Some OK banksters and a primer on Scripophily


Dear Mr. Berko:

My grandfather died in 2001 with eight different stocks in his footlocker, and I can't find one of them in the paper. A broker told me he could send them to his home office, and for $150 each, they'd tell me if the certificates had any value.

The certificates themselves are beautiful, as you can see from the color copies I enclosed, but I don't want to spend $1,200 if they turn out to be worth nothing. A friend said that you had once recommended a Robert Fisher, who said one of my friend's stocks was worth $11.50 a share. (He had 67 shares.) Fisher charged him $60 and told him where to send his certificates for the money. The other stock was worth nothing, but the signature on the stock was famous, and it was sold at an auction for $282.

If you can't find any values, please send me Fisher's address so I can send the certificates to him.

My last question concerns $5,500, which my son and I want to gamble with in the market. Can you recommend three cheap stocks under $5 a share that you think could go higher in the next year or two? We don't want to lose that money but are willing to take a chance with it. We look forward to your answer.

GL, Erie, Pa.

Dear GL:

Taking a gamble without risk is like trying to milk an anvil. And you must be a knee-walking, stool-hugging drunk or dumber than a kumquat to think it can be done. But there are many rank speculations for less than $5 that could have an exciting bang for your buck. The odds are better than the horses, and in this instance, the bookie will be a broker.

Now, I don't like bank stocks or banksters -- especially the big-city picaroons who have less conscience than a fox in a hen house. Complimenting the following banks stocks is like is putting perfume on a pig. But if you like pork chops, then read on.

Synovus Financial (SNV-$1.41) floats my boat and pays a 4-cent dividend ... In 2007, when the Dow was in the bozone layer, SNV was trading in the low $30s and got zapped by the mortgage crisis. Now, for the first time since 2008, SNV expects to report a profit. This $700 million revenue bank, with $4.37 in cash per share and a book value of $2.86, could earn 15 cents in 2012, raise its dividend to a nickel and trade at $5.00 a share in two years.

Regions Finance (RF-$3.99) is a $6.3 billion revenue bank with an $11.08 book value, $9.98 in cash per share, 28,000 employees and 1,800 branches in 14 states. Earnings for 2012 could be 48 cents, and the .04-cent dividend may be raised to a dime.

Finally, Flagstar Bancorp (FBC-56 cents) has 166 branches and 3,200 employees and before the market went bonkers was hugely profitable. In 2010, FBC had a 1-for-10 reverse split, and it may eke out a profit in 2012. With a $1.78 book value, FBC could trade up to $3 in the coming two years.

As for the certificates, I didn't realize a copy machine could make such exquisite reproductions. And were it not for the paper, most folks couldn't tell the difference between real and fake. Anyhow, the signatures do not have any historical significance, as would certificates signed by Edison, Morgan, Insul, Pullman, et. al.

However, the color combinations, the engraving and the printing process make those certificates as beautiful as a symphony by Bach or a painting by Michael "Mickey" Angelo. Because of that artistic beauty, scripophilists (folks who collect old stock certificates) might be willing to pay you a few hundred bucks per certificate. And if those certificates are rare, then a scripophilist would be willing to pay you a handsome sum and then some.

Robert Fisher, who was one of the pre-eminent scholars in this field, retired to Florida 10 years ago to play golf. So a knowledgeable and dependable source to contact is Spink Smythe, and their website is I don't know any of the folks there, but they have been in business for generations and are trustworthy.


Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at Visit Creators Syndicate website at

© 2011 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Published: Fri, Dec 23, 2011