"One of these things is not like the other..."

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January 14, 2017

It's interesting how differences between otherwise similar items don't always present themselves until or unless you are looking at a group of those items.

I was doing my normal eBay browsing, this time in stock certificates, and noticed what I saw to be an anomaly. Utilizing my Google-fu and compiling a library of images of similar certificates, it turns out it may be more rare than I initially thought. Then again, as we all know, rare doesn't necessarily mean valuable when it comes to philately. It might just be an interesting oddity.

The Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad Co. issued a very lovely bond (Cox BOS-324-B-35) with 3 imprinted revenues: RN-W2 flanked on either side by an RN-P5. As railroad stocks and bonds go, it is quite common, with prices ranging from $25 (eBay) to $200 (LaBarre Galleries), varying by condition and the number of bond coupons still attached.

Based on the serial numbers in the 26 examples I was able to find images of, at least 20,000 or so were printed. The serial numbers I found ranged from #128 to #19806.

Below are reduced images of the 26 examples I found images of. I cropped out the bond coupon sections of the images, as the anomaly in question is on the certificate portion of the document. Condition and lighting/color differences aside, I think you'll find that they are all identical in composition.

Now here is the certificate I saw:

Notice the differences?

Not only is it a very low serial number (#7), but the positions of the imprinted revenues are haphazard, not aligned as in all of the above examples. I posit that when printing started, there was no concern on the part of the printers about positioning the revenue imprints in any specific alignment, but a shop foreman or quality control inspector decided that it looked shoddy and that a more aesthetically pleasing positioning should be implemented, and it was changed somewhere between serial numbers 7 and 128.

I supposed it is theoretically possible that there are other pockets of misalignment to be found within the 20,000+ run, but I find that highly unlikely. Moving forward, I plan to keep an eye out for other low serial numbers in hopes of constraining the potential population of the misaligned versions.

At first glance, it appears that the population would be extremely low, being at most 0.61% of all examples (121 possible examples out of 19806), with the possiblity of that percentage going lower if the serial number range is constrained or the highest serial number being higher than 19806.

Does that mean it's valuable? Likely not... although we've seen postal stationery EFO collectors assign premiums to items with mispositioned imprints. Could this fall in the same category? I have no idea how specialist RN collectors or scripophilists would treat an item like this. I'm content with it just being a neat find.

Additional images below.

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