Published January 13, 2015
Enron Corp.'s stock is rising once again -- but don't look for its rebound in Standard & Poor's 500 index listings.
Now it's joined a much more select group that includes stocks and bonds from Czarist Russia, Victorian railroads and countries that no longer exist: Collectors have been snapping up Enron stock certificates as artifacts of the company's spectacular collapse, not on hopes for a recovery.
While Enron's shares were at 58 cents in Friday trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the physical stock certificate was selling for much more, fetching as much as $99.95 on the Internet.
``It's one of the biggest bankruptcies ever and is quite a collectible,'' Bob Kerstein, president of Scripophily.com, a Web site which specializes in selling old stock and bond certificates said on Thursday.
Kerstein said he sold four of the certificates to a hedge fund manager who made a fortune selling Enron stock short. Now the investor plans to give the certificates out as gifts and display a framed one on his wall, like a stuffed deer head hanging on the wall of a hunter's study.
The Enron certificate is blue and white, with an etched drawing of a brawny man in a hard hat sitting in the foreground of an oil field and a printed signature of Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lay in the bottom right corner.
``We just put it up today and we already sold five of them,'' Kerstein said. ``A company like Enron everybody wants.''
Kerstein, whose Web site sells certificates ranging from 19th Century Railroad bonds to recent dead dot-coms such as WebVan, said that he could have sold 100 Enron certificates over Christmas if he had them on hand.
Collectors of old stocks and bonds, who call their hobby scripophily or 'love of ownership,' seek out certificates that have aesthetic value, contain rare signatures or have historical significance.
``People are always seeking a piece of history that says something about the time'' Kerstein said. ``Enron says a lot.''
Enron's stock, which traded at $90.75 at its height in August 2000, hit a low of 25 cents earlier this month as the company spiraled toward the biggest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. While investors can still buy the stock at 58 cents, Kerstein justifies his price by citing brokers fees and charges for issuing physical certificates.
Unlike trading on the exchange, the pricing for the certificates is inexact and can vary by condition and other factors. Enron certificates were being bid on eBay Inc.'s auction Web site for as low as $19.
Enron's transfer agent EquiServe Inc. said that in September through November it received requests to issue an average of 580 Enron certificates per month, but has received 3,500 in December alone, because of the interest generated by the bankruptcy
Thomas Carroll, who is the director of sales and marketing for satellite launching company International Launch Services, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Russia's Khrunichev Space agency, has been collecting stock certificates for over a year. He just bought the Enron certificate for sentimental reasons.
``I was on the site this morning, and when I saw it I knew I needed to have it,'' he said. Back when Enron was Houston Natural Gas, he worked for a different satellite company that helped transmit data on the rate of growth of rust in pipelines.
But stock certificates are not the only piece of Enron nostalgia out there, as the company's collapse is spawning an industry of its own.
On eBay Inc.'s auction Web site, people are selling Enron watches, Yo Yo's and mugs. Several parody Web sites have also been set up by ex-Enron workers who are fed up with the company after seeing their 401(k) plans dwindle to a fraction of their value as shares of the company's stock plummeted.
The Web sites, laydoff.com, enronx.com and thecrookede.com sell T-shirts with slogans such as, ``I got laid off from Enron and all I got was this lousy T-shirt,'' ``The Execs that Stole Christmas'' and ``I got Lay'd by Enron,'' a reference to the company's CEO Ken Lay.
When told about what Enron certificates were selling for, company spokeswoman Karen Denne couldn't suppress a laugh.
``That's a better price than Enron was selling for on its best day,'' Denne said.