Friday, February 28, 2014

Four rules for online scripophily sellers

Four rules to keep in mind when shipping old bonds and share certificates :
  1. You shall wrap them waterproof !
  2. You shall not tape them !
  3. You shall not fold them ! 
  4. You shall not trim them !

Rule 1 : Wrap waterproof 
Certificates are usually shipped in a paper or cardboard envelope or package. The receiver of the package obviously expects a good reception, of course. However, packages are doomed to get wet due to bad weather conditions. Paper and cardboard just love water, they suck water whenever possible. Once wet, the package probably stays wet until its arrival. The contents of the package, a nice stock certificate, is also made of paper. Need I say more ?

Franklin Computer Corporation stock certificate
Franklin Computer Corporation
Common shares, 1988
Below you can see what happened to this stock certificate of the Franklin Computer Corporation. It was not shipped waterproof. The certificate was simply put in an envelope by the sender.

interior of an envelope
The sender did not notice the nicely printed pattern on the interior of the envelope, and neither he expected his package would have to deal with rainfall, snow or water. The package got wet, the ink of the envelope pattern inside got wet and, under pressure, was transferred to the certificate. Not a nice result, despite three stickers labeled 'FRAGILE: Handle with Care' and a stamp 'DO NOT BEND'.

left: detail from the envelope's inner side , right: detail from the received certificate
double-click images to enlarge

Senders can avoid this situation simply by inserting the certificates in one or more plastic sleeves and tape the overlapping sleeves together (don't tape the certificate, see rule number two). This solution may not be 100% waterproof, but at least there is a greater chance that the certificate arrives in good condition.

Rule 2 : Do not tape certificates
This rule is obvious to collectors but believe it or not, some people fix certificates to an extra thin cardboard in the envelope with adhesive tape. Check out what happened to this specimen stock certificate of the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation.

Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation stock certificate
Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation
Common stock of $1, specimen, 1970s

The certificate was attached by tape to a thin cardboard.
This certificate was fixed to a thin cardboard in the envelope by means of ordinary adhesive tape. When the tape is applied with pressure, it sticks just "wonderful". I think the sender pressed the tape firmly, or the envelope must have been tucked away in the postman's bag between hundreds of other envelopes. Whatever .. I tried my very best to remove the tape gently and with the utmost care, but I could not prevent that a piece at the edge was teared away from the paper.

Removing the tape was a failure.

I contacted the seller and talked about this situation and by agreeing to refund a part of the amount paid, he kept a potential customer.

Rule 3 : Do not fold stocks and bonds
Securities, big ones in size and even the small ones too, have been folded by bank clerks and the original owners for centuries for practical reasons. These old folds belong to the natural history of the document. Usually, it should not be a problem for collectors when sellers reuse those existing folds when shipping the papers.

Double-click the image to enlarge
and notice the two folds.

But what is a pity, is that some folks from our 21st century, still want to make additional folds in order to fit their sold certificate in a tiny standard envelope. The example illustrated is a stock certificate of the Sabre-Pinon Corporation, which was involved in uranium mining activities. These modern certificates have often been folded in the past in three equally sized parts. But in this example, you can see an additional fold in the right part.

Sabre-Pinon uranium mining stock certificate
Sabre-Pinon Corporation
less than 100 common shares of $.20, 1958
printed by Security Banknote Company
note: The folds, flattened on the scanner, become invisible but they are still there

Why not ask the buyer, if he is willing to pay a little extra for a larger envelope? Ever received a folded postcard from friends on holiday ?

Rule 4 : Do not trim certificates
I have no words for this. I don't know who was responsible : the seller, or the seller who sold it to the seller, but someone found it necessary to take a pair of scissors and cut away the edges of the following bond certificate until the paper is trimmed to 210 mm by 297 mm. Well, isn't that a convenient size for an A4 envelope ?   %$#@$+*& ! Double-click the image below and just look at it. The image is not cropped by any software tool, that is the full remaining certificate. This is not done. In any case, mention this kind of condition in the sales description.

Verrerie de Meisenthal loan certificate
Verrerie de Meisenthal
English: Meisenthal Glass Company
6.5% Loan of 500 Francs, 1926

The examples given are exceptionally. Most online sellers do know their business and how to treat certificates in the right way. Keep these rules in mind, and your collectors will stay happy and return. Thank you for any comments and tips on this topic.


P.S. :
Rule 5 : Do not write on them, see here 


  1. One more recommendation: Do not send certificates in Bubble Wrap-Padded Envelopes if you have not supplied a rigid protection for the certificate! I received a certificate from a Spanish antiques seller tucked in such an envelope without any protection. This resulted in numerous folds/bends to an originally perfect condition certificate.

  2. That's right. Had the same experience. Bubble wrap-padded envelopes should only be used with an additional protection enclosing the certificate, such as a plastic sleeve. Thx for the tip Roland