Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Be careful with explanation notes !

Introduction : Northrop the first commercial computer customer
In 1939 Jack Northrop founds Northrop Aircraft Inc. This aircraft manufacturer is established nearby Hawthorne, California. The Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter will become one of the most effective and sucessful U.S. air-to-air fighters in the 1960s and early 1970s. Already during World War II Northrop starts developing missiles and from the 1950s unmanned aerial vehicles are produced as well. The fine vignette above can be seen on a certificate from the Northrop Corporation. 

Just after World War II, Northrop orders from the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC) an electronic stored-program computer to deal with the many complex calculations required for the design and construction of aircraft and missiles. EMCC develops the BINAC, the Binary Automatic Computer and delivers it to Northrop in 1949. The BINAC is EMCC's first product and the world's first commercial digital computer. And so Northrop becomes the first company in the world using a digital computer. The BINAC, however, after delivery to its customer, turns out not to work properly. 

One year later Northrop develops on its own the Magnetic Drum Digital Differential Analyzer (MADDIDA), an electronic version of a mechanical differential analyzer. Such a device solves differential equations by integration. Another year later, in 1951, Northrop builds the Quadratic Arc Computer (QUAC), a special purpose digital computer which computes information to be recorded on magnetic tape for the XSM-62 Snark missile guidance system. In 1959 the name of the company is changed into Northrop Corporation. In the 1960s Northrop's Nortronics Division introduces the NDC-1051, a small general purpose digital airborne computer.

Northrop's history is a fascinating one. I hope you don't mind me bringing this little historic note as an introduction to the topic of this article. In fact, only this particular Northrop share certificate is relevant here.

stock certificate specimen printed by Jeffries Banknote Company
Northrop Corporation
$1.45 cumulative preferred stock, specimen
Jeffries Banknote Company, printed in the 1960s

Hurray, interesting certificate ! Ew, what are these spots ?
In the image below, you can clearly notice that the spots in the certificate's left corner are actually printed characters. Click the image below, to enlarge the details.

How is that possible ? The certificate was clean, actually perfect at the moment of purchase. After acquisition the share certificate was put in a scripophily collector's album sheet at once.  

An explanation note is to blame.
The previous image shows an empty album sheet. Nothing to worry about ? Wait and see. Put a white paper in the album sheet. 

Now the imprinted characters become visible. Apparently these characters were the ones that were transferred to the share certificate. Strange. 
What actually has happened was this :
  1. A certificate was put in the album sheet. Like many of us do, an explanation note was prepared, often a company profile, and put together with the certificate in the sheet.
  2. Under pressure of the other sheets in the album, the characters of the note, mostly printed in black, were transferred to the transparant sheet side. Did you know that a full album weighs about 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) and a big one, like the one shown 5 kilograms (11 pounds).
  3. For some reason, the original certificate, and the corresponding note, is removed from the sheet. A portion of the note's characters remains invisible against the black backside of the sheet.
  4. After some time, maybe months later, another stock certificate is inserted in that sheet again. Ignorant of any harm the album is stored away. 
  5. A few days later, your new certificate is spoiled. Damage is done. Again under pressure, the characters of the note that was once put in that sheet, are transferred to your new certificate.

Northrop logo with seagull
The Northrop logo consists of a stylished seagull
see image below

I've seen others on scripophily bourses showing certificates with accompanying notes in the same sheets. Some advice.
  • Do not store your certificates together with explanatory notes in the same sheet. If you want to see a note along your scripophily items, put the notes in dedicated sheets.
  • If you are not sure whether you use a brand new album sheet, use a blank piece of paper to check if any characters from an old note have been transferred onto the inside of the sheet. See the example image above.
  • Is an album sheet spoiled with transferred characters, then throw away that album sheet.
  • Is a certificate spoiled, then there is nothing that you can do. If you want to prevent that certificate from "contaminating" other album sheets, then put it in a smaller album sheet and store that whole in your album.

share certificate with facsimile signature of John Knudsen "Jack" Northrop
Northrop Aircraft, Inc.
100 common shares of $1, specimen
facsimile signature of John Knudsen "Jack" Northrop (1895 – 1981)
printed by Jeffries Banknote Co. around the 1940s

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