Friday, February 5, 2016

North American Coal database added

Whoopee! Good news for collectors of coal mining scripophily. A new database of North American coal mining stocks and bonds made its appearance on the web.

Glen Alden Coal Company
vignette from the stock certificate below
double-click image to enlarge
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In the 1930s, the Glen Alden Coal Company often sprayed its coal
with a blue dye at the mine before shipping to its U.S. markets.
The company promoted its "Blue Coal" as being superior,
longer burning, and even more “healthful” than other coal.

Three centuries of North American coal mining history covered
On his blog, Terry Cox, author of Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads, announces : 
I have been compiling information about certificates from North American coal companies for a few years. I have finally opened up the database and now allow anyone to search for certificates in the same manner as for railroads. 
Mr. Cox has a long background in coal geology and explains the connection with railroads:
Coal was crucial to the operation of railroads, so it was common for railroads to either mine coal for their own purposes or to own captive coal mines in order to ensure their supplies of fuel. 
The United States has the largest coal reserves in the world. The Powder River Basin, a region in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming, accounts for almost forty percent of the U.S. coal production. That has not always been the case. Actually coal mining took off in the American East, more specifically in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Glen Alden Coal Company
Less than 100 shares certificate, issued 1932
Now cataloged on CoxRail as GLE-500-S-30.
Collectors of great vignettes can, with a bit of patience, find
this ultra-common certificate for $5 or less on eBay.

Depleted forests make anthracite coal interesting
In the early 19th century, the rural American industrial sites needed the close presence of wood and water for energy production. By 1825 woodsmen depleted nearby forests and firewood transport became increasingly expensive. More and more Americans started replacing wood by anthracite which was cheaper and caused less air pollution than wood smoke. To carry coal from the mining districts to the customers new canal and railway systems had to be constructed. Industry and workshops could now be established more easily near or in the cities.  Most of the coal burned during the early years was anthracite, also known as hard coal. It was found mainly in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal and Iron Company
Stock certificate for twenty shares of $50, 1860
Printed by J. O'flyn, 168 Broadway, New York
Coxrail cat nr PEN-315-S-30
Courtesy: Bob Kerstein
, Scripophily.com 

Bituminous drives the engines, coke melts the iron 
Bituminous coal, alias soft coal, was distributed over a larger geographical area but did not come into general use after the Civil War. Cheaper than anthracite, it produced a dark and dirtier smoke. Bituminous came into demand as fuel for railway locomotives and steam engines. During the American Civil War, Confederate blockade runners used anthracite as a smokeless fuel for their boilers to avoid giving away their position to the blockaders. Once crossing the ocean these steam ships switched over to bituminous coal. Coke emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as the preferred fuel in the iron and steel industry. Coke is a form of processed bituminous coal in which impurities are 'baked' out under high temperatures.

Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal and Iron Company
detail from the certificate above
wonderful engraving of Pennsylvania's coat of arms,
double-click the image and look at these horses, waw !
Courtesy: Bob Kerstein,
Scripophily.com

Early American coal mining methods were dangerous
American coal deposits were both vast and near the surface; they could be tapped cheaply using techniques known as “room and pillar” mining. In this system the mined material is extracted across a horizontal plane, creating horizontal arrays of rooms and pillars. The "pillars" of untouched material are left to support the roof overburden, and open areas or "rooms" are extracted underground. Early room and pillar mines were mostly developed at random, with pillar sizes determined empirically and headings driven in any convenient direction.
If the pillars were too small, there was the risk of pillar failure. Once one pillar fails, the weight on the adjacent pillars increases, and a chain reaction of pillar failures is the result. Also, miners worked in separate rooms making supervision difficult. Much blasting was required to bring down the coal. Miners were often paid by the ton and safety was often not their major concern.

American methods yielded more coal per worker than the European techniques, but they were far more dangerous. In the period 1890-1904, three out of one thousand workers would die in a mining incident.  In 1919 there were almost 700,000 coal miners in the US.


The Washington Mutual Coal Company
Vignette of an early coal breaker, a processing site which
breaks coal into useful sizes and removes impurities from the coal.
Till the 1920s, this was done by hand, usually by boys
between the ages of 8 and 12 years old known as breaker boys.

Always in demand and devastating
Besides the fact that coal mining is still a dangerous activity - between 2005 and 2014 almost 30 coal miners died yearly in the US - the industry causes major environmental problems (mountain top removal mining, waste management, water and air pollution), not to speak of the health effects by burning coal. Coal has been the largest source of energy in the US since the 1880s until the early 1950s, when it was exceeded by petroleum. 
Today coal, carbon rich, is also processed for fabricating heat shielding ceramics. Coke is one of the materials used in the Mars Pathfinder's heat shield. NASA plans to utilize coke and other materials for the heat shield of its next generation space craft, named Orion. According to cosmologist Stephen Hawking, we will have to leave a ruined earth. We might as well need coal to accomplish that.


The Washington Mutual Coal Company
Capital stock $420,000
Certificate for 37 shares of $6, New York, 1868
Sold on eBay for $80 (12 bidders) in Jan 2016

Beginner and expert can consult and contribute
Coal mining is perplexing. The deeper you dig into its history the more you'll be surprised. The North American coal mines left us many stock and bond certificates. As of this date, you can query more than 1,600 coal company certificates from the new online Coxrail database. Not only true mining companies are included but also companies active in the entire coal business.
Currently, the youngest certificate in the database is a 2012 Patriot Coal common stock certificate. The most ancient one, a Lehigh Coal Mine share, representing 1/50th part of the coal lands, dates from 1792 with a most recent recorded sales price at US$1,595. That's right, besides catalog entries, the database also provides for recorded sales prices, serial numbers and images. 

You, beginner or expert collector, can help Mr. Cox. You can send him scans and report serial numbers (how, see here) .


F.L.



Related links

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

IBSS Mail Bid Auction - January 2016




The International Bond and Share Society, sets its next (members only) auction date to 31 January 2016. This auctions counts almost 300 lots, representing about 50 countries and an equal number of themes.


1902 bond certificate of Brussels depicting town hall and archangel Michael
Lot 24 in the auction : 1902 City loan of Brussels of 100 Francs,
text in Dutch and French with a vignette of the Brussels Town Hall. 
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Construction of the Town Hall started in 1402. It is regarded as a masterpiece 
of medieval European non-religious architecture. On top of the 96 meter high tower 
stands a 5-metre-high gilt metal statue of the archangel Michael, patron of Brussels, 
slaying a dragon.  It is this Michael that is also depicted in the lower border of the certificate. 
Note: The vignette shows a tower that was built in the centre of the building. 
However, in reality the tower is located to the right of the middle.
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Certificate estimated at 10 GBP.


Practical auction info :
  • Date : January 31, 2016
  • Place : not applicable, this is a mail bid auction only
  • Auction catalogue can be downloaded here, where also the images of the lots can be viewed.


F.L.


P.S. Signed the Guest book  yet ?