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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