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: www.portafoglio-storico.it or portafogliostorico@aruba.it


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Friday, May 11, 2018

Rarities and historic securities for sale at Archives International Auctions

Archives International Auctions, Fort Lee, New Jersey, will conduct its 48th auction on May 23, 2018. The auction offers a rich mix of U.S., China & Worldwide banknotes, scripophily and coins. The sale features more than 300 antique stocks and bonds.

A section of Chinese bonds, starting with lot 177, will be hammered in the event's first session. Included are several group lots of China loans, e.g. a trio of £100 Chinese Government 5% Gold Loan of 1912 bonds, estimate from $230.
One of the first highlights is an issued and uncancelled Republic of China 1937 $1000 loan. Scarce, printed by American Bank Note Co and illustrated with a great Chinese pagoda vignette, it is estimated between $600-900.

Republic of China 1937 bond
Republic of China, 1937, $1000 bond 
printed by American Bank Note Co 
lot 183 in the auction 
click image to enlarge 

American federal loans are put on the block in the sale's second session (lot range 627-651). Included are a series of Liberty Loan, War Savings and US Savings bond certificates. Lot 630 is a historic US Department of the Interior 1894 specimen bond for the purchase of Cherokee lands, extremely rare, illustrated with vignettes of a Cherokee Indian and a bank building, start price $900.
Top scripophily item is a Three Per Cent Loan of 1898 $20 bond, lot 638, issued for financing the Spanish American War. Bids are invited from $4,000, the bond is expected to fetch $6,000 to $10,000.

American loan of 1898 for financing the Spanish American war
Lot 638 : Three Per Cent Loan of 1898, $20 bond, all coupons attached 
The Guerra Hispano-Americana was a conflict fought between Spain and the United States in 1898. Officially at stake were the Cuban and Filipino struggles for independence from Spain. The US wanted to protect their economic interests (sugar trade) and saw an opportunity to increase their military naval presence overseas. The ten-week war was fought primarily in Cuba and the Philippines. After Spain's defeat, both parties signed the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. As a result Spain gave up sovereignty over Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the US, and sold the Philippine Islands to the United States for twenty million dollars.

Lot 697, a 1924 bond from the Murray Body Corporation, a Michigan registered car maker, kicks off a contiguous section of hundreds of American, Cuban, Israeli, Mexican and other international scripophily items. Noted are: Ford Motor Company of Canada, American Express, Columbus Zoological Company, Upshur Guano Company, Hershey Chocolate Company and San Juan Light and Transit Company.

Titanic owner International Mercantile Marine Company bond
International Mercantile Marine Company, $1000 specimen bond 1902
The shipping trust company was the owner of the RMS Titanic through one of its subsidiaries. 
Lot 832 in the auction, starts at $475.

A keen collector will browse around the non-scripophily sections in the auction catalogue and be surprised to find more of these treasures, e.g. Banco Agricola, Chile (lot 78), State of Massachusetts Bay 1780 (lot 544), Confederate States of America Criswell 4/Ball 16 (lot 609) and Orinoco Steam Navigation Company, Venezuela (lot 678).

extremely rare bond from the Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad
AIA's sales always include great railway securities from the American Bank Note Archives. This rare Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw Railroad certificate dates from 1887. Described as "the only one found", bids are welcomed from $300. Lot 927 in the auction.

Auction details
  • Location : Fort Lee, New Jersey
  • Date : 23 May 2018
  • Further info : see AIA , online catalogue here and PDF version there 


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