Stock certificates used to be among Americans' most precious possessions -- tangible proof of their equity in a company and, ultimately their wealth. The importance of certificates wasn't lost on companies, either.
They adorned certificates with rich illustrations of everything from classical allegorical figures of Greek deities or historical figures to dramatic pictures of their products in order to convince potential investors that they were a good place to put their money (The elaborate engravings and other visual elements served another, more practical purpose, as well: foiling counterfeiters with difficult-to-duplicate details).
But with the move to electronic record keeping in the investing world continuing inexorably on, the paper stock certificate is becoming less a practical necessity and more an interesting historical artifact and collectible. In fact, thanks to the popularity of scripophily, a term for the study and collecting of stock certificates coined in a Financial Times contest in the late '70s, some certificates now sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars each.
Here are 10 of the coolest certificates ever printed.