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PAPER: Bonds, Economic Ephemera, Financial Ephemera, Scrip, Scripophily

$1 - 32-Subject Uncut Sheet (2C4)


absurdum ad reductum

Shares of the Hanover Mining and Milling Company are selling for 3$ a share. (Share of stock certificate). This company has been bankrupt for decades!  How many gold mining companies listed every day on the chat boards are selling for pennies!  T

This BANKRUPT company WHICH HAS NOT TRADED FOR DECADES and has NO EQUIPMENT, NO RESERVES and NO INFRASTRUCTURE yet is trading higher than many current gold-producing companies extant. 

Let’s then examine what these 25 shares of Hanover Mining represent:

Real Property: Maybe they had, for instance, a jaw-crusher. Perhaps they depreciated it over a 27.5 year life.  Enough years have passed such that this crusher could have been depreciated four cycles (well, not legally).  The crusher, should it have been put to any worthwhile use whatsoever, was scrapped and turned into another implement.  More likely, the crusher has rusted and rotted in the surrounding sand.


Intellectual Interest: from a turn-of-the century miner?


Possessory Interest:  HaH! Successor companies have been absolutely destroyed by possessory succession of previous mining interests.  Mainly, the successor company has absorbed joint and several liability for a contaminated site that may cost thousands to clean up.


(Nobody ever talks about TechCominco problems with the federales re: metal pollution in lower watershed. A major story, all but silent.)


What about the gold?: How many companies that issued stock in 1902 actually became producers? The example of a jaw crusher is likely a hopeless dream in this case. More likely is Hanover went belly-up by the time the post office was constructed.


The economy of the next hundred years will be powered by plant oils (bio-diesel). The economy of the next hundred years will again be denominated in metals.  (After this brief period of aberration).


yes, paper is more valuable than gold - a complete mind feck!


The counter thought is: well, some single pieces of silver or gold (as coins) sell for hundreds or thousands (even millions) of dollars. Yes, this is true. But, the vast majority of them (by number) can be had for 50 cents or less.


So, these coins are only valuable because they are rare, right? And lack of supply causes demand and value.  After all, WHT (ED: This Stock - Silver Wheaton -quintupled and was bought out) has millions of shares outstanding. The Hanover Mining Company may only have several thousand.


But if the paper was valuable only because it was rare, then any pretty drawing I make on an 8x11 sheet should be worth big bux, after all, it is unique-one-of-a-kind.  Factually, it is worthless; becoming only valuable if I personally become either famous or infamous (and that is a longshot).


If the paper was valuable only because it was old, then every handwritten letter which is 100 years old would sell for 5$ a page. Heck, both unique AND old. But no, unless of some historical importance, or of the hand of a known name, they too are practically worthless.


And so, the great irony of the bankrupt mining company scrip. Only valuable b.c. it speaks to the former gold mining glories of days gone bye.  Value by proxy; sprinkled with stardust long worn off. The paper shell is a newly prized commodity. Meanwhile, the ores are played, the minerals are gone, and the former mine and mill, nay – the whole town and every one who lived and toiled therein – lays as dust.


Eagle Silver Mining Company

I've an opine on Eagle Silver Mining Company


Stock looks nice: “The stock has a wonderful vignette of an eagle with smaller vignettes and steamships and railroads. The stock is in crisp excellent condition with only faint folds and a few cancellation holes.”


They charge extra for vignettes I guess...


Why invest now, only to watch ‘em go bankrupt later.


Mercury sayeth: "Buyeth the pretty little paper of the three-score-year-gone bankrupt memory of a company now while the share price is appreciating."


How to Value Scripophily: Things to look for on an old stock certificate:


1. Are the shares un-cancelled? If so, the certificate could still have monetary value - though unlikely.  The trick here is to follow the possessory interest and/or liability of the company all the way through a current parent corporation.  You can pay to have this service performed. 


Another trick involves tracking dates of incorporation and all further buyouts, insolvencies, mergers etc.  Searches of state government databases on business incorporation and taxes can yield valuable information.


Furthermore, private historical documentation sites yield incredible groves of information, often concentrated on a particular subject.  Here is one example of financial archaeology done right (very impressive!):


Bottom line: If the certificate is cancelled, the financial value is also cancelled and you now are looking at artistic, collectible, and historic value.


2.  Are the names legible?  If so, research who they were. Some famous people have signed stock certificates at the beginning or end of another career as either a president or treasurer of a company.  Singed stock certificates with famous signatures, like autographs, carry a premium.  Now you have two markets to advertise your certificate for sale - the Scripophily market and the niche for that particular famous person.  Likewise, look for the signature of the owner on the back (endorsed line) of the stock. The odds of the lowly stock owner being famous are pretty slim, but you never know. 


3.  What condition is the certificate in?


4.  Is the artwork, vignettes, engraving particularly attractive?


5.  Like many collectibles, older is worth more than newer.


6.  Is the company very rare or very famous? 


7.  Is the number of the certificate very low, or the number of shares issued very high?


8. Does the company have historical value?  The first miner on the Cripple Creek Mining District is sought more often than just another bankrupt sewing machine manufacturer.  Mining, Oil and Railroads have devoted followings. Technology too, to a lesser degree.  


9.  Does the certificate come with tax-paid stamps on the sheet?  Are there dividend coupons attached?


10. Unissued certificates, unless a rare pattern or unique specimen, trade at a larger discount.



Many mines throughout the western united states are currently known as Abandoned Mine Lands (AML).

My personal interest and professional work involves study and remediation of contaminated sites. 

These sites are usually on lands managed by federal or state environmental protection agencies or land managers. Usually the lands have significant public safety or environmental concerns. Typically the land managers punt, since there is no longer a financial source available to study and cleanup the property (the owners are usually long gone). But every now and again they source removal, occasionally cleaning water on sites with high value targets.

As such, historic photographs – especially complete and partially dated photographs – are an absolute essential part of due diligence to discern/verify site use and potential contaminant source.

For example, the public can often determine if a source is under study but have no idea if either the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or State Regional Water Quality Control Board (CA-RWQCB RPM or contractor, or stakeholders, are pursuing other sources (concentrators, heaps, leach pads, fuel tanks, chemical storage areas, incinerators, fills, etc).  

 What I do know is typically the EPA or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Remedial Project Manager (RPM) will contract out most of that investigation.  For instance, the lone BLM Environmental Protection Specialist – is not able to collect every piece of info for Nv mines by himself, most of that data gathering portion is contracted out.  Hence, the firm doing the PA/SI/EE-CA/RI-FS will most benefit from first hand photographic evidence of source releases.

As an example, my understanding is that Mammoth Mine investigation is still ‘active’:

And given that the project is not much past the PA/SI stage(2007), many answers must remain.

Hence, rather than spend additional time chasing the Fed/Ca EPA RPM (often fruitless, mostly b.c. the govt. RPM typically does not have a mechanism to purchase information except through services contract),  I contacted the last firm I could identify that was working on the site since they are the most logical party interested in First Order site data.  After all, the fed/state RPM gets paid by the hour, the consultant gets paid by the package and therefore the First Order information is more valuable to the contractor.

Also, they may be the party that best knows the community players actively pursuing historical research and stabilization/rehabilitation of significant structures. (My main goal is to place the photographic collection intact to the group most able to make use of it, already have offers from folks that want to break out certain photos).  

Here is what we understand is the Finest Photographic Collection of the Mammoth Mine

From my experience, there is not a great information clearing house to transfer historic information (photographs; ephemera documenting title chain or transfer of possessory interest, etc) on mining sites to the RPM/Contractor/Stakeholders. The information typically is pieced together per site, painstakingly, usually through the usual brain trust in Reno or Denver.

CoinMine has sought a better resource available to transfer historic information to current remedial managers/contractor, saw none that meets the need, and is beginning to build that infrastructure, albeit veeerry slowly.


Scripophily Grades


The following guidelines generally apply to all ephemera (collectible paper):

Unc  -  Uncirculated

EF  -  Extremely Fine - minor folds, clean, issued but not handled much.

VF  -  Very Fine - folds, creases & slight wear

F  -  Fine - circulated, worn & slight damage (tears, stains, tape)

Poor -   Very used and worn, and/or damaged

The following guidelines generally apply specifically to scripophily as determined by the International Bond and Share Society:



UncirculatedAppears straight from the printers without the slightest flaw.

EF  -  Extremely Fine.  Appears in almost perfect condition; the signs handling are just visible.

VF  -  Very Fine. Appearance shows signs of use such as a fold, slight edge-damage, light general wear and slight discoloration but no pieces are missing.

F  -  Fine. The piece show considerable signs of use, pronounced folds, small pieces missing from the edge, stained, etc.

VG - Very Good.  Serious damage, probably badly torn or with a large piece missing, badly stained, etc

P - Poor.     


We DO NOT use the Independent Online Bookseller Association [] grading system since we find it rather goofy.  Why does Mint, New and Fine mean the same for selling books on-line yet mean entirely different standards for all other types of paper and non-paper collectibles?  As such, we use standard scripophily standards for books we have for sale.

All of the Books we have for sale are on our Reference Page.





For further reference:


Cancellations and Killers of the Banknote Era 1870-1894, by James M. Cole

The Foreign Mail Cancellations of New York City 1870-1878, by William R. Weiss, Jr.

United States Cancellations 1845-1869, by Hubert C. Skinner and Amos Eno.

United States Post Offices, Volume I - The West, by Richard Helbock. A great reference of operating dates (and rarity of cancels) of Post Offices in the Western United States. (Like New, $27.50)





Suggestion to the denizens of NOLA:

Bring back the AFRO:


Afro-American Face Reserve Organization.  These AFRO dollars were used as trade scrip in the 1970's.

The fed has shown their interest in you. Perhaps it is now time to return the favor and regain control over your community.


Colonial Splits

During the early Colonial and continental period of the fledgling US change was very scarce.  Currency of the time issued by the colonies traded and were occasionally folded and split into quarters for change.

Republic of Texas Notes. Issued by the Texas Militia in 1995. Harkened back to the original Texas Republic days.


Private Currency

Private currency has always been a supplement to the state scrip.  By the time the civil war was over, the US Treasury was so depleted that it embarked on a campaign to tax everybody and everything possible, including the freely traded private currencies of the day.  The state of Louisiana brilliantly upended this tax by instead circulating bonds as currency. Since bonds are not federally taxable, either now nor then the US collected no revenue on the 'Louisianan Baby Bonds'.  The bonds traded as currency by face value. Eventually the Congress found out and made the practice illegal.


The Afro American Face Reserve Organization informed a community trade currency called the AFRO.  Similar to other types of community currency, the AFRO was designed to circulate throughout the black community and generate both status and awareness of the purchasing power that the community yielded. The twenty dollar notes circulated for just a short time.


Prison Camp Scrip


Reference Works

Mineral Resources West of the Rocky Mountains (J. Ross Browne, 1868)

Manuals of Valuable and Worthless Securities (Fisher)

Manual of Extinct or Obsolete Companies (Scudder)


Why worry about paper, anyway?


How to Age-Date a Post Card


Here is a good reference for telling how old a postcard may be


Real Photo Post Card (RPPC): A postcard format used roughly between 1900 - 1945. Individuals provided their personal photos to a developer who would then provide a standard postal backing.

Note that Zip Codes started in the states in 1963.

US 'dollar' chart:


How to Convert the dollar into Standard Drawing Rights:





So. perhaps you've entertained the idea of learning the ways of paper restoration and curation.  Here are a few subjects that would come in very helpful:

Math (geometry and algebra)


Chemistry 1a

Chemistry 1b

Chemistry 1c

Atmospheric Science

Brief Organic


Physical Chemistry or BioChemistry

Textiles, Dyes and Fabrics



Paper Artistry

Should obtaining a four year science degree not appear in your likely life path, you could simply focus on fixing a problem without necessarily understanding all the chemistry and physics underlying the problem.  For your edification here are but a few sample problems you will likely encounter with collectible paper:

Removal from facing, backings


pH adjustment

Removal of foxing and acid staining


Alkaline and metal salt application 

Tape Removal

Stain removal

Hole, Rip and Tear Repair (Joining)

Archival Patches and Backing

Laser Use

Flood and Fire water damage

Paper Restoration Machinery

Paper Restoration with LASER

Proper Paper Care 


Eucalyptus oil. Widely available in California and Australia; carried by some department and hardware stores.

Peanut butter to remove labels.

On nonporous surfaces (glossy paper, etc.) consider Neutrogena Sesame Body Oil.

Avon Skin So Soft is another product that removes certain gummy glues well.

Olive oil, especially for use on metal.


WD40 removes labels off of metal well. Hairspray will remove many stickers.As with all solvents, can leave a stain. 

Goof-Off works well on sticky paper backings. The same manufacturer also makes a product which removes labels from glass called Painters Pal. 

Citrus is an acidic solvent. Citrus based products such as  Goo Gone work well removing paper from wood.  This product is combustible.

Acetone has its applications, but it's such a highly flammable material that only specialists should use it. 


United Label [] makes a product called "At-Tack" which feels like oil but won't leave residue.

Bestine can be found in art supply stores. Although both finicky and expensive, practice  will provide applications that prove very useful.  (Labels off newspapers, etc.) Use cotton, such a Q-tip to apply.

Scotch tape: Put over the unwanted sticker, press firmly, remove quickly.




Article 1, Section 10, of the Constitution for the United States of America states:  

“No State shall.. make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in payment of Debts.”

Further, United States Code, Title 12, Section 152, states:

“Lawful money shall be construed to mean gold or silver coin of the United States.”  

Bouvier’s Law Dictionary [1870, page 192] makes the definition even simpler: “Gold and silver coins.  The common medium of exchange in a civilized nation.”, and 

Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page. 1005 states:

"Money:  In usual and ordinary acceptation it means coins and paper currency used as circulating medium of exchange, and does not embrace notes, bonds, evidences of debt, or other personal or real estate.  Lane v. Railey, 280 Ky. 319, 133 S.W.2d 74, 79, 81."  [Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, p. 1005].


Federal Reserve Notes (FRN) are not "money" because the FRN is defined as redeemable for lawful money by United States Code and you cannot use a term to define a term; i.e. FRNs cannot be money if they are redeemable for money. 

Witness that the 1934 Federal Reserve Note contained the following statement:  “This note is ‘legal tender’ for all debts public and private and is redeemable in ‘lawful money’ at the United States Treasury or at any Federal Reserve Bank.”  

Note, after 1933 the FRNs could not be redeemed in gold or other goods or "lawful money" by the Treasury. Yet, this section in the USC has not been repealed from the code by law!  FRNs "currency" in a legal sense in that they represent debt.

Further, the amendment to Sec. 411 [Title 12, Chapter 3, Subchapter XII, Section 411 of the U.S. Code.] in Jan. 30, 1934, did strike out from the last sentence the provision which permitted redemption in gold.  Thus the ‘redeemable in lawful money’ was intentionally not stricken, or revised but was left intentionally in the code.

Knowledge: Rarer than gold. Wisdom: Lighter than air.

US PAPER CURRENCY: An aberration awaiting an acutely anticipated abortion.


If you want top dollar you need the top provenance.  PMG is known as inconsistent; PCGS and even some older CGA carry higher premium. CGA has graded 10x the number of notes that PCGS has.  PMG is the newcomer.  The whole market is in flux because. of the CGA lawsuit and some of the quality issues there of late.  CGA has slabbed some of the nicest notes, but has also put a lot of ‘processed paper’ in the tomb as well.

So, right now you need the grade, and the top grading firm which is mostly set by provenance – who owned the note before you.  Folks like to buy a note that someone else before them, hopefully someone already know in the collecting community, thought was a nice piece. PCGS has been able to asset paper grading market dominance in large part because they can buy a reputation since their coin certification unit is top in the sector.  In other words, try to buy within a provenance or at least make sure you will get the ‘exceptional paper’ connotation.  Also, this is the perfect time to market your own notes with or without the slab, since the TPGs have made for an uncertain market. 

How many coin/paper shows have you gone to?  Hopefully at least one every quarter if not more. You learn a lot there from seeing dozens of dealer and how they conduct business. 

A freebie tip:

If you use PMG on-site grading you can occasionally get a more liberal grade on new material than if you had submitted through the mail.


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