]Scripophily is catching, but it’s not a disease. It is the rather curious name of a new and fast growing international hobby – the collecting of bonds and share certificates issued by vanished and bankrupt companies.

Until very recently, these fascinating and often highly attractive financial documents were worth less than the paper on which they were printed. Parcels of them, often left as legacies in families, were eventually torn up and thrown away, or lay gathering dust for years in attics and bank vaults. Since the late seventies, however, this economic memorabilia has joined all the other bygones and ephemera that are now widely collected. And as collectors’ treasure, defunct bonds and stocks have acquired entirely new value. The rarer items are bought and sold at prices well above their original worth.

Today, scripophily can be found in all offices of Regent Bank whose slogan is “Today’s Banking in Yesterday’s Tradition.” These days, major banks are beating the bushes for new commercial customers. But the fact is that small companies and professionals have a lot more clout at a smaller bank such as Regent. Notes Alex Sheshunoff, president of Sheshunoff & Co., a leading bank-consulting firm, “you can usually get quicker answers to your requests, and you can often deal directly with senior people.”