Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Saved at the last minute

Do you think that shares certificates have a life of their own ?  Yes, I think so. Shares are born, find a companion and even get a career. And they retire, and some of them face a horrible end.

Share certificates are born in a split second the moment they are printed. Some of them can be quite large, others are small. Many shares look rather plain, and believe me, there are some real uglies out there. But there also a lot of beauties you can't keep your eyes off. Pretty soon they get their serial number and the signatures of the company officers they represent.

share in the Tôt-Lam tea company from Indochina, dated 1912

A real knockout, this Tôt-Lam tea share from 1912 sold for €800 in Mario Boone's Apr 2018 auction. 
courtesy Mario Boone 

Already from birth, share certificates speak their mother tongue. Some can speak two languages, and a few of them are real polyglots. In fact, they need to talk, some can be really mouthy, in order to attract a companion, a human companion. People are fond of shares, because of their looks and their gossip, and especially because shares support the ambitions of people. You can find out more about that in this short introduction later.

Share from the Société Financière d'Égypte with text in four languages

This share from the Société Financière d'Égypte was issued in 1863. The construction of the Suez Canal, which was still in progress, made Egypt, then part of the Ottoman Empire, commercially and strategically important to foreign powers. The share is a true "polyglot" and speaks French, English, Arabic and Italian. 

A share starts its career as soon as it is issued. Then it has been purchased by its companion, the owner of the share. The latter's name is often written on the front. The share keeps talking on and on. 
"Please keep me, I'm still in a top shape"
"Hey, can't you give me a nice coupon cut ?"
"Sorry, I'm not feeling well this quarter"
"Did you see that? That bully stamped me on the forehead !"
The certificate is whining all the time, but as lang as things go well, share and owner stay together.

Some share certificates are born under a lucky star. They are issued to or signed by a pioneering entrepreneur, a Nobel Prize winner, a President of a nation, or even a rockstar. In that case, these shares can see the world, experience adventures or witness important events. Of course, they brag about it. Can you imagine the jealousy that is between them ?

Scindia Steam Navigation share certificate with signature of Sumati Moraree

Sumati S. Morarjee signed this share in the Scindia Steam Navigation Company (SSNC). Sumati Morarjee was married to Shanti Kumar Narottam Morarjee, son of Narottam Morarjee, the founder of the SSNC. She was a very close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. At her home, she took care of Gandhi while he was recovering from appendicitis (1924) and after his release from prison in Poona (1944). Sumati became in full charge of the SSNC by 1946. She was the first female ship magnate and the first woman in the world to head an organisation of ship owners - the Indian National Steamship Owners Association. 

During their career shares incur creases, tear and receive ink stamps. They can look weary, but all that is an illusion. These physical characteristics point to hardened veterans that have been on a mission all the time. Make no mistake. The ink stamps received are service ribbons awarded for heroic action in stressful financial operations such as capital increases, currency conversions and par value reductions.

When share certificates retire they are appointed Commander in the Order of the Grand Cancellation and proudly wear the ultimate medal : a String of Cancellation Holes, a Cancelling Pen Stroke, a Cancellation Stamp or any of those combinations.

share in the London and North Eastern Railway Company (LNER)

The London and North Eastern Railway Company (LNER) was one of the "Big Four" in the Interwar Period. The company also operated several ships. Many of these were lost in World War II. The SS Archangel was bomded and sunk off the East coast of Scotland (1941). The SS Malines was torpedoed off Port Said (1942), and the SS Amsterdam struck a mine off Normandy, France (1944). This LNER share started its career in 1927 and wears now with great satisfaction its medal, the String of Cancellation Holes.

And they lived happily ever after! Well, only a few do. The other day I saw this McLeod and Company share. McLeod built and owned several railways in and around Calcutta. 

ordinary shares certificate from McLeod and Company, Limited

McLeod's railways, managed by McLeod Light Railways, were organized as separate companies, e.g. Kalighat Falta Railway, Ahmedpur-Katwa Light Railway, Burdwan-Katwa Light Railway and Bankura Damodar Railway. McLeod also operated textile mills in India. 

Born with serial number 3829, the McLeod share started its career in 1948. McLeod-3829 was decorated with tax stamps and pen stroke cancellations. All of a sudden I felt disturbed because of a conspicuous ink stamp that was put upside down on the document. I turned the paper for a better look.

ink stamp with text  Surrendered for dematerialisation

My goodness ! SURRENDERED FOR DEMATERIALISATION. Just like banknotes, at the end of their life cycle, share certificates are shredded and sent to the incinerator. I knew that, but still, I was shocked. 

Then I saw the smile on McLeod-3829 that told me that a kind person had saved it from the worst. Phew. I winked at it, "You are safe with me now", and I gave the poor share a big hug. Oops !  


NB: Thank you for signing the Guest book

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Worldwide scripophily touch down in Würzburg

HWPH Historisches Wertpapierhaus AG has something to celebrate ! The company conducts its 50th auction anniversary on Saturday 15 September, a week from today.  Over 900 lots of bonds and shares will then go on the block at public auction. And more than 1,200 lots are offered in the accompanying online auction ending 2 PM Monday 17 September. Here is a quick tour.

The Asia and the Middle-East section starts the ball rolling in both sales. Here are a few observations. Issued in Shanghai, 1939, a share from the Russian-Chinese Credit Society,  L(ot) 685, extremely rare, starts at €2,500. The Holy Land is well represented with certificates like The Palestine Corporation Limited, 1949, L973. A share from The Palestine Land Development Company dates from as early as 1909, L974. The Japanese Meigo Steel Corporation and Naigai Steel Corporation may be acquired from €1. From Turkey, there is the Drumm Collection, historic in Scripophily, but more about that see there.

The Premier Automobiles Ltd., India 
Lot 977 in the auction, the share is signed by the industrialist, philanthropist and cricketer Lalchand Hirachand as Director, and starts at €120. 

Almost 300 lots represent The Americas. An early Puerto-Rican share, L23, Compañia del Vapor de Catañio starts at €130. From New Orleans, a 1840 Mexican Gulf Rail-Way Company bond, L37,  invites bidding from €450. Nearly 50 Confederate States of America are offered in both auctions. The advanced CSA expert will recognize the CSA 8% Montgomery, 1861, $500 and $1000 bonds, L24 & L25, vignettes of J. C. Calhoun and J. Davis, respectively. Lot range 48-52 is all about Thomas Alva Edison scripophily, including signatures.

William Steinway, who made the Steinway & Sons piano company world famous, developed his own company town Steinway Village in Astoria, New York. This is the serial number 1 share from the Astoria Electrical Manufacturing Company, issued to its Director William Steinway, 1891. The company manufactured electrical motors. Lot 18 in the auction, €150 start price. 

HWPH, known for its Russian offerings, included this time nearly 250 lots from Russia and the former USSR. Formed in London, the New Central Siberia Ltd, L703, was active in gold mining around Yeniseysk. From Saratov, a rare 1000 Roubel bond from 1898, L782, is set at €1,600. Vignettes of a tramcar, a map of the region and a dynamo illustrate an extremely rare share from the Donbass Electric Company, L691.

A great example of Soviet artistic design, click the image to enlarge. This lottery bond was part of an internal loan issued for Stalin's second five-year plan, 1933. Lot 888, in the auction, may be bought from €100. 

Excluding Russian and German material, HWPH included over 500 European lots, representing nearly every country. Here are some interesting items. You'll find their chocolate in almost any airport, from Switzerland, €70 can buy you a Chocolat Tobler share, L1020. Art Nouveau and Art Deco artists created wonderful angels on these beauties : Banco Regional de Cataluña, L69, La  Protectrice, L99 and Exposition Religieuse Internationale de 1900, L120.  The sales 50 Highlights section includes a spectacular share from The Baltic Salvage Association. What words can not describe, a high quality image reveals in detail. So here is a link.

Zoo collectors will love seeing these : Thiergarten-Gesellschaft in Wien, L155, Actien-Verein des zoologischen Gartens zu Berlin, L333 , Neue Zoologische Gesellschaft, Frankfurt, L457, Société Royale de Zoologie d'Anvers, L1333 and my personal favorite, Koninklijk Zoologisch Genootschap Natura Artis Magistra, Amsterdam, L669.

Koninklijk Zoologisch Genootschap Natura Artis Magistra
500 Gulden share, unissued, 1853, Amsterdam 
Natura Artis Magistra, or "Nature is the teacher of the arts", is one the oldest zoos built on mainland Europe. The zoo had three gates with the words 'Natura', 'Artis' and 'Magistra'. The Artis gate was the main one, and that's how the zoo is usually called. Only a handful of certificates like this one,  L669, are known. Bids are invited from €2,000. 

Over 900 German lots are spread over several sections in both auctions :
  • 16th - 18th century
  • Germany pre 1948
  • German currency history
  • Deutsch Mark (DM) certificates
  • Southern Germany 
  • 50 Highlights
From the pre 1948 section, I noted Stadt Magdeburg 8% 100,000 Mark bond, 1923, text in German and, unusual, also in English, with striking colors and great harbour vignette, L1667.
Some German bonds and shares have survived several currency periods. During their circulation these certificates have received several currency conversion stamps, and therefore form an interesting collecting theme 'German currency history'.  The William Janssen AG share, L1722, lived through four currency periods : issued in Mark, stamped consecutively in Gold Mark and Reichsmark and was still negotiable in the early DM period.  
The DM section contains several early computer manufacturers : Anker-Werke, L1731, Nixdorf Computer, L602, Walther Electronic, L1856, and Siemens, L304.
The auctioneer produced a dedicated catalogue for The 50 Highlights section with extra large images and background information. Among the German lots, you'll find a collection of 192 Hamburg city related loans, some of them from the 18th and even the 17th century, L653. Historic is a J. W. von Goethe share from 1793, see the following image. 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe signed this Ilmenauer Kupfer- und Silber Bergwerk share, issued in 1793. Goethe, mainly known as a poet, novelist, playwright (Faust), philosopher, diplomat and politician, was also a mineralogist. The mineral goethite (iron oxide) is named after him. One of highlights in Matthias Schmitt's 50th auction, lot 650, it is expected to realize €20,000. 

Of course, there is much more to tell, but the best way is to see for yourself. Here are the auction details :

  • dates & locations
    • HWPH Auction 50 (lots 1-912): 15 September 2018, Würzburg, including Award Journalistenpreis Historische Wertpapiere und Finanzgeschichte around 3 PM as part of the auction event
    • Ersten Deutschen Historic-Actien-Club e.V (EDHAC) members meeting:  16 September, same location of the public auction, Würzburg
    • HWPH Auction 51 (lots 913-2180): 17 September, Internet only
  • More info


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Drumm Ottoman Collection comes up for sale

For the first time in its existence THE reference collection of Ottoman and Turkish scripophily is going to be auctioned. The event takes place on 15 September 2018 and is organized by HWPH Historisches Wertpapierhaus AG. Place to be is Würzburg, Germany. 

Smyrna Cassaba railway specimen bond from 1894

This 1894 specimen bond from the Smyrna Cassaba railway is one of the 274 certificates from the Drumm CollectionThe Ottoman Government sold the Smyrna Cassaba concession to Georges Nagelmackers, founder of Wagons-Lits, known for the Orient Express trains. 

Ulrich Drumm gathered over several decades the collection of 274 certificates from the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish State. It will be sold as a single group lot, lot 682 in HWPH's upcoming September auction. The collection formed the basis for the Drumm, Henseler, Glasemann catalogue Ottomanisches Kaiserreich und Türkei - Aktien und Anleihen, 1854-1938. The catalogue has been the standard work for Ottoman scripophily collectors since its year of publishing. 

Drumm founded Freunde Historischer Wertpapiere in 1974 with Alfons W. Henseler. This company specialized in auctions for antique stocks and bonds. FHW also started the publication of a magazine for collectors, the Zeitung für Historische Wertpapiere

Between 1975 and 1986 Drumm's company launched the Historische Wertpapiere series of reference catalogues. After publishing volumes on "Russian Railways", "Chinese Shares and Bonds", "Russian City Bonds" and "Austrian Railways", Vol 5 "Ottoman Empire and Turkey" appeared in 1983. The last volume in the series included "Italian Railways".

This certificate is illustrated and identified in the Drumm catalogue under entry TR1265c. Issued in 1910, Constantinople, it is an extremely rare 10 shares certificate from the Banque de Turquie pour favoriser le Commerce et l'Industrie.  

In the 19th century the Ottoman Empire included for some time parts of the Balkan, Greece, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Algeria. The Société du Chemin de Fer Ottoman de Jaffa à Jérusalem et Prolongements issued this 500 Francs bond in 1894. This is one of the certificates that Drumm added to the collection after the catalogue appeared.

Auctioneer Matthias Schmitt has high expectations of this exceptional collection. Included are many rare and important securities from the Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish state. More, after the publication of the book, Drumm extended the collection. Schmitt adds :
Just take these three examples (illustrated in this post), the combined value of these three certificates alone already make up for 20% of the ask price.

A detailed list of the items (lot 682) is available on request from the auctioneer :

  • Further info : HWPH's 50th Public Auction, see here, the Drumm Collection, see there  
  • Location : Würzburg, Germany
  • Date : 15 September 2018 

F. L.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Hieroglyphs in scripophily deciphered !

Antique securities from companies that operated in Egypt were typically illustrated with pharaonic themes and hieroglyphs. Standing on their own as true pieces of artwork, their mysterious designs made possible investors dream of promising outcomes. People bought these share certificates in the 19th and 20th century when the stock exchanges of Alexandria and Cairo flourished. But are the hieroglyphs on these certificates actually legible? 

Crédit Agricole d'Egypte 
1 Share of 4 Egyptian Pounds, 1951 
Are the hieroglyphs in the lower border genuine
Click image to enlarge 

In August 2016, the Belgian radio program #weetikveel (English: I Don't Know) featured an Egyptologist in a broadcast about the pharaohs of Egypt. I had been puzzled for quite a while by the hieroglyphs that were printed on Egyptian shares. I introduced myself by email to the guest speaker, researcher Marleen De Meyer, and she was amused by the pictures of these antique securities I had sent her. She agreed to have a look at them to see whether the texts were actually legible. 

Gibberish!, she said when I showed her this stunning share in the Crédit Agricole d'Egypte. De Meyer works as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Archaeology with a specialty in Egyptology at KU Leuven University. She is an experienced Egyptologist and can read and understand ancient Egyptian texts. 

The earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions are over 5000 years old. The knowledge of reading them was completely lost some 1500 years ago. The world had to wait until the time of Napoleon to regain that expertise. Under the pretext of protecting the French interests in Egypt, he sent his Armée d'Orient on expedition to Egypt in 1798. Pierre-François Bouchard, one of Napoleon's officers, found in 1799 near Rosetta, a city in the Nile Delta, a stone slab bearing inscriptions in three different scripts. The stone would lead to a breakthrough in deciphering hieroglyphics.

Fayoum Light Railways Company Société Anonyme 
4% £20 Sterling Bearer Bond, Cairo, 1899, printed by Charles Skipper & East
The symbols printed in the bond's upper and lower border look like hieroglyphs.

Also the hieroglyphs on the Fayoum Light Railways bond are total nonsense. But a share from the Electric Light and Power Supply Company was more interesting. Marleen De Meyer explains :
  • The inscriptions on the pylon, the temple gateway, are (also) nonsense. 
  • The inscriptions below both sphinxes are legible hieroghlyphs. They are derived from the titulature of Ramses II, though not without faults.
I am pleased. Finally, we're getting somewhere !

Electric Light and Power Supply Co. Société Anonyme
dividend share, Cairo, issued 1933
The inscriptions below both sphinxes are legible hieroghlyphs
but those on the pylon, the temple gateway, are not.

When Pierre-François Bouchard found the Rosetta Stone there was nobody who could translate the stone's inscriptions. The same text was written in three languages : Greek, Demotic, and Ancient Egyptian (hieroglyphs). At this time, no one had been able to decipher the latter two scripts, but Greek was of course known. Bouchard told his superiors and his commanding officer Nicolas-Jacques Conté, that he had found something of importance. Before they joined Napoleon's army in Egypt, Bouchard and Conté were already friends. Both had lost an eye during one of Conté's experiments with hydrogen gas.

The Rosetta Stone, measuring 112cm high, 75cm wide, 28cm thick, and weighing about 760 kilograms, was brought to Cairo. Napoleon's expedition in Egypt included many scientists who described and drew ancient monuments and antiquities. Eager to inform their colleagues in France, they tried to copy the Rosetta Stone’s texts by hand.

That proved to be an error-prone process. Nicolas-Jacques Conté suggested to use the Rosetta Stone itself as a printing block to reproduce the inscription. They applied ink to the surface, including the incisions, and then cleaned off the ink from the raised surface. The resulting print, in reverse text, could be read from the back side, or in a mirror. Copies of the stone's texts reached Paris in 1801.

Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez 
specimen dividend share, 1924
The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. It was constructed by Ferdinand de Lesseps' Suez Canal company between 1859 and 1869. The drawing of the share is made by James Pouchet, an engineer working for de Lesseps. Pouchet designed several buildings along the Suez Canal, including the Viceroy Palace at Ismailia. (L'Illustration: Journal Universel, 16 Oct 1869)
image courtesy : Mario Boone 

For many years now, Marleen De Meyer has been researching the field of funerary culture from Egypt's Old and Middle Kingdom. Since 2002 she is a permanent team member of the Dayr al-Barsha Project directed by the Egyptology research group at KU Leuven. Dayr al-Barsha is located in Middle Egypt, where in 2014, De Meyer discovered in the area of the Old Kingdom rock tombs (2300-2200 BC), an extraordinary and well preserved plaster funerary mask.

A five hour drive from Dayr al-Barsha takes you to Suez, which brings us to the next item to discuss. Marleen could easily identify the meaning of the symbols on the Suez Canal share because these are genuine hieroglyphs. James Pouchet, a Suez Canal engineer who made the drawing for the Suez Canal share, had accurately copied the writings. Marleen clarifies :
  • The one on the left says : "Lord of The Two Lands, Cleopatra", dating to the Ptolemaic Period 
  • The column on the right reads : "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of The Two Lands, Necho II", 26th Dynasty (610-595 BCE)

Details from the Suez Canal share, see above. 
The inscriptions have been identified by Egyptologist De Meyer. 
The hieroglyphs refer to Cleopatra and Necho II.

Earlier I told you that paper copies of the Rosetta stone's inscriptions arrived in Paris in 1801. All this time, the French army was frequently under attack from British and Ottoman troops. In August 1801, the French general Menou had to surrender. Together with Arabian manuscripts, ancient statues and other antiquities collected by the French, the Stone of Rosetta came into British possession. It was transported to London where it became a top attraction in the British Museum ever since.

Société Belge-Egyptienne de l'Ezbékieh  
500 Francs bond, Brussels, 1905 
Founded in 1899 with Belgian capital, the company was a real estate developer in and around Cairo. 
Hieroglyphs can be found on this certificate along all borders of the design.
Click image to enlarge 

A bond from 1905 issued by the Société Belge-Egyptiènne de l'Ezbékieh counts no less than 14 hieroglyphic inscriptions. This was "le plat principal" for Marleen De Meyer. In clockwise order and starting at the top, she identifies the names of several Egyptian rulers written in cartouches:

 1. Arsinoe II (Ptolemaic Period)
 2. Amenirdis I or II (25th Dyn.)
 3. Snefru (4th Dyn.) with an error
 4. not a legible name
 5. The designer was likely inspired by the titulature of Seti I  (19th Dyn.), but the writing shows several errors.
 6. Ramses II (19th Dyn.)
 7. Merneptah (19th Dyn.)
 8. Ramses II (19th Dyn.)
 9. Ptolemaios II Philadelphos (Ptolemaic Period)
10. Horemheb (18th Dyn.)
11. [mAa-xrw] “true of voice", the name of a pharaoh is missing
12. Amenemhat (12th Dyn.), with an error
13. Probably based on the titulature of Takelot (22nd Dyn.), but the writing has several errors.
14. Seti I (19th Dyn.)

To locate the hieroglyphs more easily on the certificate, I prepared a somewhat compressed version of the certificate's border.

Société Belge-Egyptiènne de l'Ezbékieh 
layout of the fourteen hieroglyphic inscriptions 

By the beard of the pharaoh, what an amazing find! Unfortunately, I have no idea which illustrator has so thoroughly copied these royal names into this work, as there is no author mentioned on the certificate. If you want more information, you can check the standard work of Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der Ägyptischen Königsnamen, 1999

So far in my story of the Rosetta Stone, you learned that France lost the Rosetta Stone in Egypt to the British in 1801. However another race was on : who would be the first to decipher hieroglyphs? The British brought the stone to England aboard the captured French frigate HMS Egyptienne. The ship arrived in Portsmouth in February 1802. But the French had already sent from Egypt several printed copies of the stone's inscriptions to scholars in France the year before.

The deciphering of hieroglyphs did not came as a single achievement from one person. Several scientists have made their contribution. The two most important ones are Thomas Young (1773–1829) from Great Britain and the Frenchman Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) and, like the political climate between their countries, both were each other's rival.

It was Champollion who was the first to understand that hieroglyphs were a combination of phonograms (such as letters in alphabet), logograms (similar to Chinese characters) and ideograms (symbols representing a concept). He also realized that the hieroglyphic text on the Rosetta Stone was translated from Greek, not the other way around. In 1822 Champollion presented the way in which he had cracked the code.

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum 
The three fragments of writing on it say the same thing in three different languages : 
Demotic, Ancient Greek  and Ancient Egyptian (hieroglyphs).
The text is a royal decree from the Hellenistic Period about the taxes of temple priests.
image : Olaf Herrmann [Copyrighted free use], from Wikimedia Commons

During the last two hundred years, illustrators of bond and share certificates successfully used design elements like pyramids, sfinxes, and both pseudo-hieroglyphs and genuine hieroglyphs to attract potential investors.

There is still one question that remains unsolved in Egyptian scripophily. Has anyone of you seen a share certificate bearing a vignette of the Rosetta Stone ? The stone's discovery triggered a tremendous amount of interest all over the world for many decades. I have no doubt that a share certificate like that exists, and it is just waiting to be discovered by collectors like you.


I want to express my gratitude to Marleen De Meyer, KU Leuven, for helping me voluntarily to solve these Egyptian puzzles in scripophily. What a great job !

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Grace's Guide, leading information source on British industrial history

Auction company SPINK sold the following share certificate in their sale of 21st June 2018. Classic car hobbyists will recognize the Minerva brand. If you didn't, then you can turn to Grace's Guide To British Industrial History.

share certificate from the Minerva Motors (England) Limited company

Minerva Motors (England) Limited
deferred shares of one shilling, 1928
SPINK sold this rare share in the British Minerva company (21 Jun 2018) in a group lot together with 15 common Belgian Minerva company certificates for £80.
image courtesy SPINK

Editor Andrew Tweedie started the Grace's Guide to British Industrial History project in 2007 as a not-for-profit project. Its aim is to provide a brief history of the companies, products and people who were instrumental in British industry, commencing with the birth of the Industrial Revolution and continuing up to recent times. Andrew Tweedie, his staff members and a team of expert volunteers have produced nearly 130,000 pages so far.

For some time now I've used the Grace's Guide website for research on antique securities from UK companies. The site also provides information of engineers, inventors, directors, investors and other important personalities who were involved in these companies. As a result I may recognize the names and signatures of the people who signed or subscribed to these early shares.

signature of Holloway as Director on Minerva Motors share certificate

According to Grace's Guide, the company was originally established as Minerva Motors, Ltd in 1900 as a concessionaire for Minerva cars. The signature is the one from S. C. Holloway (who later started his own motor business).

My collector friend Adam recently reported in the International Bond & Share Society's online forum more interesting news about the Grace's Guide pages :

" The scope is gradually being extended to include non-UK businesses and biographiesAdditions are being made to the information daily by a team of volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise. I have been in contact with the editor Andrew Tweedie, he would gratefully accept photos of share certificates or information relating to any of the companies in the database. "

Now isn't that a win-win situation ? 


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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

AIA's forthcoming numismatic auction to feature rare American railways

Archives International Auctions will hold this year’s summer auction at Fort Lee, New Jersey on August 8, 2018. Over a thousand lots of US, Chinese & worldwide banknotes, scripophily and security printing ephemera will be auctioned in two sessions. The sale includes about 340 lots with antique bonds and shares.

Lot 212 : Chinese Government, 8% 10 Year Sterling Treasury Note £500 Sterling 
From 1919, a scarce £500 'Vickers Loan' Treasury Note, estimate $130-200 

Chinese government bonds open the scripophily show at L(ot) 170. Two, large-formatted, Imperial Chinese Government Tientsin-Pukow Railway 1908 £100 bonds, both partly redeemed, are estimated from $120, L. 197 and L.198. A Republic of China 1937, $100 bond, vignette of pagoda, in extremely fine condition, is expected to bring $350 to $700, L.217.

The main scripophily program is an almost contiguous section starting at Lot 674. International stocks and bonds are representing countries like Canada, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, France, Sweden et cetera.

I note : Santa Elena Mining Comany, 1887, Honduras, Manhattan vignette (L.723). A great vignette of the Paris Notre Dame Cathedral at the Seine river can be seen on a 1916 City of Paris specimen bond (L.722). Mexican Central Railway Co Ltd, 1889, specimen bond, (L.737), several vignettes, is estimated from $400. The sale includes a 1895 stock certificate from The Nicaragua Company, unsuccesful in completing a Panama canal route (L.769).

Lot 712 : La Sociedad del Canal de Maipo, specimen bond, Santiago de Chile, early 1900s
The portrait shows Domingo de Eyzaguirre y Arechavala (1775 – 1854), a Chilean politician and philanthropist who wanted to revive the abandoned canal project surrounding Santiago. The Spanish government approved the plan, and in 1802 made Eyzaguirre director. The revolution of 1810 interrupted the work, but it was resumed after Chile's independence in 1817. In 1820 the canal of Maipo was opened.
Click to enlarge image

I'll go right away over the many, extraordinary US railroad securities. But first I want to underscore the wide range of American sectors and themes that are covered in this event : automobiles, aviation, shipping, mining, industry, utilities, city & states loans, and much more.  NOTE: Startprices in the sale are significant lower than the lowest estimates printed in the catalogue, therefore check out the lots online.

A Rolls-Royce of America (L.679), 1919, specimen share, very early, may be acquired from $300 onwards. Bensen Aircraft Corporation, established in 1952, developed helicopters like the B-8. Issued 1956, facsimile by founder Igor Bensen, bidding on this share is invited from $110 (L.685).  Bodie Bluff Consolidated Gold Mining Company, 1879, Mono County, California, can be purchased from $240 (L.776). The auctioneer expects a Confederate States blockade runner share from The Consolidated Steamship Company, 1864, South Carolina, to realize $600 or maybe $900 (L.808). From 1921 dates a Standard Oil Company of New York specimen $1000 bond (L.811). Wonderfully designed lettering, vignettes of a native American and the Niagara Falls, and a company seal with a man in a canoe, illustrate a Niagara Falls Power Company specimen bond (L.995), start price $110.

Lot 817 : San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Company, 1911, $10,000 specimen bond from the American Bank Note Archives
The line, completed in 1905, crossed unpopulated desert terrain between Los Angeles and Salt Lake until the city of Las Vegas began its growth in the mid-twentieth century. A gorgious design with a speeding locomotive flanked by two money spending water nymphs. Rare, estimated $180-280
Click to enlarge image

US Railroad connoisseurs will be delighted to see the many rare securities involved. Several of these come from the American Bank Note Archives, have not been seen in issued form and are probably unique. Here are some picks to illustrate my point :
  • A $10,000 specimen bond in the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 1905, woman with child and railway scenes, L.819, can be acquired from $200.
  • An Evansville & Richmond Railroad Company bond, 1891, "00000" serial number, appeared 16 years ago at auction. This is the second one offered since then, L.836. Estimated between $450 and $750.
  • Unknown in issued form, and last one from two found in the archives, Crooked Creek Railroad and Coal Company, 1911, specimen bond, depicts a coal train and factory, L.841. 
  • A stunning and equally rare $10,000 specimen bond from the Central Railroad of New Jersey, 1887, L.893, should interest railway collectors at $425 start price. 
  • Tramcars and passengers illuminated by an angel with electric light, two great vignettes on a Akron Street Railway and Illuminating Company specimen bond, 1896, Akron, Ohio, L.915. A bid starting at $500 may bring you home this certificate, the only one known since its discovery in 2002.

Here are the sale's details, so you can discover much more for yourself :

  • Location : Fort Lee, New Jersey
  • Date : 8 August 2018
  • Further info : see here, AIA's online catalogue with full color images, here, and PDF version there 


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Original British automotive shares for sale at Spink London

SPINK's Bonds and Shares Department has scheduled its next ONLINE only sale for 21 June 2018. Specialist Mike Veissid and his team noticed that most of the buying in the market of antique securities happens online and decided to no longer produce any printed catalogues. Sales will be held entirely online at least four times a year and go live two to three weeks before the sale date. The June sale has 526 lots of world wide scripophily. Included are a unique series of British automotive shares.

Rolls-Royce needs no introduction. Founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce in 1904, the company developed and manufactured the "best car in the world". Did you know that RR was responsible for the cabinets of Ferranti's Pegasus, one the world's earliest (and British) computers. Apart from the modern issues, RR shares from earlier periods like the one offered in lot 333 are extremely rare. Issued in the middle of World War II, 1942, a very modest estimate of £140-180 will certainly attract the attention of many automobile enthousiasts.

More about these British automobile shares right away, but there are many other lots in the sale worth having a look at. The sale starts with a line of bonds and shares from New Zealand and Australia, lots 2 - 14, and includes a Lake Bathurst Australasian Gold Mining Company from the 1850s.

A large Chinese section of government loans counts many group lots, such as lot 34, a group of 9 5% Tientsin Pukow Railway Supplementary Loan 1910 £100 bonds, issued by the Chinese Central Railways in 1911, estimated around £275.

Chinese Government 5% Gold Loan of 1912 £1000, lot 44.
It is the highest denomination of the £10,000,000 loan. Nicknamed the ‘Crisp’ loan because it was floated by C. Burch, Crisp & Co. in London at 95% on behalf of the British & International Investment Trust, Ltd. 
Only 750 issued, it is estimated to fetch £1,400 - £1,800

Twenty-five lots of Chinese company securities are next. Amongst them a group lot of 5 different issues from the Banque Industrielle de Chine, including a blue founders share. These are true classics but are oh-so nice to look at, as you can see here. Estimated between £150-£200.  Lot 86 is a China Portland Cement Co. Ltd. 50,000 yuan share, high denomination, 1926. A group of 7 Manchuria Iron Company certificates from the 1920's and 30's deserves attention. This huge company at some time produced 50 per cent of Japan's wartime steel. Lot 104, £90 mid estimate.

Some other striking Asean certificates : two shares in the Borneo Rubber Company Ltd, 1917, map of Indonesia and Malaysia in underprint, lot 108 & 109, estimated around £55, and a very rare Ottoman 3½% Loan Secured by the Egyptian Tribute, 1894 £100 bond, lot 114 in the sale, is expected to fetch £600.

£60 May buy you lot 238, a stunning Tramways d'Astrakhan share from 1896. The share is designed by the artist Gossart, engraved by Malvaux and signed by the wealthy Belgian entrepreneur and amateur Egyptologist Édouard Empain.

Most countriest from Europe are represented. Some examples : 5000 Pesetas Spanish specimen bond from the Law of August 1899 - Royal Decree of June 1902 Loan, head of the King Alfonso XIII as a boy at top, rare, lot 249, £70 estimate. Lot 153 is a highly illustrated Serbian bond issued by Belgrado's Jewish community. A very large format Danish 5% Loan specimen bond £1000 from 1864, rarely seen, lot 161, is estimated between £80-100.

The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, lot 270 in the Spink sale. 
This specimen 5-Yr  $10,000 Gold Note from 1916 was printed by the American Bank Note Company shortly before the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). A rare historic piece for any UK and Irish collector, with very attractive estimates between £250 and £300.

Not less than 105 lots are from Great Britain.  A parade of early British canal companies include several certificates from 18th century.  The Glocester and Berkeley Canal Company share, 1794, printed on vellum, yellow paper embossed seal, may be obtained for £300. An unissued bond from the Thames and Severn Canal Navigation, from the 1790s with brown-orange printed vignettes of canal tunnels, is an early example of color security printing (lot 279). From 1762, a £100 share in the River Nene Navigation Joint Stock features nine wax seals and a lead seal. Marvellous to see (here), this museum object, lot 277, can become a highlight in a collection from £600 onwards.

Poseidon with trident at a rough sea, detail from lot 270 (see image above)
Click the image to enlarge it, and see how curved engraving lines make Poseidon' s cloak fold gently. Poseidon sticks his left foot outside the oval frame surrounding the scene, a clever idea from the artist to create extra depth in the artwork. To print a wonderful vignette like this, you need  both a great artist and a top talented engraver. 

Spink's sale provides a remarkable cross-section of British car makers securities. Here are some of the highlights with lot numbers between parentheses : Rolls-Royce (333), Calcott Brothers Ltd (313), Minerva Motors (England) Ltd (327), Lea-Francis Cars Ltd (325), Humber Ltd - with the Humber logo (322 and 323) and Singer & Company Ltd (335). Even early electric automobile companies are not missing the stage, e.g. The London Electrical Cab Company (293, see image). A share from The Electromobile Company Ltd, a manufacturer, dates from as early as 1904 (319).

Pioneering with electric automobiles, this company's cabs had two sets of accumulators suitable for forty miles on one charge. Lot 293, estimates £50-60

The last chapter contains more than 150 lots from North and South America. Almost all countries from this part of the world make an appearance. Some noteworthy items are : Canada Company, 1842 (377), a group of five bonds from The Brazil Great Soutern Railway Company Ltd, 1891 (395) , Saint Helena Whale Fishery Company, 1837 (417), County of Lee-Fort Madison, West Point, Keosauqua & Bloomfield Rail Road Company, 1857 (454)  and Lykens Valley Coal Company, 1837, superb vignette of forge and printed by Underwood, Bald, Spencer & Hufty (488).

City of Rosario 4% Sterling Conversion Loan for £2,000,000 
£500 Sterling bearer bond, series "B", specimen, 1908 
lot 391, estimated £80 to £100

Here are the sale's details, so you can discover much more for yourself :
  • Location : online auction only
  • Date : 21 June 2018
  • Further info : see Spink's online catalogue with full color images, here, and PDF version there 


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Italian State securities on the menu

Last year, the scripophily public welcomed a new edition of Alex Witula’s reference catalogue on Italian state securities. Titoli di Stato will be a delight to anyone interested in the collection, valuation and study of bonds and securities issued by the Italian government and the pre-Italian unification states as early as the 16th century. More than reason enough to have a talk with one of the most prolific authors in our field !

The volume starts with several chapters on the aspects of collecting antique securities. The actual cataloguing part is divided into the following chronological sections : Italian preunification states (pre-1861), Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946), Italian Republic (1946 – present). Each one of these is in turn subdivided into categorizing chapters. Titles are ordered by their authorizing law date and then by issue date. Each issue is described with name, denominations, place, vignette, color, possible variations, etc and also a value indication. The bulky compendium features about 700 images and historical paragraphs including maps.

Titoli di Stato – Italian State Bonds
Author: Alex Witula
Published by : Portafoglio Storico

FL Mr. Alex Witula, welcome in my virtual studio. Please tell me, what is your new book about?
ALEX The 5th edition of the catalogue of the “Italian public debt” is now available under its new name: “State bonds”. The change of the title of this book has a psychological reason: the collective consciousness in Italy considers the public debt as something negative. In this way I hope to get more readers not only from the collector’s side but also from the general public.

Repubblica Italiana 
Certificate for 20 Treasury bonds of 5,000 Lire, 1962 
Vignette : Nettuno offre doni a Venezia, by Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770) 

FL Why did you decide for another, 5th, edition ?
ALEX The result of this catalogue is a teamwork of several dozens of collectors with contributions of colleagues and friends. The previous, 4th, issue is dated 2012 and it took 5 years to get the new catalogue as near as complete, at least in its structure. The listing of all principalities and small states in the Italian peninsula before the unification of 1861 is now complete. For example, we’ve included certificates that have not even appeared yet on the market, for example, those from the Republic of Genoa. Many new certificates were added in the new issue. We increased the number of pages from 558 to 736. Last but not least: for the collectors it is important that they know new valuations of their bonds.

Monte di Pietà della Cità di Firenze
Nuovo Monte non vacabile, a loan for 4 luoghi of 100 Scudi, 1700, 
illustrated with two vignettes of Jesus and the coat of arms of the Medici in the middle

FL Alex, the book also covers scripophily from the Italian pre-unification states. I was surprised to see that the chapter for Granducato di Toscana, counting 74 pages with securities from 1591-1860, is the biggest part. Why is that?
ALEX Under the dynasty of the House of Medici (1494 – 1737) the Grand Duchy of Tuscany became a wealthy state. Their bank, the Medici bank, was the most important financial institution in Europe. The Medici’s introduced a system of irredeemable loans with strong written rules. For each loan the statutes were published in a form of a booklet called “provvisione” and each loan was guaranteed by income from taxes. For example, at the front page of the “Nuovo Monte del Sale”, page 40 in the catalogue, its guaranty is included in the name of the loan sale which means by taxes on salt.
ALEX Each loan was divided into certificates called luoghi with a unit value of 100 Scudi. A fraction of one luogo, not less than one-quarter, was offered in order to facilitate purchase by the less well-of. Once the bonds were placed, a new booklet was printed with the names of the holders and the number of certificates purchased. Printed on vellum the luoghi represent the origin of issues of state bonds.

The Monte di Pietà, founded in the 15th century, was the first church-run lending institution. It became a model for many charity institutions, called “Monte’s” which obtained their funds by means of bonds called “Luoghi di Monte”. These organisations evolved into banks and lending institutions. The bonds were registered, and guaranteed the investor a type of annuity. Some of these securities were transferable and redeemable but most were not until the death of the creditor.
In scripophily the term Monte can refer to the bond or to the issuer. This Monte Pubblico, a 4% 1000 Lire annuity bond from the Duchy of Milan, dates from 1770. 

FL When Italy becomes a kingdom, I see that the securities get more standardized in terms of layout, text, border and vignette design. What were the main printers of the Italian state bonds ?
ALEX Bonds issued before Italy’s unification have no indication of the printer. After 1861 a government printing office was established. On all state certificates there is a small indication of this printer: Officina Governativa delle Carte Valori Torino. Since 1928 its name changed to Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato – Officina Carte Valori.
FL Were there particular artists and designers involved in the production of state bonds?
ALEX During the Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946) the portraits of the Kings were designed by employees of the printing office, but only Lodovico Bigola became famous at the national level. Many treasury bonds issued after 1958, display parts of famous works from artists like Antonello da Messina, Tiepolo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello and even Rubens.

With the unification of Italy, the government set up the Gran Libro - 'Great Ledger of the public debt of the Kingdom of Italy' - in which all debts of pre-unitary states were collected. This 3% bond from 1871 depicts Victor Emmanuel II (1820-1878), King of Sardinia from 1849 until 17 March 1861 when he became King of Italy. The portrait was designed by artist Lodovico Bigola, designer and engraver of Italian state bonds and stamps.

FL Alex, the catalogue also features Austro-Hungarian loans from the period 1868-1918. Can you tell us why these are included in your book?
ALEX In that chapter’s preliminary notes you will read that after WWI citizens who were resident in zones occupied by Italy, and accepted Italian citizenship, could exchange their Austrian and Hungarian State bonds for the Italian 5% Consolidated Loan. To prove this on the exchanged certificates you can find different fiscal stamps like those documented on pages 532-533. By the way, the two Corone stamp, page 534, is very rare and its value is about €150. Unfortunately, I’ve had only few of them.

The red revenue stamp with ‘ITALIAN TESORO’ annulation stamp, cancelled this 5.5% 7th Austrian war loan from 1917, indicating that it was exchanged for an Italian state bond.

FL Over the past decade have you seen any trends in collecting Italian government securities?
ALEX Rare items are available usually at auctions, while the price of commonly seen certificates has dropped down. Since Udo Hielscher’s book “Die Florentinischen Monti” was published by Verlag HWPH AG, there is interest especially on bonds issued by different Monti.
FL What is the item in your catalogue that realized the highest price so far at auction?
ALEX That was a Monte San Giovanni Battista – page 124 of the catalogue. It sold at €3,500 plus 20% auction fee at our 27th auction in 2012.
FL Alex, a catalogue like this stands for a lifework, something I have a lot of admiration and respect for. What was for you the most difficult step in producing the catalog? And do you have any tips for potential authors?
ALEX The catalogue is the result of team work. Sincerely it was not so difficult for me because of the enthusiastic cooperation of collectors specialized in state bonds. A tip for a potential author: just start and create synergies!

5% Regno D’Italia Prestito Redimibile, redeemable loan of the Kingdom of Italy, 1937 
Illustrated is Victor Emmanuel III, flanked by two fasces. He ruled Italy from 1900 to 1946, Ethiopia from 1936 to 1941 and Albania from 1939 to 1943. During his reign Italian Fascism rose and perished.

FL What is your most pleasant anecdote when producing the catalogue?
ALEX The co-author of the first and second edition of the catalogue was Mario Cecchi, who unfortunately has passed away. At that time he was a well-known certified public accountant in Siena and his office was located in the historical town center, on Piazza del Campo. We finished both editions exactly during the day of the Palio of Siena – the traditional world-famous horse race run since the thirteen century. After we terminated the work we watched the horse racing from his balcony: a great experience, specially seeing the event from the sixth floor and not from the ground!
FL Alex, did you use any particular sources, books, manuals and the like, for researching Italian securities? Are there stock exchange year-books available for Italy, comparable to Moody’s (USA), Saling (Germany) and Van Oss (the Netherlands)?
ALEX Yes, of course. The catalogue has a bibliography. The Manuale Hoepli “Il Debito Pubblico Italiano” is a kind of a handbook of Italian state bonds. But in my opinion the most important and interesting book, especially for the pre-unification period, is professor’s Felloni “Gli investimenti finanziari genovesi in Europa tra il Seicento e la Restaurazione”. Prof. Giuseppe Felloni, a professor emeritus of the University of Genoa, having access to the archive of the Banco di San Giorgio, could publish interesting statistics, for example, on the investments in different Monti bonds of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany by the Banco di San Giorgio and the Papal State and on investments of many European rulers in the Banco di San Giorgio.

Yearly income bond from the Papal States, issued in 1832.
Usually, the emblem of the Pope shows a tiara, but, as in this case when the certificate was printed, 
the version with an umbrella is put in place after the death or a resignation of a pope.

FL Do you collect yourself?
ALEX Yes, since many years I collect State bonds. A collection definitely helps to organize a catalogue.
FL Dear Alex, now I have to ask you a last but very serious question. Suppose you were convicted for excessive scripophily and exiled to a deserted island. What is your most favorite Italian government security that you would take with you?
ALEX I love to visit islands, but believe me, on a deserted island instead of a bond I’d prefer a survival kit!
FL Alex, I want to thank you for this interview and wish you a lot of success with the book.

Alex Witula's book Titoli di Stato, written in Italian, is published by Portafoglio Storico.
Price €65, IBSS members receive a 25% discount.
More info: or


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