Scripophily: An Intriguing Hobby

Scripophily is a specialized field of numismatics (the study and collection of currency) which focuses on the study and collection of old bonds and stocks. What makes scripophily particularly interesting is the historic context of each document, as well as the artistic design and intricate detail on many of these valuable documents. Scripophily first gained recognition as a hobby in the early 1970s, with the word being coined from a combination of the English word “scrip” representing a certificate or substitute for currency in which the payer and payee recognize its value, and the Greek word “philos” meaning to love, and has grown to include thousands of collectors worldwide.

Some collectors choose to focus on the historic value of certificates, recognizing that each certificate represents a unique piece of history about a company. Some companies may have gone on to become successful, while others may have changed hands or merged and yet others may have met their demise through a scandal, mismanagement or being replaced by new technology. Other collectors may give emphasis to the artwork, colors and ornate engraving of certificates, while some scripophily enthusiasts (referred to as Scripophiliacs or Scripophilists) may become autograph collectors, looking for certificates signed by historic influential individuals. In addition to being an interesting hobby, there are collectors who consider scripophily to be a good investment and their main criteria will relate to current monetary value of certificates.

There are a number of factors that are taken into account when determining the value of a certificate. These include the condition, historical significance, age, rarity, aesthetics, original face value, signatures, type of company, issuing banker, cancellation markings, transfer stamps, printers and type of engraving process used. Historical significance may be linked to the product the company made and whether it was a pioneer in that particular field. The era in which the certificate was issued can also be historically significant. If the certificate was either issued to, or signed by anyone famous, or infamous, this will affect its value.

The aesthetics and type of engraving process used in producing the certificate will be of particular interest to collectors focusing on this aspect. Factors taken into account include the color of ink and type of border, whether the certificate was made by hand, wood engraving, steel engraving or lithograph and what quality of paper was used, as well as whether the paper has an anti-counterfeiting watermark.

With the introduction of electronic trading and fewer paper certificates being issued at stock exchanges, the creative artistry of bonds and stocks has been lost, but the unusual hobby of scripophily will ensure that the fascinating history of stocks and bonds is not forgotten.