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One of the largest land scams in American history was perpetrated by the Casa Grande Improvement Co. Ltd. This 1889 Arizona stock certificate from that firm, pictured right, was one of the important lots of mining stock and documents offered on March 23 by Fred Holabird Americana.

The certificate in this sale was issued to J.A. Peralta Reavis of Casa Grande, Arizona, for 50 shares in August 1889. It was signed by R.G. Ingersoll as president and C.P. Fassett as secretary. Printed by American Bank Note Co., it had an olive green border and underprint, black print, and four vignettes picturing the ruins of Casa Diablo, Ariz., Indians attacking buffalo, a frontiersman with children and cattle, and an eagle in the upper right corner with the number of shares in the middle. It is an extremely rare document, with only one other known among major collections.

Reavis faked approximately 200 documents in what the Holabird auction catalogue calls a “land grant swindle package”. The package led investors to believe the land holdings Reavis claimed dated from Spanish times. Beginning in 1881 when Reavis announced the Casa Grande holdings, investors readily gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars to be used to settle Arizona.

Reavis continued extracting money from various interests until 1895, when he was tried in a formal Land Grant hearing as a result of a report published by a government surveyor named General Royal Johnson. Reavis was sentenced to two years in prison in 1896, but only openly admitted the fraud years later in a newspaper interview.

Owing to its rarity, historical significance and ornate decoration, the example offered by Holabird brought $7100 (£5145) plus 12 per cent premium against a $3,000-5,000 estimate.