Friday, July 11, 2014

When rubber stamps set the records straight


"Every great mistake has a halfway moment, 
a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied."



Imagine that you ask a bank clerk on duty to transfer $100 to your mother's account. Today, a digital transaction like this is executed at the speed of light. Already the next second the amount has disappeared from your account. An everyday example of progress in our society. Then your bank clerk informs you that something went wrong : not $100 but $1000 was transferred by wire instead. Now your thoughts are swinging from "help" to "#@*&%!" . I'm sure that situation will be put right, but not at the speed of light.

Before the digital age, things worked more or less in the opposite way. It took a while to complete a transaction, and errors could be fixed, well almost, in a split second. Here are two examples to illustrate the point.


share certificate from  the Compagnie Du Chemin de Fer d'Intérêt Local D'Andelot a Levier
Compagnie du Chemin de Fer d'Intérêt Local d'Andelot a Levier
English : Andelot Levier Local Railway Company
Share of 500 Francs, 1899, Paris
double-click image to enlarge

Cancelled by mistake
After presenting this French railway share for the collection of a coupon dividend, its bearer must have been surprised when hearing that the share had been cancelled by mistake. Both signatures were hole-cancelled.

Compagnie du Chemin de Fer d'Intérêt Local d'Andelot a Levier
Detail from the share shown above, showing a hole-cancelled signature.

No need to worry. The clerk on duty solved the situation in an elegant way. Small pieces of paper were glued on the backside covering the cancellation holes, see the detail image below. A small rubber stamp reassured the owner :

ANNULÉ PAR ERREUR
CREDIT LYONNAIS, PARIS
LE S/CHEF DU SERVICE DES COUPONS

CANCELLED BY MISTAKE
CRÉDIT LYONNAIS, PARIS
DEPUTY MANAGER OF THE COUPON DEPARTMENT

And a signature on top of the stamp finalized the repair operation. All's well that ends well.



Drawn in error not issued
Not only stock certificates can be cancelled by mistake, but some of them are issued unintentionally. I'll use a certificate from the North American Rockwell Corporation as an illustration.


facsimilé signature of W. F. Rockwell Jr on stock certificate
North American Rockwell Corporation
More than 100 common shares of $1, 1972
facsimile W. F. Rockwell Jr.
Printed by Jeffries Banknote Co.

The certificate was issued to the NARC for 47,946 common shares but is stamped DRAWN IN ERROR NOT ISSUED. It is impossible to tell why this correction occurred, but as a result the stock certificate was invalidated. I can not remember seeing such stamps on non American certificates (yet). 

Drawn in error not issued stamp

What are the possible reasons for a DRAWN IN ERROR stamp ? I'm not sure. Some guesses : an incorrect spelling of the bearer's name, a wrong amount or quantity, or maybe an invalid date of issue. Anyway, a stamp set the record straight.

Detail from the NARC stock certificate (see above), 
double-click the image to enlarge.

There is a lot to see on this detail but you should pay attention to
the box containing the number of shares issued. In particular look at
the fine hash pattern of lines running in an upper left to lower right 

direction. In the pattern the word "SHARES" appears and the letters 
seem to be raised from the background. It is an illusion created by 
curves in the lines. In an attempt to count these lines, counted 
on average 5 lines per millimeter.


Rubber stamps were also applied with other 'changes of state' of securities, such as an increase of capital message. Today in our paperless offices rubber stamps have been replaced by virtual UNDO, REDO, CANCEL and DELETE application buttons.

F.L.

P.S. Do you have other remarkable examples of rubber stamps used on scripophily ? Let me know, I'd be happy to include your example.

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