Saturday, March 16, 2013

Habemus Papam

What's the number of scripophily collectors in the Vatican City? I wonder. According to the outcome of an earlier exercise on estimating the number of collectors, see here, I estimate that number at zero collectors .. on a population of less than 1000 people.

emblem of the Vatican
detail from the share below

Papal scripophily
Modern bonds have been issued by the Papal States since the early 1800s. Many of those certificates bear the emblem of the Papacy. Rather puzzling are share certificates printed with such an emblem. The emblem shown above is such an example. Why does this emblem appear on a share of a French fishing company ?

share certificate of the Pêcheries de la Morinie
Pêcheries de la Morinie
English: Fisheries of Morinie
share of 1000 Francs, Boulogne-Sur-Mer, 1934
double-click to enlarge

Tiara and Keys
The emblem on the share depicts the Papal tiara and the keys of Saint Peter. Both are used as external ornaments in the coat of arms of the Vatican. Often the keys are shown in gold and silver. Both represent heaven (gold) and earth (silver) and are in the hands of the pope.

Sede vacante
There is a variant of the emblem, using an umbraculum, an "umbrella", instead of the tiara. That version is applied between the reigns of two popes. After the death or resignation of a pope, the Holy See enters a period of sede vacante, or freely translated "vacant seat". 

Nominative annual perpetuity of 102 scudi and 64 baiocchi, dated 1829.
The certificate was printed with the emblem sede vacante.
double-click to enlarge image
Source: Titoli Azionari Antichi - V Edizione 
by Alex Witula, Portafoglio Storico

The papal emblems can also be found on stamps, notes and coins, even the sede vacante variant.

coin of Vatican City showing sede vacante emblem
Scudo, 1846 , sede vacante
Cardinal Tommaso Riario-Sforza

source: Classical Numismatic Group

Back to the French share. Why does it show the Papal emblem ? For a while I had no clue at all, then, somehow, I focused on the company's name. You see that the name of the company has been partly overstamped with a black bar. When you take a closer look, you can recognize the original name. I took a detailed scan of that part of the name, and with an image editor I changed the hue color properties, so you can see more clearly that the original company name was Pêcheries Saint-Pierre, in English: Saint Peter Fisheries.

Pêcheries de la Morinie, or Pêcheries Saint-Pierre
La Morinie is a region in the north of France 
detail from the share above 
image with edited hue colors

Saint Peter, also known as Simon Peter, apostle of Jesus, was a fisherman. He was recognized by the Catholic Church as the first Pope. Saint Peter is the patron of fishermen. This could be the link between the share certificate and the Vatican. 


NB: If you have any other examples of certificates with the Papal emblem, I'd happy to include the images in this post.

fishing boat leaving harbour
detail from the share above

Reference links


  1. it is surprising to me that papal bonds don't seem to be worth much bearing in mind you hardly ever see them - i have a very nice cancelled 1866 issue that the guys in italy said was quite common there and worth Euro 60 if i recall.

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Good point. I agree, you hardly see these papal bonds on online auction platforms or on bourses in my region. Does this mean that there are almost none available, that is something different.

    Further, I think the ones with the umbraculum emblem should be more scarce than the ones with the regular emblem.

    By the way, here is a link to the database of the Belgian collector's club. Choose the Vatican city as country of activity and you will find more online examples :

    Thanks for the inputs,