Many collectors favor the vignettes seen on issues by railroad, aviation and automobile companies. Railroad securities from the 1860s tend to boast detailed drawings of trains, or of landscapes that teem with burly bison and tilt the imagination to America's romance with westward expansion.
Others delight in the inexplicable draw of a particular piece of paper with a unique story.
"I have one stock certificate that I won't ever sell," says Bob Kerstein, founder of the online certificate dealer scripophily.com. "Shadyside Operators Inc. from Oct. 29, 1929, the date of the stock-market crash," he says. "It's not worth a lot. I wouldn't pay more than $400 to $500 for it. But I wouldn't sell it. It's just the humor and the irony of it."Maybe it's time to check auntie's attic and see what is in all those dust covered boxes.