Featured Specimen stocks and bonds ... and a little history

Discussion in 'Paper Money' started by gsalexan, Jun 11, 2017.

  1. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    I've been wanting to scan some of my specimens stocks for a while and I finally got to it tonight. Imho, this is the most intriguing area of my collection. A few of these have already been posted on another thread, but I decided this would make a good stand-alone article.

    Specimens are considerably rarer than most issued stock certificates (often only a handful were printed), but until the last decade or so, prices did not reflect this. In the '80s and '90s you could still find some specimens for $5 and under. They were produced for a variety of reasons, but usually surviving examples are those that were kept in the files of the issuer or the bank note company.

    Most of the specimens I own were printed by the American Bank Note Co., which printed the vast majority of engraved U.S. stocks and bonds over the last century. But there were also many smaller bank note firms, most of which were eventually bought by larger companies. I'd like to show some examples of these here, along with a bit of historic background.

    Excelsior Bank Note Co. - This is the oldest specimen in my collection (circa 1880) and the only one marked with a hand-written "Sample". Though it may not look like much, it is probably my rarest piece, too. In 30+ years of collecting I've only seen one specimen representing EBN -- this one. The company was only in existence for about 10 years.
    Excelsior BN sample bond front.jpg

    American Bank Note Co. - ABN was the premier U.S. banknote company, from its formation in 1858 until 1990. It remained the industry leader through the stellar work it produced … and by buying up the competition. Here are several of my favorite ABN specimens. At the top of the Texas Pacific Coal stock you'll see the notation "Last Specimen--Reserve '0'. This indicates that this particular specimen was the reserve copy kept on file in the American Bank Note archives. Texas Pacific Coal ABN specimen.jpg

    The stock specimen of the West Virginia Coal & Coke has two holes punched at the top; these appear on many certificates, most likely for inclusion in a salesman's two-ring binder. This particular specimen shows the official embossed seal of approval on the back and a genuine signature of the company secretary matching the facsimile on the front. (You can also see the colored security planchettes (small dots) embedded in the paper.)
    West VA Coal & Coke stock.jpg West VA Coal sigs.jpg

    And I wanted to include a later ABN specimen, from Mary Kay Cosmetics. You can see how much the typical layout had changed by the 1980s, along with the way "specimen" was applied to certificates. May Kay herself commissioned the portrait, engraved by Kenneth Guy, which is held up as one of the finest works of bank note engraving in the last 50 years. Mary Kay stock.jpg Mary Kay portrait.jpg

    Bradbury Wilkinson & Co.
    - This is the only foreign specimen bond I own. BW&Co in London was founded in 1856 and was a major player in European bank note printing for more than a century. The company was acquired by ABN in 1903, but continued to use its own name until closing shop in 1990. This specimen bond from the Bank of Peru & London bears a maritime vignette very similar to one engraved at ABN. Banco del Peru y Londres full bond.jpg
    Banco del Peru y Londres bond.jpg
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  3. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Columbian Bank Note Co. - Columbian started up in Chicago in 1904 after ABN bought Western Bank Note. Western's former president decided to start a new company. This specimen from the Greyhound Corp. is a good example of their work. Look closely for the little buses and note the tiny map showing the early bus routes.
    Greyhound CBN specimen.jpg Greyhound CBN specimen cu.jpg

    The specimen from Compressed Industrial Gases is interesting for its lack of a serial number (generally a set of zeroes), which CBN apparently stopped using some time in the 1930s. The notations indicate the production date in 1937, the die number of either the frame or the vignette (W-2212) and the ink color (B-2 Terra Cotta), so this specimen would probably have been used to show the client color and design options.
    Compressed Ind Gases CBN specimen.jpg

    Security Bank Note Co.
    - This specimen stock for Grand National Films was probably printed in the 1930s. SBN was founded in 1884 and operated plants in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. They would eventually join Columbian; more on that later.
    Grand Nat Films SBN specimen.jpg

    Hamilton Bank Note Co. - New York based HBN began in 1880 and produced foreign stamps and ornate postal cards during its heyday, in addition to stocks and bonds. Hamilton was another printer that didn't include any type of serial number on their specimens. The company was liquidated in 1948, just four years after printing this General Realty specimen stock. Its engraved plates were acquired by Security BN.
    Gen Realty HBN specimen.jpg

    Republic Bank Note Co. - Pittsburgh-based Republic did some excellent engraved work after forming in 1904 (also by former Western BN officers), evident in this Pittsburgh Rolls specimen. During the 1930s and '40s RBN also printed a number of Chinese banknotes. By 1942 it made sense to merge with another Pennsylvania competitor, Security Bank Note.
    Pittsburgh Rolls RBN specimen.jpg

    E.A. Wright Bank Note Co. - Officially, E.A. Wright Bank Note was incorporated in 1907, though the founder had been working in Philadelphia since the 1870s. Specimens from this company were sometimes letter perforated, as on this Nat. Dime Bank of Shamokin stock. The company survived until 1964 and after a series of sales, ended up as part of Security-Columbian BN. Have you noticed a trend?
    Nat Dime Bank of Shamokin stock.jpg
  4. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Security-Columbian Bank Note Co. - In 1957, Security and Columbian merged. Following Columbian's established practice, their specimens also lack a serial number. After changing its official name to U.S. Banknote Corp. in 1965 (though not on its products), S-CBNCo. would eventually become the industry leader by the late 1980s. One might guess American Bank Note would weather the storm as the bank note industry imploded. But USBN bought them in 1990, leaving S-CBNCo. the last man standing and a virtual monopoly.
    General Dynamics SCBN specimen.jpg Security-Columbian sample stock.jpg

    Northern Bank Note Co. - Northern started out as a lithographic printing company in Chicago, but was printing engraved securities by the 1930s, like this voting trust certificate for the Missouri-Kansas Pipe Line Co. NBN sometimes acted as a subcontractor for Columbian and E.A. Wright. They were small enough not to present much real competition to the larger bank note companies and instead focused on a niche of printing municipal bonds. They survived until 1995, even longer than American Bank Note.
    MO-KS Pipe Line NBN specimen.jpg Northern BN specimen stock.jpg
    Drawde, midas1, DMPL_dingo and 8 others like this.
  5. SteveInTampa

    SteveInTampa Innocent bystander

    Interesting and informative thread Greg.

    The Homestead bond engraving, showing the woman carrying the bundle of wheat, almost looks European. I'm familiar with the Security-Columbia Banknote Co. from the research I was involved with concerning the Gilbert Paper Co. Gilbert supplied them with a lot of the paper they used.

    I'm guessing that most, if not all high quality bonds used paper similar to currency paper. Made from cotton/linen, and not wood pulp paper.
    gsalexan likes this.
  6. clayirving

    clayirving Supporter**

    Great collection! Thanks for sharing.
  7. mpcusa

    mpcusa "Official C.T. TROLL SWEEPER"

    Got a few of my own, will post when i can, awesome specimens !!

    Thanks for sharing :)
    midas1 likes this.
  8. kkathyl0

    kkathyl0 Active Member

    @gsalexan WOW those are awesome. Mary Kay with a rose dot on her face WV coal and Coke, and the JD I know those folks very well indeed. Worked with a few of the old timers several years back. That collection is amazing.

    Great picture too.

    thanks a bunch for the share...
    gsalexan likes this.
  9. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Amazing batch... these are really interesting.. that is for sharing.. I only have a few Chinese bonds and Nazi bonds
  10. Johndoe2000$

    Johndoe2000$ RE-MEMBER

    Very nice. Too bad we can't make them like these nowadays.
  11. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Well, the sad fact is we don't make them at all nowadays. Stocks and bonds are all traded electronically now and certificates are not being produced. Just 5 or 6 years ago you could buy stock shares and request them in certificate form for a hefty additional fee. I don't think they are even doing that any more.
  12. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    I think I'll add a few more images of some of my other specimens for fun. Most of these are by American Bank Note, but the first one is E.A. Wright BN and the last one is Security BN. Phillips Packing EAWBN specimen.jpg NoPac bond.jpg Hartford city bond.jpg NY Central.jpg West End Street Rwy.JPG Michigan Sugar SBN specimen.jpg
    Drawde, midas1 and MerlinAurelius like this.
  13. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    How did I forget this one ... ;)

    Playboy specimen.jpg
  14. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    I have to add one more that just arrived today. This won't be as cool to others as it is for me, but it's still a nice specimen. A preferred 100-share certificate from the Ann Arbor Railroad, circa 1915. My home town! I had an issued example already, but this is the first specimen I've seen.

    Ann Arbor RR specimen.jpg
    Ann Arbor RR specimen cu.jpg
    Drawde, midas1 and SteveInTampa like this.
  15. midas1

    midas1 Exalted Member

    The vignette on the purple Northern Pacific RR $1000,000.00 certificate is one of my all time favorites. The ghost like figures in front of the wagon are amazing. I have the
    vignette on one of my certs but it is much smaller than the one displayed here.
    Drawde likes this.
  16. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    I keep an eye out for representative specimens of various little bank note companies and this week I bagged a new one.

    Central Banknote Co. - Chicago seemed to spawn a lot of start-up bank note firms. Central was founded around 1920 by a former employee of Columbian Bank Note and it found a niche printing real estate bonds. E.A.Wright Bank Note acquired Central's assets around 1940, which eventually brought it back into the fold of Security-Columbian Bank Note. Specimens from Central BN apparently have no specimen markings, just punch hole lettering indicating the printer.

    General Empire CenBN specimen.jpg
    General Empire CenBN specimen cu.jpg
    SteveInTampa and midas1 like this.
  17. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    And here are a couple more obscure specimens that I recently acquired:

    Kihn Brothers Bank Note Co. - Around 1905 the Kihn Brothers bought the assets of Philadelphia Bank Note Co. and set up shop in New York City. They produced some tax and revenue stamps, and engraved tickets, but their mainstay was "blank" bonds and stock certificates. They marketed these under the "KB" brand. These were steel engraved and printed in mass quantities with the text left off. Smaller print shops could buy the style and colors their clients preferred, then add the company name and other legalese. It was less expensive for short print runs. Gugler Lithography in Milwaukee, which letter punched this sample in the lower right, was one of the printers that would custom print the KB blanks.

    It's unclear what became of Kihn Bros. They were still around in the early 1940s but seem to have disappeared after that.

    Kihn Bros specimen.jpg
    Kihn Bros specimen cu.jpg

    De La Rue Bank Note Co. - Thomas De La Rue is a very well-known name in Europe, having printed banknotes and securities in England since the 1850s. In the 1960s De La Rue tried to make in-roads in the U.S. market. They printed engraved stocks and bonds under both the De La Rue name and Federated Banknote Co. This specimen shows their signature female figure, who also appeared in numerous other vignettes. De La Rue never got a foothold in the U.S. and eventually backed out in the 1980s.

    West Penn Power specimen.jpg
    West Penn Power specimen cu.jpg
    Vornado cu.jpg
    Vornado FBC imprint.jpg
    midas1 likes this.
  18. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Here's a completed stock certificate on a Kihn Bros. blank, with the KB insignia in the lower left corner.

    Homestead Fire Insurance cu.jpg
    Homestead Fire Insurance.jpg
    Homestead Fire Insurance imprint.jpg
    midas1 and SteveInTampa like this.
  19. Wallace Darwin

    Wallace Darwin New Member

    Wow, it's so wonderful..
    How lucky your,sir have it all..
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