Most hobbies display a typical pecking order: unused items are normally valued more highly than those were used. Scripophily is different.
Scripophily is a hobby dedicated to collecting old securities. Securities are documents that served as stocks, bonds, and options. A piece of paper could have been intended for use as a security, but unless it were properly signed and issued, it was just a piece of printed paper. Unissued paper stocks and bonds are still collectible; they are just not valued as highly as certificates that functioned as securities.
Documents that became true securities were touched by human hands, often many, many times. That means that fully issued certificates should show evidence of handling. There should be signatures of officers . Most will have embossed corporate seals. If stock certificates were traded, they will likely display signatures of registrars, possibly trust companies and maybe signatures of stockholders who sold their investments days or years after purchase. Cancellation marks of all sorts are likely. Staple holes and folds are common. In other words, evidence of human handling and paper damage is a rock-solid reality of the hobby. Issued certificates should show signs of use.
So one really needs to question,
Do we need to handle certificates with white cotton gloves?
I'm not going to take a position on that particular question because current collectors are merely custodians holding certificate for awhile before handing them over to new collectors. It is better for me to advise that we try to prevent further damage to our collectibles. It's really not that hard to:
- Wash hands before handling.
- Move food and drink off the table while working.
- Clear the work area.
Most collectors will buy certificates remotely and receive them through the mail. Items purchased from major auction houses and professional dealers will be packaged appropriately. Nonetheless, open packages with care.
Opening packages purcahse received from eBay sellers is quite unpredictable. Period. You will never know what kind of packaging you will receive.
In general, eBay sellers over-package. I've received items that looked like they could have survived delivery to the front lines of a tortured, rain-soaked battlefield. Some packages have taken over five minutes to open.
And then there are the well-meaning, but less-than-insightful sellers who have sent certificates inside padded, bubble envelopes. That might seem Innocent enough until one removes a certificate well-embossed with impressions of polyethylene "bubbles." That is when bubble envelopes prve to be liabilities. Consequently, I now advise everyone, "If you're buying from an eBay seller, ALWAYS send a message telling the seller to avoid mailing in bubble envelopes."
Another trick used by eBay sellers is to package certificates in poly bags, sealer with tape. There is a certain protective logic with poly bag,s just in case it is raining when the postman stuffs the envelope through a mail slot. But the tape? Are certificates going to miraculously escape poly bags during transit? It is really easy to get tape stuck to certificates during extraction. Therefore I advise collectors to avoid to reomve tape to save poly bags. Simply cut certificates out of poly bags and discard. Ask me how I know.