signatures of famous people. This is the only way some signatures are available.
Ink cancellations gave way to a variety of machined cancels such as hole punches, pinholes, and others. Punches of various shapes and sizes either shredded a portion of the certificate or actually punched out pieces of paper in the shapes of stars, diamonds, hearts, and the like.
Last, but not least, was the use of the word “cancel” or “cancelled” that was either written, stamped, or punched across the face of the certificate. No interpretation is needed to understand the meaning.
Name of the Engraver, Lithographer, or Printer. The quality, intricacy, and overall aesthetic quality of a certificate depend heavily upon the company that produced it. Materials engraved by several of the more famous banknote companies, such as American Bank Note Company, are of utmost attraction to stock and bond collectors. The quality of the stocks printed by these companies is readily apparent. In the lower center or left margin the name of the company producing it can be found.
Artwork. The aesthetic quality of a stock certificate is of crucial importance to collectibility. Border scrollwork, lettering, vignettes and the like can be quickly inspected and evaluated. The finer and more intricate the artwork appearing on the certificate, the more valuable it can be. Higher quality artwork on certificates usually means they were engraved. Engraving is a lengthy process that results in the most beautiful certificates. In many cases, the quality of engraving found on certificates is so detailed that a small segment or vignette several inches square can be enlarged to page size without losing any detail whatsoever. A separate chapter will be devoted to artwork later on in this book.
Revenue Stamps. As a means of raising funds for federal coffers, the United States government enacted legislation during the 19th and 20th centuries taxing transactions involving stock certificates and other financial transactions. In some cases, these stamps also have to be affixed to manufactured goods. The federal government imposed stamp taxes on the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds. States may also have their own revenue stamps. These stamps often were printed in bright colors such as red or orange to stand out and easily be seen on certificates to show that the tax had been paid. These colorful stamps usually provide what little color appears on an otherwise plain certificate. Revenue stamps, while certainly not of major importance, are a plus if they are affixed to a certificate as they contribute to the general appeal of that certificate.
The above paragraphs reference the most important parts of a stock certificate. There are other factors to consider as an individual begins to collect stocks or bonds. The best way to familiarize oneself with the parts of a stock is to actually handle and closely inspect as many different types of certificates as possible. There is no real substitute for this type of “hands-on” experience.
A bond is purchased for an exact denomination to be paid back by the issuing company or government. It is for a specific period of time and at a fixed rate of interest. Bonds differ from stocks in that the face value of the bond is the actual value. The guaranteed interest payments at fixed intervals, often quarterly, make returns on bonds a more stable and safe return for investors. Bonds are issued in limited, readily verifiable numbers, while the exact number of stock certificates issued, especially over a fairly lengthy time period, is often difficult to ascertain.
Parts Of A Bond
Most of the factors discussed under “Parts of a Stock Certificate” are also applicable to the parts of a bond. However, there are several basic differences that need to be explored. The following is a discussion of those factors unique to bonds.
Denomination. Every bond has the amount it was sold for on the face of the bond, thus the term “face value”. Occasionally the amount is written in. Normally the amount is printed as part of the bond itself. This frequently appears as a dollar amount imprinted squarely centered on the front of the bond. Although this face value will vary a great deal from hundreds to even thousands of dollars per bond, those issued in $1000 amounts are probably the most common denomination found.
Interest Rate. Since bonds are sold to investors who are seeking a fixed rate of return on a safe investment, the rate of interest paid will also be noted on the bond. The interest rate, while of interest to the collector and a factor not to be overlooked, is not of major importance to overall collectibility.
Maturity Date. The date the bond matures and becomes due for full payment at face value should be checked. As with the interest rate, it also is not too important from a collectibility point of view.
Coupons. Coupons, ranging in number from a handful to many dozens for each bond, are attached to the bottom or sides of the bond. Often they are on one or more separate sheets. When an interest payment is due on the bond, the bondholder simply clips the correct coupon and redeems it at a bank or at the issuing company offices. Normally the interest rate of the bond and the date of payment are on each coupon. Other information such as the form of payment, such as gold coin, would also appear. Attractive, fresh, crisp coupons are a definite plus for bonds, especially if the bond was redeemed early and numerous coupons remain attached.
Issue Number. All bonds and stocks are numbered. The difference is that bonds are issued and sold in exactly defined numbers, as opposed to stock certificates, which may be sold in issues of varying sizes over many years. The easiest way to determine the maximum number of bonds that were sold in a bond issue is to divide the total face value amount of all the bonds sold by the denomination of each bond. This information is on each bond. For example, if the total sold was $3,500,000 and each bond cost $1,000, divide the total sold by $1,000 to determine that 3,500 bonds were sold. Remember that this was the total number allowable to be sold. All of the bonds might not have been sold for any given bond issue and sale. This number, although not nearly as important as low stock certificate numbers, is worthwhile information that not only indicates the size of the issue, but your bond’s place in that issue.
When examining a stock or bond, look it over very carefully. Check carefully for any physical defects that detract from the stock or bond. Take note of the edges: are there any tears, pieces or “chips” of the item missing, crinkling, etc? Look also for fold marks or tears, water staining, errant ink marks or browning of the item. This browning is called foxing. Always be critical in your appraisal of the overall condition as that condition is of very basic importance to the item’s collectibility.
To aid in establishing condition, stocks and bonds can be graded or rated according to how they stack up after a thorough and objective examination. Following that examination, one of the following five grades can be assigned to the stock or bond.
Uncirculated [UNC]. This is the highest rating that a stock or bond may receive. Items in uncirculated condition are found as clean and crisp as when they were issued. To use an old saying, they look as if they just came off the printing press. In some cases, these are unissued stocks or bonds that were never sold and perhaps were stored in office files. Since unissued materials are not as desirable as issued ones, they would not be in demand. Issued certificates in uncirculated condition are real prizes within the world of scripophily.
Extremely Fine [EF]. This next rating indicates a clean document, almost in the condition issued originally, but perhaps showing traces of folds or some minor defect. This defect detracts little from the overall condition and/or collectibility, but the EF rating indicates that the certificate is not perfect.
Very Fine [VF]. A document receiving this grade would be one clearly showing wear such as minor folds or creases. Stocks and bonds in the VF category could best be described as “average”.
Fine [F]. Here are items that, although still legible, are very creased and worn. They may have fold tears, frayed edges or the like. In most cases, only rarities and scarce items such as autographed pieces would be purchased in this condition. Collectors should avoid including too many certificates in their respective collections that have an F grade.
Fair. No abbreviation is used for this grade, as the term “fair” is self-explanatory. Stocks and bonds in fair condition are those of the poorest condition, items that are extremely creased or worn, having seen a great deal of handling and circulation. Few documents in fair condition should be purchased under any condition.
Purchasing materials in UNC or EF condition translates into having to pay higher prices. This can be especially difficult for new collectors or those on limited budgets. The best advice is to buy pieces in the best condition possible unless you are simply interested in quantity instead of quality. Strive to buy only top quality material, even if it means having only two or three pieces instead of ten. Sometimes beginners tend to acquire more pieces and ultimately have undesirable items. An easy way to avoid this is to remember to buy quality material the first time around.
Helpful Hints For Autographs
While important autographs are almost always found as company officials’ signatures on stocks and bonds, an occasional item will hold autographic importance if the certificate was made out to a well-known person. When the shares or bond were redeemed, the holder endorsed the security on the back. In this roundabout way, a few more noteworthy autographs are found.
Sometimes the security owner was also the company official who signed the certificate in an official capacity as treasurer or president of the company. A situation like this arose when company officials purchased the first shares in a company offering. In this way, a stock or bond would have two valuable autographs, one of a company official and the other of the holder/endorsee of the security. Instances such as this are uncommon, but definitely do occur. Because these items are scarce and valuable, collectors will always want to verify that all signatures on a stock or bond, regardless of where they appear, are investigated as thoroughly as possible. A good example is a group of stocks that surfaced many years ago that were made out to “Fremont & Mortin” on the Cincinnati Railway Tunnel Company. Further research revealed that Fremont was the famed explorer and scout John C. Fremont. He had signed each of the 110 certificates on the back. Each one sold for $75 as a lot, with one selling in 1982 for $270. Examples like this one should keep scripophilists busy checking all signatures.
Cancellation Marks. Those pen lines, punch holes and written text – which were used to denote redeemed stocks and bonds, often were directed at company officials’ signatures on the item. The obvious intent was to show with finality that the security had been cancelled and could no longer be redeemed. By obliterating the signature, this was an excellent way to accomplish this goal. Levels of obliteration vary from minor to total. Cancellation marks through important signatures do not have to be the death knell for an autographed stock or bond, however. If that particular item is only found in that condition, then the overall impact on collectibility is minor since it only exists in that way. Naturally, an unblemished autograph is more desirable than one affected by one sort of cancellation mark or another, but in lieu of a “perfect” autograph, the other is still collectible.
In cases where an autograph is cancelled, faded, smudged or in some way affected in a negative manner, NO ATTEMPT SHOULD BE MADE TO REPAIR IT! No matter how well or for what reason it was done, the end result of repairs will always be visible and it will be a tampered document. The best advice is to leave the autograph alone. Do not try to replace missing pieces, trace over faded signatures or add anything. Nothing will destroy the value of a collectible stock or bond faster than physical alterations to the autograph.
Last, although secretarial signatures are relatively rare on stocks and bonds, they do exist. With this point in mind, the diligent scripophilist will always verify autographs whenever possible. For the more famous signatures appearing on stocks and bonds, general books on autographs that provide signature samples will be extremely helpful. For lesser ones, several of the biographical sources mentioned earlier in this chapter such as the Dictionary of American Biography and National Cyclopedia of American Biography often give facsimiles of signatures to help verify the authenticity of autographs found on stocks and bonds. Although secretarial signatures are not that common, the signatures should be checked for authenticity whenever possible.
Perhaps no other facet of collectible stocks and bonds offers such a personal and immediate link to our historical past, as do autographed varieties. Simply possessing a stock certificate signed by John D. Rockefeller or Cornelius Vanderbilt is a thrilling experience. When that experience is multiplied many times by collecting similar material, it quickly becomes obvious why autographed stocks and bonds are the Cadillacs of the world of scripophily.
Scripophily Preservation, Storage And Display
Once a basic collecting specialty or specialties has been chosen and the actual collecting of stocks and bonds begun, it is now necessary to preserve, store, and in many cases, display your collection. The acquisition of material is really just the first step in beginning and maintaining a collection of stocks and bonds. Along with the pleasure of actually acquiring material and studying it comes the constant effort required to take care of your collection.
Often these vital elements of scripophily are overlooked or not given much attention. The end result is a worn, dog-eared and sometimes disintegrating collection. The value of certificates in such a condition diminishes rapidly. In this way, scripophily is no different than any other area of collectibles. Constant attention to the essential, often unglamorous, parts of collecting covered in this chapter is absolutely necessary.
Ideas and suggestions are given here to guide the collectors into some methods for preserving, storing and displaying their certificates. Undoubtedly collectors will devise their own methods of handling the physical aspects of collecting stocks and bonds, as they become more experienced.
Preservation. As with any paper collectible, stocks and bonds must be preserved in the best possible condition. In most cases, items purchased from reputable dealers will be in good condition and will not require any cleaning. However, material found in attics, flea markets, antique shops and the like will often require cleaning. Any dirt or other foreign matter adhering to the paper must be removed.
Carefully wipe the stock or bond very gently with a soft cloth such as cheesecloth, an old cloth baby diaper or a cotton cloth. The cloth may be lightly dampened with a small amount of water, but use extreme caution so there is no streaking or smearing on the document. These types of marks caused by the water are virtually impossible to remove. Always keep in mind that because condition is such an important and integral part of collecting, care should be taken to insure that your cleaning efforts do not cause more harm than good, thus leading to some permanent damage to the stock or bond.
Masking and cellophane tape are seldom found on stocks and bonds. If they are, they can cause serious problems in terms of removal, damage to the paper, and browning. Carbon tetrachloride works effectively in dealing with tape removal. It requires an experienced hand to use this chemical safely and properly, as it is toxic.
Tears and physical damage evident on an item should not be touched. Even the most careful efforts can lead to disastrous results and can often compound existing problems. Tape removal, mending tears, deacidification, and other physical repairs are jobs that normally should be preformed by experts. Often silking is the answer to perhaps an especially fragile, brittle document.
The value of a document, either from a monetary or collectible point of view (or both) will act as the main determinant of the extent of your restoration efforts and the expense you wish to incur. One well-known firm that specializes in document preservation is B. Gimelson Paper Restoration Laboratory, 96 S. Limekiln Pike, Chalfont, PA 18914. If partial or major restoration or repairs are necessary, this is one company that has broad and successful experience in dealing with all the problems common to paper collectibles.
Another common problem encountered with stocks and bonds are fold or crease marks. Due to their sometimes-large size and to accommodate storage facilities, stocks and bonds were frequently folded, generally into thirds, similar to the manner in which legal documents were folded for storage. Fold and crease marks can be very stubborn and resistant to attempts at flattening. Stocks and bonds should never be left in a folded state unless absolutely necessary.
Several methods may be attempted for pressing stocks and bonds. Ideally, a paper press is the best for this purpose, but most people will not have access to one. A more practical method is to place unfolded items under a stock of books or record albums and left overnight or for at least eight hours. Albums are especially effective because of their weight, large size and uniform flatness. Any stock or bond being pressed in this fashion should always be protected on both the front and back by placing it between sheets of plain white typing, copy, or art paper. This will prevent any color from rubbing off onto the certificate.
If the fold still refuses to relax, you may try a simple remedy which authors have found effective. Dip your index finger into lukewarm water and apply the smallest amount of wetness to the sharp edge of all folds and creases and return the document to the press overnight. This procedure works very well without damage or staining. It results in a flat and freshly pressed item. Collectors and dealers may question the wisdom of using water, no matter how minute the amount. This author has used this technique many times, including wetting folds that pass through an ink signature, with a great deal of success. Although no absolute guarantees exist that will prove this method will have no problems, if caution is used, no difficulties should arise.
Storage. Once the necessary cleaning, repairing or pressing tasks have been completed, the stock or bond is ready for permanent storage. Individual folders may be used for an item or group of items. These are good protection, but less than desirable for display purposes. Albums provide the perfect solution for both storage and display. They are made of sturdy vinyl and the pages within are made of clear, acid free acetate.
At this point the question of acidity in paper will be discussed. Prior to the 1840s, all paper was made with varying degrees of rag and occasionally linen content. Paper from the pre-1840s period is virtually indestructible, much of it surviving in excellent condition today.
The discovery of a wood pulp process in the early 1840s introduced a cheaper and more easily mass-produced wood pulp paper. Although quality paper was still produced, the majority of the paper was the wood pulp variety.
Unfortunately, the pulp process utilized acids. Thus, paper made by this process could virtually self-destruct over a period of time, depending upon the acidity level present. In addition, other paper coming into close contact with acidic paper could itself be damaged by browning, holes, and complete disintegration.
Most stocks and bonds have been printed on high quality paper. Problems may occur when these certificates are placed next to acidic paper in binders, folders, plastic holders and the like. Even these clear plastic holders can contain high levels of potentially damaging acidity. Prolonged exposure to acidity in any form will have a detrimental effect on your stocks and bonds.
Acid free paper, holders and binders are readily available from manufacturers. Their cost will be higher than similar conventional materials, but definitely worth the investment. For this reason, great care should be exercised in providing quality holders for the certificates.
Rigid binders should be stored in a standing position on their right hand edge with the spine up whenever possible. This will allow maximum vertical storage and constant pressure on either side of the item to insure optimum storage conditions. An attractive wood frame can be constructed to accommodate binders. Stocks and bonds stored in this way are easily accessible, easily viewed, the binders do not suffer extensive wear, and labels can be affixed to binder spines for identification purposes.
Display. One of the obvious pleasures in collecting stocks and bonds is to be able to view them, show them to others, and handle them. In order to do this; however, great care must be taken to protect materials from wear, soiling and other detrimental effects resulting from any amount of handling.
Most collectors do not display every item in their collection, but rather reserve that distinction for particularly noteworthy items. For items falling into this category, permanent matting and framing is the most logical means of display. A true handyman scripophilist may be able, after a few cases of trial and error, to perform a satisfactory framing job on his own stocks and bonds. In most cases, however, this is a job best left to professional framers to achieve maximum aesthetic results. Saving a few dollars with a do-it-yourself framing job may be thrifty, but much may be sacrificed in appearances. A professional framing can make the item truly a work of art.
Regardless of who does the framing, several caveats should be observed. Both the mat and backing should be acid-free or 100% rag content art paper. The stock or bond should never be trimmed, regardless of large margin sizes. Even folding to reduce outside dimensions of the item should be avoided whenever possible. Every measure possible should be taken to maintain the stock or bond as close to its original condition as possible.
For framed items destined to be hung in a sunny area, a piece of clear, acid-free, light-filtering acetate should be placed between the mat and the item to prevent fading. This is essential when a valuable autograph exists on the stock or bond. Generally, fading does not pose too serious of a threat to collectible stocks and bonds, but precautions should be taken whenever it seems advisable to do so.
Items not framed should be stored in individual folders held by a ringed binder, as already noted. Even the binders themselves should be constructed of acid-free materials. The dangers of acidity have already been stated in some detail in this chapter. One aspect that bears repeating is to use only inert, acid-free storage materials for your stocks and bonds. Those materials kept in clear acetate folders can be viewed and studied time and again without any wear or damage.
Collectors can scarcely spend enough time or expense on preserving, storing and displaying their collectibles from the world of scripophily. Whatever they invest in these efforts will be repaid many times over by the maintenance of quality that they will achieve in their collections over time.
The Three-Dollar Bill
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has never been authorized to print a $3 note. However, during the early 1800s, banks operating under Federal or State charters issued notes of that denomination. These notes were printed by private contractors and were not obligations of the federal government. There is a permanent exhibit about the $3 bill on display in Philadelphia's Independence Hall. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing)
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress prior to the U.S. officially becoming a country did issue three-dollar bills bearing the motto "Exitus in Dubio Est," which translates to "The Outcome Is in Doubt.” (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)
Joseph W. Barr served as Secretary of the Treasury from December 21, 1968 to January 20, 1969, his signature appearing only on the 1963-B series of $1 notes. There are fewer notes bearing his facsimile signature than notes imprinted with signatures of other Secretaries of the Treasury because of his short tenure in that office.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has exclusively designed, engraved, and printed all United States paper currency since 1862. Confederate States Notes were not produced by the Bureau and are not obligations of the United States Government.
Federal Reserve Notes
The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 authorized the issuance of all Federal Reserve notes. The 1914 Series notes included only denominations $5 through $100. The higher denominations, $500 through $10,000, bore the series date of 1918.
Small-size Federal Reserve notes, first printed in 1929 with a series date of 1928, have been printed in denominations of $1 through $10,000; the $100 note is highest denomination currently printed. The Federal Reserve note is now the only type of currency note printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Fractional Currency notes, of which there were 24 distinctly different varieties, were issued from August 21, 1862 through February 15, 1876. These notes were authorized during the early years of the Civil War to alleviate the critical trade conditions caused by a serious shortage of coins. Accordingly, on the recommendation of Treasurer of the United States F.E. Spinner, Congress passed the Act of July 17, 1862, which authorized an issue of 5, 10, 25, and 50-cent notes. These became known as Postage Stamp Currency because they bore facsimiles of the then current 5- and 10-cent postage stamps. Later issues of these notes were called Fractional Currency and were authorized by another Act of Congress on March 3, 1863.
Notes bearing a "Hawaii" overprint were used during World War II (July of 1942) to insure identification should they have fallen into enemy hands. Types of these notes (with brown seals and serial numbers) included $1 Silver Certificates and $5, $10, and $20 Federal Reserve Notes. It was not until October 21, 1944 that all currency restrictions were revoked and normal monetary conditions returned to that area.
National Bank Notes
From 1863 to 1935, National Bank Notes were issued in many denominations by thousands of banks throughout the country and in U.S. territories during three charter periods. As of January 1, 1929, there were more than 7,600 National Banks in existence. The chartering of banks and administrative control over the issuance of National Bank Notes were the responsibility of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
These notes are more commonly referred to as "Million Dollar Special Issue Notes" or "Platinum Certificates." They are non-negotiable collectable notes from a special limited copyrighted art series that were originally sold by a firm in Canada for $1.00 each. Such items have no value to the United States government and are not redeemable by the Department of the Treasury since they are not products of this government. In addition, the Department of the Treasury has no interest in recalling any limited art series product manufactured by private concerns.
In accordance with an Act of Congress, dated February 28, 1878, the Department of the Treasury issued to the public Silver Certificates that could be exchanged for silver dollars. On March 25, 1964, the Secretary of the Treasury announced that Silver Certificates would no longer be redeemable for silver dollars. Subsequently, another act of Congress dated June 24, 1967, provided that Silver Certificates could be exchanged for silver bullion for a period of one year, until June 24,1968. Even though silver certificates are no longer printed, those that remain outstanding are still legal tender and can be spent just like a Federal Reserve Note.
When an imperfect note is detected during the manufacturing process after the serial number has been overprinted, it must be replaced with a new note. A "star" note is used to replace the imperfect note. Reusing that exact serial number to replace the imperfect note is costly and time consuming. The "star" note has its own special serial number followed by a star in place of a suffix letter. The serial number of the imperfect note that was removed is not used again in the same numbering sequence.