Scripophily, the collecting of old stocks and bonds, gained recognition as a hobby around 1970. The word "scripophily" was coined by combining words from English and Greek. The word "scrip" represents an ownership right and the word "philos" means to love.
Today, there are thousands of collectors worldwide (Scripophilists) in search of scarce, rare, and popular stocks and bonds. Collectors who come from a variety of businesses enjoy this as a hobby, although there are many who also consider scripophily a good investment. In fact, over the past several years, the hobby has exploded in popularity.
Many collectors like the historical significance of old certificates. Others prefer the beauty of older stocks and bonds that were printed in various colors with fancy artwork and ornate engraving. In recent times, Dot com companies and scandals have been particularly popular issuances.
A recent addition to the hobby is collecting real, live shares issued in one's name. Common companies that issue stock certificates include Walt Disney, Harley-Davidson, McDonald's, Starbucks, Google, Ford Motors, Coca-Cola, and Berkshire Hathaway. Again, framing is a popular option for these shares.
A large part of scripophily is the area of financial history. Over the years there have been millions of companies which needed to raise money for their business. In order to do so, the founders of these companies issued securities. Generally speaking, they either issued an equity security in the form of stock or a debt security in the form of a bond. However, there are many varieties of equity and debt instruments.
Each certificate is a piece of history about a company and its business. Some companies became major successes, while others were acquired and merged with other companies. Some companies and industries were successful until they were replaced by new technologies. Some companies have been the center of scandal or fraud. The color, paper, signatures, dates, stamps, cancellations, borders, pictures, vignettes, industry, stock broker, name of company, transfer agent, printer, and holder name all add to the uniqueness of the hobby.
A lot of companies either were never successful or went bankrupt, so that their certificates became worthless pieces of paper until the hobby of scripophily began. The mining boom in the 1850s, railroad construction in the 1830s, the oil boom in the 1870s, telegraphy (1850s), the automobile industry beginning around 1900, aviation (around 1910), electric power and banks in the 1930s, the airline wars and mergers in the 1970s, cellular telephones (1980s), long distance telephone service in the 1980s and 1990s, and most recently the dot-com era all resulted in historically significant certificates being generated and issued.
Today, more stocks and bonds are issued electronically, meaning fewer paper certificates are issued as a percentage of actual stock issued. The Internet has played a dramatic role in raising awareness of the hobby.