Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The most valuable scripophily item hammered in 2020

One of the highest auction sales in 2020 was a subscription for shares in the South Sea Company. Issued in 1720 the document was signed by one of the most influential scientists of all time Isaac Newton. It sold in the University Archives May 2020 auction for US$85,000 without premium. This in itself is a fantastic result, but it was eclipsed by an even more spectacular sale: Marcel Duchamp's Monte Carlo bond.

Sotheby's 4 February 2020 London sale featured this Roulette de Monte Carlo 500 Francs bond, number 22, dated 1924. The bond was issued and designed by Marcel Duchamp. It features a picture of himself made by American artist and close friend Man Ray.  Duchamp's head is covered with shaving lather. His hair is peaked into two devilish horns.
Photograph courtesy of Private collection c/o Sotheby’s

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) is one of the most revolutionary and influential artists of the 20th century. He was born in Blainville-Crevon, a farming village in Normandy, France. His brother Gaston aka Jacques Villon became a famous painter. His sister Suzanne was also a painter, and his brother Raymond a sculptor.

Duchamp pioneered in the field of plastic arts, conceptual art and kinetic art. He introduced readymades, ordinary manufactured objects that he modified to combine creativity with criticism. 

Fountain, one of his most discussed and controversial works, was a readymade of a porcelain urinal presented with an altered orientation. His Belle Haleine - Eau De Voilette, a readymade of a perfume bottle, created in 1921 with the help of Man Ray, sold at Christie's New York in Feb 2009 for  $11,406,900.

Marcel Duchamp finished his Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 in 1912. 
The painting is located at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Since childhood Duchamp's family introduced him to the game of chess. He became a good player and even wrote about chess. His fascination with the game distressed his first wife so much that at some point she glued his pieces to the chessboard. 

Possibly the logic and mathematical concepts behind the chess game sparked his interest for the roulette game. Duchamp worked out a system which he could apply to the roulette tables of Monte Carlo. To finance increased wagers, Duchamp created bonds of 500 francs, repayable over a three-year period at 20% interest rate. 

The artist planned to produce thirty of these bonds. Only eight, possibly less, bearing a legal stamp, were "issued" to some of his close friends as personal loans or as an early form of crowdlending certificates. 

Upon further investigation you'll find out that there is something special going on with these certificates. 

First of all, repeated in green ink in a continuous pattern in the underprint, you'll find a pun “moustiques domestiques demi-stock” (domestic mosquitoes half-stock).

Then, there is the interest rate of 20%. During the mid twenties, long term bond interest rates in France were about 6 to 8%. The one mentioned on the certificate must have been shocking.


Let's have a look at the signatures on the Monte Carlo bond. In its lower corners you'll find two signatures of company administrators, which is usually a legal requirement. The signature on the right is M[arcel] Duchamp's. The one on the left reads as Rrose Sélavy. Here we are dealing with the same person. 

Rrose Sélavy was a Duchamp pseudonym. The name sounds like the French phrase Eros, c'est la vie. Sélavy emerged in 1921 in a series of photographs by Man Ray showing Duchamp dressed as a woman.

Here is one last oddity. Normally, on French securities we see a standard formalution like "Statuts déposés chez ..., notaire a", which means 'Articles of association filed with [name of person], notary at [name of location]'.  Instead, we see the mentioning of a French law : Loi du 29 Juillet 1881.

The French Law of 29 July 1881, also known as the Law on the Freedom of the Press of 29 July 1881, defines the freedoms and responsibilities of the media and publishers in France. One of the most important reforms installed by the law was a major reduction in the extensive range of activities deemed slanderous.

As is the case with his other works, also here Duchamp challenges us and questions society, traditional art values and even his own productions.

In her 2004 essay Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) Nan Rosenthal, art historian and back then curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote : 
By World War I, he had rejected the work of many of his fellow artists as “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye. Instead, Duchamp wanted, he said, “to put art back in the service of the mind.” 

The Duchamp bond realized £495,000 including 20% buyer's premium.



Friday, December 24, 2021

Reference book: Österreichische Bankaktien by Dieter J. Geerkens

Historische Wertpapiere Band 1: Österreichische Bankaktien is a reference catalog on antique bonds and shares from banking companies formed within the territory of Austria, including those banks set up during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The book, a large format publication, was put together by author Dieter J. Geerkens. 

  • Title: Österreichische Bankaktien
  • Author : Dieter J. Geerkens
  • ID : no ID, published 1998 by Dieter J. Geerkens
  • Languages : German
  • Number of pages : 255
  • Images : more than 120 black and white and 150 page wide color images
  • Index : on company names; index located on page 51 

The  catalog entries are divided over two sections. 

A first small section, "Zwischenkatalog", describes the companies that lasted only a few months, and of which no securities are known (at least at the time when this book was published). This part includes about 40 companies that were founded just before or after the Vienna Stock Exchange Crash of 1873. Some examples are : Grazer Bankverein, Pfandlei-Anstalt Steyr, etc. 

The second section, "Hauptkatalog", features about 140 banks with background information and a listing of their known securities. Each certificate has a catalog number referring to its entry in the price catalog chapter, and color photographs in the last part of the book. Some of the companies included are : British-Oesterreichische Bank- und Handels-Aktiengesellschaft, OrientBank (Palästinabank), Tiroler Hauptbank, etc.

  • Vorwort und Erklärungen (Preface and explanations)
  • Kapitel 1 : Die Wiener Börse (Chapter 1 : The Vienna Stock Exchange) 
  • Kapitel 2: Die Banknoten (Chapter 2 : The banknotes)
    • Das Papiergeld
    • Verpfändung
    • Steueränderungen
    • Kriegsfinanzierung durch Steuern
    • Inflation
    • Bankozettel 1800
    • Wiener Stadt Banco Zettel Papiergeld anno 1800
    • Zollerhöhungen
    • Vorratsversteuerung
    • Der Friede von Austerlitz
    • Einlösungsscheine
    • Einlösungsdeputation
    • Keine neuen Steuern - Pferde vom Kaiserhaus
    • Staatsschulden-Tilgungsfonds
  • Kapitel 3: Die ersten Aktienbanken (Chapter 3: The first joint-stock banks)
    • Die Hofhaltung war kostspielig
    • Die privilegierte Oesterreichische Nationalbank
    • Die ersten Aktienbanken | Erneuerung des Notenbankprivilegiums 1841
  • Kapitel 4: Die Oesterreichisch-Ungarische Bank
    • Viertelaktie der Oesterreichischen Nationalbank
    • Aktie der Oesterreichischen Nationalbank
    • Interimsschein der Oesterreichischen Nationalbank
  • Kapitel 5: Die Bankgeschichte 1855 bis 1938 (Chapter 5: Banking history 1855 to 1938)
    • Der Wiener Börsenkrach 1873
    • 1873 bis 1914
    • Die Friedenszeiten von 1866 bis 1914
    • Erinnerungen an 1873
  • Kapitel 6: Historische Wertpapiere: Aktienbanken (Chapter 6: Historical securities: joint-stock banks)
    • Inhaltsverzeichnis der Aktienbanken
    • Zwischenkatalog
    • Hauptkatalog
  • Kapitel 7: Preiskatalog
  • Literaturverzeichnis (Literature list)
  • Anhang: Farbteil (Appendix: Color section)

The M. L. Biedermann & Co. Bankaktiengesellschaft was originally founded in 1792 by Michael Lazar Biedermann, imperial Austrian court jeweler and co-founder of the Jewish community in Vienna. This  certificate for 25 shares of 400 Krone was issued in Vienna, 1921 and printed by H. Engel & Sohn. Other types of this share are illustrated in the catalog as number 1153, 1154 and 1157. 

The book was published almost 25 years ago, so the price indications (mentioned in Austrian Shilling) are not relevant anymore. Yet, this is a top work for anyone interested in the history of Austrian banking described and well illustrated in the first 50 pages of this volume. The color photographs are really well made! 


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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Puzzling scripophily - No. 6

Dear Miss Marple and M. Hercule Poirot,

We are looking for a particular object. The following three visual clues will help you solve this puzzle. These are details from three antique bond and share certificates.

How to take part ? Submit your replies in the comments section of this post, or in any other way.
What's in it for you ? The first correct answer yields eternal fame.
When will the solution be revealed ? Check here.

That's all I can say for the moment.

Yours truly


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Shall we take the car, the plane, or the boat ?

Recently I was surprised by a vintage stock certificate. Its design was rather plain featuring an eagle vignette, frequently seen on American scripophily. But the name of the issuing company was SPACETRONICS, INC., and that was enough to get my attention.

My first guess was that the company developed radar equipment, missile guidance systems or something like that. But that turned out not to be the case. 

This story is about Walter A. Crowley (1917-2008). As an engineer he worked at General Motors, and later at Chrysler on guidance systems for missiles. Crowley also designed and built a Benson Gyrocopter but after two crashes he aimed his research at 'flight without height'. 

Crowley observed that blowing air into the center of a conical lampshade would cause it to rise and hover steadily above any surface, including water. In 1957 he developed an air cushion vehicle that could traverse land or sea without physical contact. 

A first test flight, or you could say test ride, occured in an in-house experiment with Crowley's ten year old son as the test pilot. Other prototype vehicles and outdoor tests followed. In the mean time he formed his Hydro-Air Transportation Company and filed a patent in 1958.

In this period Carl W. Bollum Sr. worked at the Washington office of the Army Ballistic Missiles Agency. Bollum was sent out to learn about Crowley's ideas. But, unlike himself, his office did not show further interest. 

Soon after Bollum left the army he founded Spacetronics. The company incorporated on October 8, 1958, under the laws of the District of Columbia. Spacetronics was located at Bethesda, Maryland, less than 10 miles away from Washington, D.C. Bollum was chairman of the board and president. 

Spacetronics acquired Crowley's company and its related patents and rights. In return Bollum promised to provide capital to develop Crowley's ideas. He hired Crowley as chief engineer and appointed him vice president. 

In that period the US Navy got interested in the so-called "ground-cushion phenomenon". Hearings sessions took place before the Committee on Science and Astronautics at the House of Representatives on 13, 14 and 15 April, 1959. Several projects on air cushion vehicles were discussed. The key people from Spacetronics were invited to present their developments. Other projects screened involved those from the Ford Motor Company and the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, among others.

At the start of the hearings, Admiral R. Bennett, Chief of Naval Research, USN, explained why the Navy and the Marine Corps was interested :  
"... such a ground proximity machine, used as an amphibious transport or an assault boat, with a low silhouette and moderate load-lifting capability would be extremely valuable in accelerating the ship-to-shore movement. Traveling 4 or 5 feet over the wave tops at speeds up top 50 mph and capable of negotiating beaches up to 15 percent slope, the vehicle would present a far less vulnerable target than our present craft ..."

Bollum, president of Spacetronics, knew how lucrative military contracts could be. His company built a heavy-duty prototype vehicle for the US Marine Corps. The machine could achieve a ground clearance of nearly 12 inches and was stable even as a dozen men moved around its deck. 

This Hydro-Air vehicle, aka a ground effect machine, built by Spacetronics, Inc.,  is designed for traversing swampy ground, snow or ice. A flexible skirt enables it to cross many obstructions. The horizontal propeller behind the driver maintains pressure in the hollow body. 
source: Aviation Week 1959-01-12, via the Internet Archive  

The company gets national coverage after The New York Times, on Sunday, October 11, 1959, publishes a special news article "Flying Platform Planned in U.S." :
A Washington concern announced last week that it was building a flying platform as a prototype for a cargo-carrying craft that would skim over water on an air cushion. The "Hydro-Air" vehicle, being built by Spacetronics, Inc., is similar to the Saunders-Roe Hovercraft that is under test in Britain. The American craft is scheduled to be unveiled next month.
When completed, the prototype will be tear-drop shaped, thirty-two feet long, twenty-four feet wide and two feet high. A horizontal propeller at the forward section will pump air downward to lift the craft just off the water. With aft-mounted fans, for forward propulsion, the vehicle will attain speeds up to fifty miles an hour, it was said.
Officials reported that there were essentially two designs for providing lift for such a vehicle. One is a "pelum chamber" [sic; should be 'plenum chamber' ], used on the Spacetronics craft, to provide a billowing volume of air, and the other "annular jets which gain lift by directing a curtain of air at the water surface", he said. The latter is the method used on the Saunders-Roe craft.

Around the same time the British worked on a much larger commercial vehicle, the "hovercraft, based on the earlier work by Christopher Cockerell and produced by the Sanders-Roe company. 

Both Cockerell's and Crowley's prototypes could not spark more military interest. Two main problems of these early crafts were inaccurate steering control and the stirring up of dust on land.

In 1960 the Spacetronics owners moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, with the intention to produce a commercial-type model for fishermen. 

They had some big ideas. In The International Teamster (a union magazine), issue Oct 1960, you can read that the company was designing a big cargo air truck. Allegedly Southern Airways, Inc., had ordered two of these from Spacetronics, envisioning trucking cargo over water on regular scheduled runs between Miami and the Bahama Islands.

Another far reaching idea from Spacetronics shows a train riding air cushions on a concrete rail
source: Popular Mechanics 1960-06: Volume 113, Issue 6, via the Internet Archive 

It is not clear what happened next, but the company was suddenly dissolved. Yet, Bollum still believed in the potential of Crowley's ideas. You can see here that in 1963 Bollum filed a patent for an "earth-skimming air vehicle" mentioning his name as the inventor.  

Walter A. Crowley went to develop new air cushion concepts at American Machine and Foundry in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1961 the Boeing Company hired him. There he developed an air-bearing system for moving heavy objects with compressed air, up to and including an entire 747 Jumbo Jet. In fact, in 1967, Boeing spun off a succesful subsidiary, Aero-Go, to commercialize all kinds of products based on Crowley's concepts : aero-planks, aero-pallets, air-cushion vehicles, scissor lift tables and much more. 

Crowley's original scale model and prototype hovercraft is on display in the Smithsonian Air Museum in Washington, D.C. 

Walter A. Crowley, research & development manager of Aero-Go, demonstrates the Terra Skipper while skimming over sand and sea at 30 miles an hour. 
Excerpt from The Seattle Times, Pictorial, November 24, 1968 as seen on 8 Nov 2021  


Something extra :
  • The Spacetronics, Inc., share illustrated here was issued to James Harold Scribner. Likely, this is Dr. James Harold Scribner, the first US Navy dentist to visit the South Pole and Antarctica. He participated in the first Operation Deep Freeze in 1955-56 with Admiral Byrd. Spacetronics was involved as a Navy contractor, and in the hearings sessions of 1959 (see main article)  the company envisioned its air cushion vehicles operating also in polar regions. The company's location was Bethesda, MD, where there was a dental clinic at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. From a good source I learned that Dr. Scribner was married to Dorothy Louise Scribner nee Meadows who worked as a navy nurse stationed at Bethesda!

Reference links :

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Spink London launched its E-auction of world bonds & share certificates

Precisely 560 lots of scripophily will go on Spink's E-block. This online sale already started at 15:00 Oct 11. The bidding window closes on Oct 25 at 11:00. At stake are antique stocks and bonds from all continents.

Large sections are reserved for scripophily from Australia, Russia, USA Railways, China, South Africa and Canada. More than 200 lots of British bonds and shares are offered representing many themes such as Banking, Canals and Railways, Mining and Shipping.

The Cunard Steamship Company certificate for 5 shares of £20 was issued in 1880. Its two vignettes show an ocean liner and the company's emblem with lion. The share was issued to and signed by William Cunard. L(ot) 261 in the auction 

The British shipping section counts more than 30 lots including this early Cunard Steamship Company share (illustrated). Here are a few of the interesting lots from this part :
  • L266, F. B. Woodruff and Co. Ltd., ship and country flag vignettes in color, issued in 1915 and signed by Fred. B. Woodruff
  • L288 is a share from The White Star Line, Limited. The company was the owner of the "unsinkable" Titanic that perished with more than 1500 passengers after striking an iceberg. 
  • The sale includes three shares of the famous P & O  shipping line, founded as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, L276 through L278

The Royal Bank of Scotland was established about 300 years ago, in 1724. The bank invented the overdraft in 1728 which allowed merchants to withdraw money from an empty account. Today the bank counts around 700 branches, mainly in Scotland. L349 comprises of 5 capital stock certificates from this pioneering bank, all issued between 1891 and 1914.

A large British banks section consists of more than 60 auction lots. The Royal Bank of Liverpool is rarely seen on the collector's market: L348 includes two early shares from 1865. With illustrations of the York Minster and city walls, York City and County Banking Company shares are among the prettiest financial scripophily collectibles from the UK, see L357 through L362. Other famous names include Westminster Bank, L356, Midland Bank Limited, L341 and Barclays Bank, L306.

Antonio Salviati was an Italian glass manufacturer. His first company produced the mosaic glass for the altar screen for the high altar of Westminster Abbey, among other. In 1866 Salviati founded the Compagnia Venezia Murano with British capital that became an important producer of Venetian art glass. The Salviati factory in Murano remains a well known brand today. The Venice and Murano Glass Company, Limited (Salviati and Company, Limited) share bears a vignette of the Venetian lion and dates from 1889. L174 in the auction.

There is lots more to discover in this sale, so here are the details :
  • Location : this is an Internet only sale
  • Date : October 11 15:00 - October 25 11:00
  • Further info : see here 


PS : Thank you for sharing this post on your favorite social media channel !

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Berner Alpenbahn Gesellschaft - Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon, new book from author Dr Peter Christen

In 1906 the Berner Alpenbahn-Gesellschaft Bern-Loetschberg-Simplon was founded with the purpose of building the second Swiss railway line through the Alps between the cantons Berne and Valais through the Loetschberg mountain. Today it runs under the name BLS and is the largest private railway in Switzerland.

This year, the scripophily public welcomed Dr. Peter Christen’s new book on the Bern–Lötschberg–Simplon Railway. More than reason enough to have a talk with the author! 

FL Welcome Peter in this virtual studio. We are honoured to have you here. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you become interested in scripophily? 

PC Thank you. My “scripophily career” started at Christmas 1980. I can remember very well. I then was a first-year student at the University of Geneva. At the train station on my way to Christmas visit home I bought a financial newspaper … and out fell a share of the “Builder Investment Group”. It was a special Christmas present from the newspaper to its readers. I immediately fell in love with old shares and bonds.Since that day I am into scripophily.

FL Peter, what is the greatest joy you get from collecting?

PC The most fascinating thing for me is the information gathering. First, I have a share or bond in front of me and I know very little about it. Then, when I start to investigate, I find all this interesting information about its history and all its connections it is leading to.

FL Can you tell us something about yourself regarding your “scripophily career”?

PC As a collector, I am definitely not a good role model: I do not specialize in one field. I collect items that are interesting and do have significant importance in economic history. This scope makes a collection really big. However, one of my main fields is collecting railways and more than 10 years ago I published a comprehensive catalogue for Swiss Railways and have published several articles about Swiss railway companies in different media. 


FL Oh yes, in 2014 you won the Journalistenpreis Historische Wertpapiere und Finanzgeschichte. If I am correct, you are the president of the Swiss Collectors Association SCRIPOPHILA HELVETICA, and you’re also a partner in the auction and trading house for historical securities HIWEPA AG. Now you have published a new book, “Die Berner Alpenbahn-Gesellschaft Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon BLS”. Why did you choose this subject?

PC I actually have hundreds of ideas of interesting things I could write about. There is just not enough time. But this year it is different. The idea for writing this book came up in February. “Thanks” to all these Covid restrictions I was forced to stay at home and could not go to my usual spring trekking holidays in Spain. So I decided spontaneously that I would write a book.

PC Finding a theme is definitely not a problem for me. A couple of years ago I wrote a short article (see here) about the “Finanzgeschichte der BLS Lötschbergbahn – Berner Alpenbahn” for my colleagues at HIWEPA. Together with the famous “Gotthardbahn” the BLS Lötschbergbahn – Berner Alpenbahn” was the second Swiss railway through the alps and has a very interesting history.

PC I took this article as a starting base and, for a couple of weeks, I investigated further into the story of the company, with – what at least I think – super interesting and new information about this railway and all its shares and bonds.

FL Well, you made me curious. Can you tell us briefly what makes this railway so interesting? What surprised you most?

PC The Berner Alpenbahn Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon, today BLS, was and is the second railway through the Swiss Alps and a very important link between Northern Europe and Italy. Its financial history is very interesting. Actually, at the beginning, nobody in Switzerland, except the people of the canton Berne, wanted to finance this project. Berne had to look elsewhere to raise the necessary funds and these were to come from an unexpected source.

PC I personally was surprised to find out that the Berner Alpenbahn and its shares and bonds even have some connections to an assassinated French president and even to the Compagnie Générale Aéropostale and its famous pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I think nobody knew about this connection until I found it. 

FL Wow, that’s sounds intriguing? Looking at the book cover we can detect a certificate in the background of the front cover. Why did you pick that particular certificate?

PC The background for the front cover is the bond of the Berner Alpenbahn-Gesellschaft issued for building the railway. Between 1906 and 1912, the company raised money with four issues of these decorative bonds.

FL The vignette invites us to have a closer look. Does it represent a real view in Switzerland?

PC Yes, the image in the vignette shows an aerial view of the main section of the railway in the Bernese Oberland. The bond also depicts the two shields of the main cantons along the line, Berne, in the left border, and Valais, on the right. On top of the certificate, you’ll see a winged railway wheel with Mercury and the electric bolts. It represents the BLS as the first electric railway through the Alps.

FL I’m sure our readers will be interested about the book format and content. What about that?

PC The book has 148 pages and many colour images especially with details of the old shares and bonds. The book has three chapters, first, the financial history of the company and, second, the detailed images, description and background of its shares and bonds and, third, the list and images of all issued shares and bonds of the company. You also can buy the book as e-Book. 

FL Where there any special sources that you used for your research? How long did it take you then to write it?

PC I especially researched all reports from the company itself, general history and other reports about the company. Further, I am always astonished how every year the information you can get through the Internet increases. As I already have written a shorter financial history about the company the information gathering did not take too much time. It took me three to four weeks the write the book then.

FL Now, it’s time for what I believe is one of the most difficult questions a collector may answer. If you could add any certificate in the world to your collection, what would it be, and why?

PC I would love to find a share or bond with the signature of James Watt. In the collector market, all important inventions, railways, canals, cars, airplanes, etc, do have shares or certificates but there is nothing on the extremely important invention of the steam engine. So, a share with the signature of James Watt would really be a sensational find. Maybe our collector friends from the UK will make this find ... but I doubt it.

FL Peter, I want to thank you for this interview and wish you a lot of success with the book.

Die Berner Alpenbahn-Gesellschaft Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon BLS Finanzgeschichte und Historische Wertpapiere, by Peter Christen, is published by Books on Demand :
  • ISBN: 978-3-753-40662-6
  • Price: CHF 29.80
The book can be ordered with, email, or at most bookshops and online bookstores. An e-Book version is available as well.


This post was originally written for Scripophily magazine, published by IBSS.

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Friday, October 1, 2021

The Compagnie des Indes Orientales : Boone reveals the oldest share ever auctioned in upcoming international collectors event

Mario Boone is a major player in the field of antique share certificates and financial documents. The auctioneer scheduled his 67th scripophily auction and bourse on 16 and 17 October 2021. On the agenda are about 1400 scripophily lots that will go on the block in Antwerp.

Boone succeeded in compiling exceptional rare and beautiful stocks and bonds from all continents, such as the oldest share to be auctioned, the oldest French railway share, a share purchased by Nobel prize laureate Max Planck, and many more amazing historic securities like this one.

Prior to the late 1890s color photography was the domain of a small number of researchers that build their own equipment. This share from 1897 is signed by the Belgian color photography pioneer Louis Ernest Dugardin who invented one of the first commercially available color cameras in the world. He founded in 1897 the Paris based Société Nationale de la Photographie des Couleurs et de Reproductions Artistiques Procédés L. Dugardin. This share was designed by the French Belle Epoque artist Lucien Métivet and printed by Imprimerie G. Richard. An amazing document, L(ot) 557 in the sale starts at €2000.

I'll point of out some more highlights of the sale in a moment, but first I'll say something about the bulky auction catalog that counts over 200 pages of data and images. Auction lots are grouped first by region, then by country. The main index lists over 90 countries. Large sections include Belgium, France, Russia, Germany, USA, Spain, Egypt, China, Great Britain and Italy. Collectors of scripophily from seldom-seen places like Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Ghana, Monaco, Martinique, etc, will be surprised by what's going under the hamer.

The Monte Toro Fábrica de Quesos operated on the island of Menorca. This share shows scenes from the town of Es Mercadal at the foot of the Monto Toro, the highest point on the island, a woman making cheese, and grazing cows. The certificate was printed in 1901 in Barcelona by Imp. Luis Tasso. L1075 in the auction, bids accepted from €100 onwards. 

So, what about the top item of the sale ? Well, it's a share from the Compagnie des Indes Orientales issued more than 350 years ago in 1665. That was an eventful year :  the Second Anglo-Dutch War begins, King Charles II of England leaves London fleeing the Great Plague, the Qing invasion of Taiwan fails due to a typhoon, and the Compagnie des Indes Orientales sends twenty settlers to start the colonisation of Réunion.

The Compagnie des Indes Orientales was founded by Jean-Baptiste Colbert on 1 September 1664 to compete with the English and Dutch colonial trading companies. The company was granted a 50-year monopoly of French trade in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Straits of Magellan, with a concession in perpetuity for Madagascar and ‘all other islands and lands it could conquer’ (*).  The company also had to build churches and train priests in its territories. Several ‘comptoirs’ were established in various parts of India such as Puducherry and Chandannagar. 
This share of 6000 French Livres, 2000 Livres been paid, unique and of great historic importance, is the earliest share ever auctioned. Bids for L467 start at €44,000 
(*) The Compagnie des Indes, by Howard Shakespeare, Journal of the IBSS, Feb 1997 

At the end of the printed catalog, you'll find a list with over 100 indexes on themes, Belgian provinces, famous signatures, artists and printing companies. On top of that you can search through the online version with keywords.

There is nothing as fascinating as antique securities produced in gold print. A search through the digital catalog on keywords like "gold print", "printed in gold" and "gold, black" (co-occuring colors), yield some great results. You should see these. I've listed them by start price in ascending order : 
  • €30, L440 Basilique de Sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus à Lisieux, 1933, Lisieux, Calvados
  • €40, L1173 The Port Rowan and Lake Shore Railway Company, 1880s, Port Dover, Ontario
  • €80, L702 Cooperative des Médecins et Pharmaciens de Grèce, 1924, Athens (see image below)
  • €200, L230 Szegedi Kereskedelmi es Iparbank, 1909, Szegeden, Hungary
  • €200, L524 Compagnie L'Union Service par Bateaux à Vapeur et Autres, 1840, Rouen, France
  • €1000, L459 Casino et Concerts Paganini, 1837, Paris
  • €1200, L1274 The Gold Mining Company, 1888, registered in West Virginia, mines at Mojave County, Arizona
  • €2000, L758 Barkschip: Grootmeester Nationaal, 1857, Dordrecht
  • €2000, L1169 Great Cariboo Gold Company, 1905, New York, but operations in British Columbia, Canada

L702 is a wonderful 5 shares certificate in the Cooperative des Médecins et Pharmaciens de Grèce. Issued in 1924, Athens, and produced in gold print. 

Boone auctions always include scripophily related to that little country somewhere near the center of Europe, Belgium (about 220 lots). Here are some interesting lots from that chapter in the sale :
  • L234 Algemeene Nederlandsche Maatschappij ter Begunstiging van de Volksvlijt, a Dutch share from 1825 to finance a new canal between Pommeroeul and Antoing (Hainaut province) 
  • L241 the oldest certificate seen, a bond, from A.C.E.C., and highly decorative too
  • L245 Société Européenne d'Automobiles, 1898, far ahead of its time targeting the European market, rare and prehistoric automobile manufacturer 

I didn't know that Belgium once tried to colonize Guatemala, did you ? Here's a share, L292, in the Compagnie Belge de Colonisation, Communauté de l'Union, issued in 1844. The company was founded with the help of King Leopold I of Belgium to administer Santo-Thomas de Guatemala, today known as Santo Tomàs de Castilla, Puerto Barrios. Leopold's goal was not only to exploit rich natural resources, but also to reduce crime in Belgium by sending the unemployed, the underprivileged and adventurers to the "promised land of Verapaz".  Many colonists died in the harsh conditions and the project was given up after 20 years. A rare object of Belgian international history, bidding starts at €200.

There is a lot more to discover in the auction. I almost forgot, if you are into Russian scripophily, then don't forget to check out that chapter as well. It includes interesting railway certificates but also a large section of Russian banking and credit securities. 

Before giving you further details and links for the event, I'll end this post with an incredibly beautifully produced work. Extremely rare and of historic economic importance, L451 is a share in the Chemin de Fer de Paris à St. Cloud et Versailles - Rive Droite de la Seine, the oldest French steam-powered railway. The share dates from 1837 and is signed by politician and financier Emile Pereire.

The auction catalog fully describes the history of this French railway company, the Chemin de Fer de Paris à St. Cloud et Versailles. Click the image above and below to see more details of this wonderful print. In the detail below, you see two angels below a column. They present the coat of arms of Paris. Above and at the left of the figures you can detect two light grey rosettes. All those details are produced in such a way that it gives the viewer a feeling of depth just like the raised relief on a medal. But that is only an optical illusion. In fact, the only color used for this print is black. The certificate's design was created by the best engraver of its time, Jacques-Jean Barre, who designed and engraved the first postage stamps of France. He was master engraver at the Monnaie de Paris producing designs for coins and medals. Absolutely stunning. Start price of L451 is €12,000.

Even if you are not a collector the weekend of 16 and/or 17 October is an opportunity to see some great antique securities. As for me, I am looking forward to meet again collector friends that I haven't seen for a long time. Here are the details :
  • Location : Antwerp, Belgium
  • Dates
    • 16 October 2021, Boone's 67th live and internet auction
    • 17 October 2021, bourse of historic bonds and shares
  • Further info : 
    • online catalog & bidding, see here 
    • or via the Invaluable platform (large images), see there 
    • and the PDF version of the catalog can be found here 


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Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Walkman share

In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, underdog Peter Quill “Star-Lord”, portrayed by Chris Pratt, faces the galaxy’s worst criminals. Using a Walkman he listens to Rupert Holmes’ catchy Escape (Piña Colada) song in order to stay connected with the Earth and the family he lost. 

SONY introduced in 1979 the Walkman, a portable cassette player that allowed you to listen to music while on the move with a small headset. The player fit in your hand and you could clip it onto your belt. By the time Sony had stopped production, 30 years later, they had built about 200 million cassette-based Walkmans.

This SONY specimen share certificate was printed by the Dai Nippon Printing Company and dates from 1975. The red characters in the center are 見本 : Mihon, meaning ‘specimen’. Note the odd denomination of 1-99 (number of shares) which suggests that the certificate was a presentation model. 

Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita both served in the Imperial Japanese Navy during WW II. In 1946 they formed Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) which became Sony in 1958.

The company would become world famous with electronic products, such as the portable transistor radio, cassette players, televisions, video recorders, the Discman, digital cameras, Vaio laptop computers, Playstations and humanoid robots. SONY Corporation is now owned by SONY Group Corporation which is, among many other things, one of the largest music companies and film studios today.

Sony’s stock was first listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in December 1958. It became a part of the Nikkei 225 stock market index. Sony was listed on the NYSE in September 1970 as the first Japanese company to appear on an any American stock exchange.

Collecting Japanese shares is challenging, especially if you don’t read the language. Luckily modern ones are bilingual showing the text in both Japanese and English. You can read that the certificate illustrated above mentions a capital of 424,000,000 shares of 50 Yen with date of issuance Nov 1, 1975.

I cannot read Japanese but with the help of a dear collector friend I’ve learned to recognize some “phrases” on antique bonds and shares from Japan. The older certificates have to be read in a “right to left and top to bottom” direction. Modern certificates print Japanese from left to right, as is the case here. 

The bold characters in black are ソニー株式会社株券.  
This can be split into three parts:
  • ソニー, SONY; 
  • 株式会社, kabushikigaisha, Corporation or ‘Co Ltd’ , which is in turn formed by 
    • 株式, kabushiki, stock 
    • and 会社, kaisha,company; 
  • 株券, kabuken, stock certificate. 
Together it says “stock certificate of the SONY Corporation”.  

In the lower right corner, you see the western facsimile signature of President Kazuo Iwama (1919–1982). He was a geophysics engineer lured away from his research job at the seismology research center of Tokyo University by his brother-in-law and SONY co-founder Akio Morita. Kazuo Iwama’s Japanese signature is shown in black right above the lower border: 岩間 和夫.

Japanese shares usually show red seals. These are carved in a traditional formal font style and are hard to interpret by most people. These official seals have a legal impact and must be registered with the local authorities and are used as a formal signature with all kinds of business transactions.

The red rectangular seal is the official company seal with characters written in the traditional way (special font, left to right/top to bottom). It says “seal of the Sony Corporation”. The red round seal has an outer ring mentioning the name of the company, thus ‘SONY Corporation’. The inner circle says ‘seal of the president’.

Finding SONY scripophily is not straightforward. Not often, an ADR stock certificate becomes available on the collectors market. These were printed by the American Bank Note Company in American standard format and with a vignette of a woman encircled by electrons. This specimen ADR dates from 1995. American Depositary Receipts (ADR) are negotiable securities issued by a bank that represents shares in foreign stock. ADRs trade on a American stock exchange. 

As for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Sony Pictures Imageworks, a Canadian unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, provided some of the visual effects and digital animation for the film.


This post is based on an article written for Scripophily magazine, published by IBSS.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

FHW's 120th auction of historic stocks and bonds presents the Stratmann collection of German film companies

Freunde Historischer Wertpapiere (FHW) has scheduled its 120th sale for October 9, 2021. This time the auctioneer selected more than 1400 lots of historic bonds and share certificates. Major sections have been reserved for scripophily from the USA, Germany, the German DM era, and a series of more than 200 lots from other countries worldwide.

The German chapter presents over 600 lots from the pre-DM period covering all regions and branches. A dedicated Deutschland Top 20 section, lot range 983-1002, bundles the high-end items. Some examples from the German chapter  :
  • The Megola Motoren Aktiengesellschaft was an early motorcycle manufacturer. Its boldly designed 10000 Mark share dates from 1923,  L(ot) 961
  • L988 is a rare share from the Farge-Vegesacker Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft. Its railway line from Vegesack-Grohn to Blumenthal-Farge was opened in 1888. 
  • L1097 presents a loan from the city of Duisburg for the construction of a concert and theater building. Printed by M. Mendelssohn, its large vignette shows the "Tonhalle", destroyed by Allied bombing in 1942.

The Podeus family from the city of Wismar was active in coal and wood trading, iron works, railway cars, agricultural machinery and shipping services. Before WW I the company diversified into automobiles and trucks which they sold under the Podeus brand name. This 1901 share in the Stahl-Schrauben-Dampfschiff “Herzog Johann Albrecht”, a steamer built by the Neptun Werft in Rostock, is signed by Heinrich Podeus.  L1119 in the auction starts at €1200 

The Dieter Stratmann collection consists of German pre-WWII film certificates brought together over a time span of more than 30 years. Included are tens of rare, some unique, bonds and shares from this fascinating theme. Bidders will first have the opportunity to bid on the entire collection as a whole. It consists of 93 certificates grouped into 72 lots (L492 - L563). Start price is set at €18500. In case no bid is achieved, the auctioneer presents the lots one by one. The sale includes many authentic UFA shares, see image below, and many other interesting movie names, such as : 
  • Bavariafilm Aktiengesellschaft München, 1923, L494
  • L527 and L528, Rolf Randolf-Film-Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin, 1923, 5000 and 10000 mark shares with facsimile signature of actor, film director, screenwriter and producer Rolf Randolf
  • L531-L533, Terra Film Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin

During the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) the German film industry became the largest in Europe. Not less than 250 films were produced every year. The most important company of the era was Universal Film AG (UFA). The company stood for experimentation and new technological developments in film making, set design and lighting. In the early 1920s the company expanded the Babelsberg Studio locations into the largest film studio in Europe. Among UFA's great successes were Fritz Lang's Metropolis and The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings. Recently, the Babelsberg Studio co-produced international movies like Flightplan, The Hunger Games and Charlie's Angels. Besides this rare and early 1000 Mark share, unissued but from 1921, the auction features several  more original bonds and shares from the Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft. L539 

Over the past years Deutsche Mark scripophily has shown its popularity in German auctions.  After the example of the Deutschland Top 20, the auctioneer published a DM TOP 20 in its PDF auction catalog, see page 164 (link below). You may want to check the interesting statistics and sell-thru rates from recent auctions for that DM category. The current sale includes about 300 DM lots. Here are a few examples from lot range 1184 through 1442 :
  • L1289 and 1290, two 1998 specimen "Sammel-Namensaktien" from Generali Lloyd, security printing by Schleicher and Schuell with the Lion of Venice in underprint
  • L1299, Gusstahlwerk Witten AG, 1000 DM share, unissued but 1956, see image
  • L1358 is a 50000 DM specimen share from department stores company Kaufhof AG, Köln, 1985

In 1948 West Germany introduced the Deutsche Mark which became one of the world's most stable currencies. The country's economy then rapidly developed. This "Wirtschaftswunder" created a heavy demand for steel. Bidding on this stunning share in the Gusstahlwerk Witten Aktiengesellschaft starts at €120.  L1299 in the sale. 

The American scripophily section comprises 270 lots, the bigger part being railway securities. Some noteworthy collectibles are :
  • L72, Chester and Iron Mountain Railroad Company, 1st mortgage gold bond of $1000, great railway vignette and lettering, rare
  • L176-209, a number of Pennsylvania Rail Road Company stock certificates, issued around 1900, all printed with very odd denominations, such as L200 which was printed for "SIXTY TWO" shares
  • L228 is a share in the Rio Grande and Texas Land Company, dated 1836, printed on parchment and showing a map of the Rio Grande and Rio Nueces area. Both rivers marked the disputed border between Mexico and the Texan Republic.

Coca-Cola Bottling Corporation, Boston, MA, $100 shares preferred stock, 1928, famous logo and bottle, printed by Goes, L91, €1000 start price 

There is a lot more to discover in the sale, so here are the details :


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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Exhibition : From Peking to Hankow

Train World is the official museum of the NMBS/SNCB, the National Railway Company of Belgium. It is situated in the old but renovated Schaerbeek railway station in the Brussels-Capital Region.

Until 10 October 2021, the museum hosts an interesting temporary exhibition about the history of one of China's most remarkable railways, the Peking–Hankow railway. The exhibit includes several antique government railway bonds.

From Peking to Hankow : a Belgian adventure in China tells the surprising story of China’s longest railway line, from Peking (Beijing) to Hankow (today Wuhan), connecting the North to the South in the early 20th century.

Thousands of people laboured on this immense operation for seven years. This feat was achieved by engineers, technicians and workmen, and Western and Chinese diplomats and financiers. Jean Jadot, a Belgian engineer coordinated and implemented this massive project.

During your visit, the main players in the saga, embodied by talking figures, will tell you some fascinating tales and take you back in time so that you can relive grand moments in the history of the railway.

The exhibition also showcases the impressive development of China’s current high-speed railways. Original works relating to the construction of the Peking-Hankow line and created by artists Li Kunwu (China) and François Schuiten (Belgium) add a contemporary artistic touch to the exhibition. 

Train World is over 8,000 square metres and displays 22 locomotives, royal train carriages, 1/10 scale models and 1,200 other railway related objects, including an original 19th century railway bridge. One of the principal objects to see is the oldest preserved locomotive (1845) in Continental Europe.

A large format hardcover catalog has been published in French and Dutch. The volume counts more than 270 pages and depicts some large illustrations from antique securities. The museum has these scripophily objects on loan from various lenders such as the National Bank of Belgium and BNP Paribas-Fortis. A small number of bonds and shares are actually on display.

Practical info :
  • Opening hours : 10:00 - 17:00, but closed on Mondays, the Peking-Hankow exhibition runs till 10 October 2021
  • Location : Princess Elisabeth place 5, Schaerbeek
  • More info here in English, in Dutch, in French and in German  


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