David Sundman forwarded this Bloomberg Businessweek article on the market for collectible stocks and bonds. Here's an excerpt - be sure to see
the complete article online. It has images of more stock and bond certificates (including the Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts), plus a great photo of dealer
Bob Kerstein in his office in Chantilly, VA. -Editor
“I should have bought more Lehman” is not something you hear every day.
But it's an honest regret for Bob Kerstein, who makes a living buying and selling what traditional investors would consider worthless equities. During the
financial crisis, JPMorgan Chase & Co. bought Bear Stearns Cos. for $10 a share. Kerstein will sell you one for $395. A share of Countrywide Financial
Corp., taken over by Bank of America Corp. for less than $5 a share, will run you $199.95. Prefer fixed income? You can get yourself a piece of a vintage
Countrywide collateralized mortgage obligation for $169.95.
Before computers took over markets, issuers of equities and bonds gave out paper certificates, usually featuring artwork that depicted the companies'
business, which were shuffled among brokerage houses. (Some companies continued to put out certificates even after they became functionally obsolete.)
Certificates of failed, acquired, or otherwise defunct companies were supposed to be thrown out. Some got diverted on the way to the dump or were found tucked
away in long-forgotten file cabinets or safe-deposit boxes. A niche group of collectors in what's known as the scripophily market will pay top dollar for
certificates of famous failures. The more epic, the better.
“What I used to say is, the flops are worth more dead than alive,” says Kerstein, a dealer in Virginia whose stocks and bonds can be found on
Scripophily.com. “Like the Enrons. They were selling for a dollar or two apiece. Once the company died, they were selling for a couple hundred.”
In the past few years, there's been fresh interest in the equities and bonds of Donald Trump's failed casino company. A 1999 Trump Hotels & Casino
Resorts Inc. stock certificate that's in “practically pristine” condition, featuring a head-and-shoulders portrait of the Donald hovering over the Atlantic
City boardwalk, is available on EBay at a buy-it-now price of $800. The stock itself was delisted after trading for about a buck or two following the company's
first trip to bankruptcy court in 2004.
Robert Schwartz, a dentist who splits his time between working on teeth and dealing in financial certificates and other collectibles, has sold a few Trumps
in recent years, too, at his auction house Archives International Auctions. “I think some people are buying it because they love Trump, while the majority are
buying it because it's a novelty,” he says.
Some of the demand from China is for shares that are remarkably American in flavor. Vintage certificates of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corp. featuring a
portrait of Colonel Sanders are usually sold quickly to buyers in China, where the fast-food chain has done a robust business since opening its first
restaurant near Mao Zedong's tomb in Tiananmen Square in 1987. “Every time I put one online, I sell it for $150, $200 without even trying,” Schwartz says.
To read the complete article, see:
Collectors Are Shelling Out
$395 for Bear Stearns Stock Certificates
Wayne Homren, Editor
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