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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Monday, September 6, 2021

HWPH stars Shanghai Stock Exchange predecessor in double session sale

Historisches Wertpapierhaus AG (HWPH) has scheduled its next international event for 18 and 19 September 2021. Specialist Matthias Schmitt and his team brought together over 2,300 lots of historic securities and related documents for this special occasion. 

The first leg of the auction is both a live and an online event and takes place in Zorneding, near Munich. The second part is an online only sale and happens the next day. 

The offerings are peppered with German rarities but also includes many desirable antique stock certificates from states like Russia, Sweden, Italy, and much more.

A dedicated 50 Highlights catalog has been compiled for the top lots in the sale. One of the highlights in the auction is a share in the Shanghai Securities and Commodities Exchange  Company Ltd from the 1920s. 

After the first turbulent years of the Republic of China, "Father of the Nation" Sun Yat-sen wanted to develop a stable national economy. A stock exchange, headed by Chinese people, was part of that plan. Together with Zhu Zhixin and Yu Qiaqing, he proposed in 1916 the formation of the Shanghai Securities and Commodities Exchange. But the military regime at Beijing blocked the initiative. When at the end of 1918 Japanese businessmen started their Share Co. Ltd in Shanghai in order to control the exchange market, the founding of the Shanghai Securities and Commodities Exchange Co. Ltd was reproposed and approved in 1919. The new exchange was inaugurated on July 1, 1920, and Yu Qiaqing was its first chairman. Shanghai became the financial center of the Far East. The exchange merged with the Shanghai Chinese Merchant Exchange to form the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 1929. This rare stock certificate, 100 shares of 50 yuan, was issued in 1925. Its vignette shows the exchange building and features early microprinting in the underprint. L(ot) 702 in the auction is expected to realise at least €9000.

The lion's share of the sale involves German securities. The auction's online catalog allows searching for your interests by means of country as well as thematic indexes. A keyword search using the word Nürnberg yields more than twenty lots, including a stunning share, interesting from an art history perspective as well, in the Tiergarten Nürnberg.

Hermann Gradl used to design Art Nouveau decorations for the Nymphenburg porcelain works in Munich. In 1907 he became a teacher at the Nuremberg School of Applied Arts. He designed the share of the newly founded Tiergarten Nürnberg AG in 1911. The zoo received 800,000 visitors in 1918. By then Gradl was as a succesful painter of German landscapes. 
Tiergarten Nürnberg survived the hyperinflation years but after the Nazis seized power, the zoo had to make way for the Nazi party rally grounds in Feb 1939. Two years earlier Adolf Hitler saw several Gradl paintings in the studio of architect Franz Ruff. The latter finished the Party Congress Hall on the new party rally grounds. Hitler arranged a meeting with Gradl and ordered six huge landscape paintings for the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin. 70,000 Reichsmarks were paid as an advance. After delivery of the works in 1941, Gradl was "asked" to join the NSDAP and he received the remainder of his fee totalling 120,000 RM. 
The Nuremberg Zoo was almost entirely destroyed during World War II. By the late 1950s it was rebuilt and today it is one of the largest zoos in Europe. L365 in the sale  

The auctioneer provided a dedicated catalog - in Russian - for the more than 200 Russian offerings : 59-й аукцион антикварных ценных бумаг. Some examples from this category :
  • L704,  a share in the Gesellschaft der Anstalt für künstliches Mineralwasser in St. Petersburg, the first company traded on the Saint Petersburg bourse, issued to and signed by Baron Ludwig von Stieglitz, court banker of Tsars Alexander I and Nicolas I. Large vignette of the building, 1834, reportedly unique 
  • L709, Moskau-Yaroslav-Archangelsk-Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft, 4% 1000 Rubel bond, 1895, 2nd emission 
  • A coat of arms, showing Archangel Michael with sword and shield and the Tsar crown on top of it, adorns a pink and black printed 5000 Rubel specimen bond from the Société du Crédit Foncier de la Ville de Kief, L765
  • L902, Trans-Alaska-Siberian Railway Company, stock certificate, 1906, issued to and signed by the French Baron Léon Loicq de Lobel known for his proposal to build a bridge-and-tunnel link between Siberia and Alaska. The project was authorized by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

The sale includes more than 40 Italian lots. To name a few : Banco di Roma, L1055, Fabbrica Automobili "Nazzaro", L149, and shipping company La Polare, L184. The certificate illustrated here is a 1925 share in the Industria della Maglia Dott. Francesco Floris, a textile company from Florence. Gaetano Spinelli, an Italian painter, made the wonderful monochromic print for the certificate's central vignette. Spinelli's works are displayed in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, and Rome's Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderne e Contemporanea, among others. L167. 

The auction offers historic and beautiful antique stocks and bonds from all continents spanning 5 centuries of financial history. There is much more to tell, but the best way is to see for yourself. Here are the auction details:
  • Dates and place : 
    • 18 September 2021, live (and online) auction, Zorneding, followed by a meeting for EDHAC members 
    • 19 September 2021, online auction
  • Further info, catalogs and search tools, see here on HWPH. Live bidding is possible through Invaluable.com, see there, where you can find high quality images of the lots. 

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Saturday, August 14, 2021

Watermarks in Scripophily - part 2 Paper manufacturers

In Watermarks in Scripophily – part 1 I introduced you into the world of watermarks specifically on bonds and shares. This time we’ll talk about watermarks created by the paper makers themselves, perhaps the most obvious category of watermarks in scripophily. 

The first watermarks appeared in Italy during the 13th century. They were used to identify the papermaker or the trade guild that manufactured the paper. An interesting question is whether watermarks were invented, or just a side effect in the production process?

images 1a and 1b: When viewed against a light source, this Nira Valley Sugar Co share reveals a watermark pattern of bold vertical and faint horizontal lines. This is an example of laid paper. A detail of the pattern is shown here below. Click images to enlarge. The actual company and its share was described and illustrated in part 1 of this series, see here

European paper was initially made by dipping a wooden-framed screen, a lattice of metal wires, into a tub of warm water and cellulose fibers, scooping up this pulp, and then letting the water drain out. The cellulose came from cotton linters or recycled cloth (rag), and only much later wood fibers were used too. 

The cellulose fibers subsequently matted into a thin layer against the screen. For hundreds of years these screens had a rectangular design with widely-spaced vertical “chain” wires and closely-spaced horizontal “laid” wires tied on top of the chain wires.

In the process the wires in the screen compress the pulp fibres and reduce their thickness. The resulting patterned portion of the paper is thinner and lets more light through than the surrounding paper. 

The laid wires yield faint lines in the watermark. Chain wires have a greater impact and are responsible for the bolder lines. This type of paper is known as laid paper. A nice example can be seen above in images 1a and 1b.

images 2a and 2b: The Swedish immigrant Willgodt T. Odhner invented the Arithmometer, a pinwheel calculator. Following the Russian revolution, his company moved from St. Petersburg to Göteborg, Sweden. This 1918 share’s watermark reveals a coat of arms of the paper manufacturer Lessebo, a crowned beehive with the date 1719. The words ‘Handgjord Post’ translate as ‘handmade post’. Image courtesy Wilhelm Leiter 

Paper makers found out that they could add special designs to the watermark by sewing wire designs to the screen frame. A paper maker could now incorporate its coat of arms, a logo, or its name into the watermark. The product could now be identified and became difficult to counterfeit. An interesting example is the Original-Odhner share, see images 2a and 2b.

Often paper makers have a remarkable history. The Original-Odhner’s share’s paper manufacturer is Lessebo Paper. The paper mill was originally an iron mill established in the 17th century. In the 1690s the mill started making heavy paper for paper cartridges used for containing a bullet and gunpowder. In 1719 the mill gained permission to manufacture paper, a date that you see in the company’s coat of arms (image 2a). Lessebo Paper still manufactures hand-made paper today.

Over time, the production of watermarks became mechanized. During manufacture paper pulp is passed through rolls with a raised design. The designs applied on the rolls cause density variations in the produced paper. In turn, these density variations make an image or a pattern appear in the paper in the form of various shades of lightness and darkness. We speak of multi-tonal watermarks.

A relevant example can be seen in part 1, see there, namely the Indian Post Office 5-Year Cash Certificate. That paper shows light, dark and even multi-tonal watermarks giving the viewer an impression of depth. Another fine example can be seen on a Olivetti bond, see images 3a and 3b.

Images 3a and 3b: Ing. C. Olivetti & C. was founded in 1908 as a typewriter manufacturer and evolved into computers and smartphones. This certificate, issued 1948, has a watermark pattern, a repeating design that is applied all over the surface of the paper. Watermark patterns can be seen on many Russian railway bonds. In most cases it is not possible to detect whether patterns like these were designed by the paper manufacturer, or by commission of the certificate’s printer or issuer. The pattern on this Olivetti bond consists of diagonally placed geometrical figures. The multi-tonal shade gives you an impression of depth and the pattern appears as a structure of ‘buttons’, looking like bubble wrap plastic, something I usually cannot resist popping! 

In the 1700s James Whatman started a paper making business in Maidstone, Kent. He experimented with the wire screen used in the process. Whatman replaced the lattice of laid and chain wires with a screen of a much finer woven mesh of wires. As a result, the paper was formed on a much more uniform surface and showed no watermark pattern of lines, unless a wire design had been sewn to the screen. This type of handmade paper is called wove paper, and its invention led to what we know as modern paper today.

Whatman was probably the first paper company that added a year to its watermark, see image 4b. You may discover on your certificates watermarks by other paper makers incorporating a year as well. The shares in the United Commercial Bank, Calcutta, issued in the 1960s, show the T H Saunders (or parts of it) name with the year 1946. That company was founded by Thomas Harry Saunders. Famous for its diversity in watermark designs used on stamps, bills of exchange, securities, and the like, Saunders won medals at international exhibitions for his light and shade watermarks that were used to prevent frauds.

Images. 4a and 4b: Established in the 1840s as the Auckland Hotel, Kolkata’s Great Eastern Hotel, today known as the LaLiT Great Eastern, hosted many notable persons like Nikita Khrushchev, Elizabeth II, Dave Brubeck and M K Gandhi. This 1937 share was printed on wove paper. Its watermark shows the WHATMAN name, ‘HAND MADE’ and the year ‘1916’. 

You cannot interpret a year in a watermark as the year of paper production or as a print date. It should be seen as “paper produced not earlier than” because mills did not always update their watermarks.

Besides their name and coat of arms, paper mills sometimes added to the watermark an indication of the paper brand and the paper quality. That made it easy for stationery businesses and printers to look up the right type of paper in their inventory. As an example, I show here an American paper, see images 5a and 5b.

Images 5a and 5b: The Q1 Corporation was a pioneering microcomputer company. In 1972 they delivered the world’s first personal computer based on an 8-bit general purpose microprocessor, the Intel 8008. The share bears the watermark of the Strathmore Paper Co, founded in 1892, West Springfield, Massachusetts. The watermark shows the brand ‘Strathmore Script’ and its quality ‘100% Cotton Fibre’. Cotton fibres are strong yet soft and create a uniform paper surface that is strong and flexible. 100% cotton paper is often used for banknotes. 

In some cases, paper makers add to their watermark the location where the paper was made. Some examples from Indian shares: The Rajnagar Spg. Wvg. & Manufacturing Co Ltd, preference share, 1945, was ‘MADE IN ENGLAND’ and a 100 Rupees share in The Birla Mills Ltd, 1920, reveals ‘MADE IN CANADA’.

More of a surprise is a 100 Rs share from The Gold Mohur Mills Ltd, 1926, Bombay, telling us ‘MADE IN AUSTRIA’. Another example that illustrates the export of quality paper products is shown in images 6a and 6b.

Images 6a and 6b: From Egypt, the shares from the Alexandria Pressing Company that were issued in the 1950s have a watermark showing the name of the Norwegian company ‘BORREGAARD’, the paper type ‘TUB SIZED LEDGER’ and the location of the paper mill ‘MADE IN NORWAY’.

I conclude this part in the series with one of my favorites: a share in The Dahramsi Morarji Chemical Co Ltd, Bombay (DMCC). Its watermark shows the line LUCKY PARCHMENT, a design of a jockey racing a horse, and the words RAG CONTAINING underneath. See images 7a and 7b below.

Parchment paper is not to be confused with “parchment”. The latter is a writing material made from animal skin. The former is a type of cellulose-based paper (made from wood pulp and cotton fibers) which has been treated chemically to make the paper stronger, more heat resistant and above all non-sticky.

You’ll find the words PARCHMENT also in the watermarks of shares from McLeod and Co, Ltd (1940s) and many other scripophily examples. In my example, LUCKY PARCHMENT is a parchment paper brand from the Indian paper company Ballarpur Paper and Straw Board Mills, Ltd.

RAG CONTAINING is another line of text in the DMCC watermark. Rag paper or cotton paper is primarily made of cotton linters or from used cloth (rags). Cotton paper may last many decades without any sign of deterioration, see also images 5a and 5b before.

Images 7a and 7b: This share in The Dahramsi Morarji Chemical Co Ltd was issued in 1968. The company's headquarters were located at Dr Dababhoy Naoroji Road in Mumbai. The certificate shows the coat of arms of the company, including a tiny map of India, and has a watermark of a racing jockey. 

The DMCC’s remarkable jockey watermark seems unrelated but it is not. I learned from scripophily expert Sayeed Cassim (see also here) that the Ballarpur paper company was founded by Karam Chand Thapar, who headed the Thapar Group of companies. The Thapar family was involved in race horse ownership, hence the jockey.

Time for a quick review. The first watermarks were formed, likely unexpectedly, in the production process of what we now call laid paper. Paper makers then added a logo, their coat of arms, or their name to the watermark design. Some of them further added a year, a paper type or brand, and also a location where the paper was made. If you haven’t done so already, you might start viewing your certificates against a window.

In part 3, I’ll show that paper manufacturers start adding watermark elements on behalf of one of their important customer segments: security printers.


This article was initially published in Scripophily magazine No. 114, December 2020. 
You might be interested to read : Watermarks in Scripophily - part 1 Introduction 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

American mines, British rails, and lots more, are going on the block at Spink

SPINK's latest timed scripophily auction went live and ends at 11 AM BST on August 10, 2021. This online sale presents more than 500 lots of antique bonds and shares from all continents.

The Keystone Gold Mining Co. incorporated in New Jersey, 1888. This share, printed by Stewart, Warren & Co., shows a remarkable vignette of an arch with a prominent keystone locking the other stones in place. The company's mines were located at Miquel County, Colorado. L(ot) 474 in the auction 

The sale includes an impressive section of more than 70 American mining stocks and bonds. Some noteworthy examples :
  • The Indian Queen Mining and Milling Company, 1881, mines at Esmeralda County, Nevada, vignette of native American woman, L447 
  • The Klamath Placer Mining Company, $500 6% Gold Bond, vignettes of mine site and native American on horseback, 1902, L478, only 240 issued 
  • The Helena Mining Company, certificate for 3000 shares of $10, 1891, fine vignette of mountain peak with train in valley, mine in Leadville, Colorado, L424

It was Sir Edward James Reed, Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, who suggested the founding of The Channel Tubular Railway Preliminary Company Ld., in French : Société Préliminaire du Chemin de Fer Tubulaire de la Manche. The company planned the construction of a railway tunnel through the Channel to connect England with France like today's Eurotunnel. The project failed due to political considerations. This 5 Parts de Fondateurs, issued in London, 1892, with Reed's signature, shows the cliffs of England and France, and a train traveling through a tube across the Channel. L151

SPINK's British offerings cover themes like banking, mining, motor cars, but also less obvious ones like golf and horse racing. Here are some interesting certificates from the railway section :
  • Parsonstown and Portumna Bridge Railway Company, £10 shares, 1861, then part of Great Britain, a rare Irish railway company with no happy ending (check catalog), L170 
  • L148 is a certificate for 40 shares, issued Edinburgh, 1846, in the British and Irish Union Railway Company 
  • London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, 5% preferential £50 share, 1847, L165, rare  

The Australian Agricultural Company was formed in 1824 with a capital of £1 million and a grant from the Crown of 1 million acres of land in New South Wales. The company became one of the largest exporters of coal from the Colony and built its own railways - the first one in Australia - to serve its pits. Convicts formed a major employee type of the  AACo. The company still exists today operating feedlots and farms covering about 1% of Australia's land. It is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange as AAC. This early Australian share, with a Golden Fleece embossed seal, is one of the auction highlights. L2 

To conclude this post, here are some interesting items from the catalog's other sections :
  • L95, Paarl Kohinoor Developing Syndicate, £25 share, ca 1889, South Africa, diamond mining, rare
  • L297, and L298, are shares from The British Honduras Syndicate Ltd, 1890s, banana business, large and gorgious vignette !
  • L138 is a 1916 bond from The Holy Synod of The Empire of Russia 
  • Watertown and Madison Railroad Company, 2nd mortgage bond $1000, locomotive vignette, fine scrollwork, rare US railroad scripophily, L410

Gustave Doré, born in Strassbourg, France, was a succesful painter and illustrator. The exhibition of his work in London, 1867, led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in Bond Street, London. The building became later Sotheby's London headquarters ! This share from 1890 shows a vignette of the artist. L251 

You can find more of these fascinating stocks and bonds in the SPINK online catalogue. Here are the auction details : 
  • location & date : online only, this timed auction ends on : 10 Aug 2021, 11:00 AM BST
  • online catalogue see here  


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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Wurlitzer Good Will Bond

You're nothing but a dreamer
Well can you put your hands in your head ? Oh No
I said, "Dreamer ...

These are the opening words from Dreamer, one of Supertramp's world hits. Formed in London in 1970, Supertramp blended progressive rock and pop styles. Take a few moments to listen here to the song recorded at a live concert in Germany in the 1980s. I bet that you'll recognize the Wurlitzer piano play that was essential to their unique sound.

Specimen stock certificate from The Wurlitzer Company, 1960s. 
Image courtesy scripophily.com 

The Wurlitzer Company started as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in Cincinnati in 1853. They produced pianos and organs, and later electric pianos and also electronic organs. The company's magnificently designed jukeboxes were popular from the 1930s through the 1960s. In some places "Wurlitzer" became a generic name for any jukebox. 

Starting in 1950 the American stock market started a long rise. On Dec 29, 1954, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached the 400 points milestone. On Jan 28, 1965, the DJIA stood at 900 points. Trading volume rose from 16 million shares a day at the end of the 1950s, to 32 million in 1965.

$200 Good Will Bond from The Wurlitzer Company, 1964
But is this a debt certificate in the true sense ? 

In the 1950s Wurlitzer got competition from the Seeburg Corporation. The latter's jukeboxes were technologically more advanced and were the first that could play the then-new 45 rpm records. Other competitors where AMI and Rock-Ola. Around 1960 about 750,000 jukeboxes operated in the USA alone.

Wurlitzer was known for its strong marketing efforts. As the stock market was peaking it should not be a surprise that the company introduced these so-called Good Will Bonds for their salesforce, in this case the sellers of Wurlitzer pianos and organs. 

The certificates looked like the real thing, printed by security printer GOES, and promised a $200 bonus. Not bad when the average yearly income in 1965 was around $6,900. Well, there were strings attached.

The text on the certificate explains it very clearly : 
This Bond represents a total value of Two Hundred Dollars
under the following conditions : otherwise this bond is valueless

Each coupon represents one-tenth of the total value of the bond.
The holder of the bond lists on each coupon the name and address of a prospective purchaser of a new or used piano or organ, and deposits it with the issuing company. 
If the person whose name is listed, purchases a new or used Wurlitzer Piano or Wurlitzer Organ from the issuing company the coupon becomes payable at the face value of Twenty Dollars ($20) in cash upon delivery of the piano or organ.
If the name of a prospective purchaser has been previously presented by another bondholder, or is already contacted by the company, the priority will supersede. Another coupon will be furnished.
This bond and offer is valid for a period of 6 months from date shown above. Each coupon is good for 6 months after the date of listing.

I found a 1955 advertisement for one of Wurlitzer's entry-level electric pianos mentioning a price tag of $300. Selling these instruments must not have been easy. Our bondholder never cashed in.


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Monday, July 5, 2021

Scripophily Puzzle No. 5 - solution

There was one scripophily detective that solved Puzzle No. 5. In order to solve the puzzle I provided three visual cues. These were images of an antique stock certificate, a banknote from India and a bronze commemorative coin. The common link between these three is a famous person. 

The correct answer for the puzzle is ... da-dum-da-dum-da-dum ... Steve Jobs.

The first image in the puzzle showed a stock certificate from the Xerox Corporation. The company is known for its multifunction office systems that scan, print, copy, email and fax. In 1973, about fifty years ago, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) was working on a small but groundbreaking computer, the Xerox Alto.  

Three years later Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne founded the Apple Computer Company. In 1977 the Apple II computer was released. At that time microcomputers were not the user-friendly systems that we know today. The Apple II however offered color graphics. It sold well but attracted mainly computer enthousiasts.

In 1979 Steve Jobs managed to visit Xerox PARC with several Apple engineers to see a demonstration of the Xerox Alto. Xerox granted them three days of access to the PARC facilities in return for the option to buy 100,000 shares of Apple for $1 million.

The Xerox Alto system must have looked phenomenal to the visitors. It supported a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that interacted with a computer mouse. Its innovative software included the first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) document editing system, an email client, a network-based multi-person video game, and lots more. 

Apple used the Xerox Alto concepts to introduce its next generation of systems, the Apple Lisa and the Macintosh. 

The second visual clue in our puzzle was an Indian banknote. We'll skip this one for a moment and talk about the third clue : a commemorative bronze medal. Illustrated is the reverse, the obverse was shown in the Puzzle No. 5 challenge, see here

The medal was issued to commemorate IBM's 33rd anniversary (1914-1947) under the leadership of Thomas Watson Sr. After World War II the company became the biggest manufacturer of mainframe computers. Watson conceived the slogan "THINK" by which he meant "to take everything into consideration .. and then act". 

THINK signs were hung on the wall of every room in every building. Employees carried a THINK notebook in which to record ideas. IBM's monthly magazine Time was renamed 'Think'. Decades later IBM products like the ThinkPad laptop computers still honor the idea behind the slogan. The word was a part of IBM's corporate culture. 

In the 1980s IBM released several versions of its successful IBM Personal Computer. Apple, with its showpiece, the Macintosh, was unable to gain much market share from IBM and the many IBM PC clone manufacturers. In 1985 Steve Jobs leaves Apple after a management struggle. For a decade Apple failed to come up with profitable products, and it was only weeks away from bankruptcy when Jobs returned in 1997.

Steve Jobs then asked three advertising agencies to present new ideas for a marketing campaign that reflected his philosophy. The slogan "THINK DIFFERENT" was the outcome and was a response to IBM's slogan "Think." 

The THINK DIFFERENT campaign included promotional magazine ads and large billboard posters that had black and white photographs of revolutionary people and events. One ad had a photo of Einstein, another a photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Another one had a photo of Mahatma Gandhi. The campaign was a huge success. The Apple iMac debuted in 1998.

The remaining visual clue was an Indian banknote. The 500 Rupees note, introduced in 1987, shows Mahatma Gandhi on the obverse. On the reverse we see Gandhi and his followers at the Dandi March.  

Steve Jobs was an admiror of Gandhi. He reportedly started wearing round, wire rim glasses just like Gandhi did. When asked by Time Magazine who would be the Person of the Century in 1999, he replied 'Gandhi'. 

Gandhi appeared on one of the posters from the THINK DIFFERENT campaign. Be the change you wish to see in the world, said Gandhi. No doubt, Steve Jobs (1955-2011) wanted to change the world too. And he did.

A quick wrap up. The clues of Puzzle No. 5 lead to the solution "Steve Jobs" in the following way:
  • stock certificate from Xerox Corporation : Xerox Alto computer
  • commemorative IBM medal : THINK slogan
  • 500 Rupees banknote from India : Mahatma Gandhi
Scripophily detective RS provided a correct answer. Great job. You are now entitled a portion of "eternal fame".

Friday, June 25, 2021

Puzzling scripophily - No. 5

Unleash your detective skills !

Puzzle No. 5 is about a famous person. The correct solution reveals his first and last name.

The following three visual clues may help you solve the puzzle. These are images of an antique stock certificate, a banknote from India and a weighty bronze commemorative coin. 

  • How to take part ? Submit your reply 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 this particular blog post in a few weeks again.

Click the images to enlarge and inspect the details. Good luck and have fun !

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Book : Price list of Polish and Polish related securities

Poland counts several authors on the subject of antique stocks and bonds. Recently author Kamil Lipski published his price catalog for Polish securities. 

This 80 page publication, A5 format, consists of two sections. The first one is an alphabetical listing of Polish stocks and bonds issued by governments, cities, companies as well as companies operating in Poland but founded with foreign capital. The second section includes about 150 color images of stocks and bonds.

  • Title : Cena papierów wartościowych polskich i z Polską związanych, in English: Price list of Polish and Polish related securities
  • Author : Kamil Lipski
  • ID : ISBN 978-83-961041-0-6, published by Fischer Sp.z.o.o., 2021
  • Language : Polish
  • Number of pages : 80
  • Images : nearly 150 small color images of securities
  • Indexes : no separate index, catalog entries are listed in alphabetical order 

The main section of the book consists of a large table featuring 780 bonds and shares. Each entry is described with the following characteristics :
  • Nr : the catalog number of the certificate
  • Nazwa : name of the issuer
  • Emisja/kapital : emission, capital and/or data of the issue
  • Liczba i nominał akcji/obligacji : number and value of share/bond, denomination
  • Rodzaj : type, na okaziciela to bearer, or imienna registered, nominative
  • Cena (PLN) : price in Polish złoty
  • Uwagi, inne cenniki : comments and/or references to other catalogs

This handy book gives the novice an idea of what Polish scripophily can offer. As with all price guides, the indicated prices may reflect future price evolutions.   

You can contact the author at stareakcje.com.pl@gmail.com for more information. 


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Friday, June 4, 2021

Hidden image emerges from Télémécanique stock certificate

The first time I inspected this 37 year old stock certificate from La Télémécanique Électrique I saw that it was a rather plain print. Somehow, I felt that there was more in the design than one could see at first sight. 

The share is illustrated hereby. You can click the image to enlarge it. You may not detect anything special. Perhaps - and this is the same experience as if you would have the certificate right in front of you in real - some very faint lines in the lower right corner may attract your scrutinizing look. 

Télémécanique was known as a pioneer in industrial automation. Its starts in 1924 when Michel le Gouellec acquired the Manufacture d´Appareillage Électrique in Nanterre, France. That same year MAE inventor André Blanchet files his patent for a contactor. This was an electrically-controlled switch used for switching on and off electric motors, lighting, heating, etc. The company adopted the name Télémécanique Électrique in 1928. 

The company evolved into a developer of process control computers. In 1967 it acquired the Automation Division of MORS, which had developed the MAT 01 industrial computer.  Two years later Télémécanique started introducing their own mini-computers. In 1975 their Solar 16 model was well received and competed against the PDP-11 and the Nova from American competitors DEC and Data General.

So far for a bit of history. Now, I told you that there was more to see on that Télémécanique stock certificate. The nice trick that I am going to tell you about can be used not only for share certificates but also for old prints, maps and even vintage photographs. 

In Reduce Contrast to Reveal a Hidden Underprint, see here, I showed how you can use image editing software to apply reduced contrast to an image with a subtle underprint. Decreasing contrast, yields more visible shades of darker and lighter pixels, with a clearer image as a result. However, that approach did not work in this example. The color print was too faint for these basic contrast functions to be effective.

The software tool I needed now had to offer a a stronger contrast and color altering feature. That tool was GIMP.

GIMP is a free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image editing and many more specialized tasks. It was initially developed at the University of California, Berkeley, and named General Image Manipulation Program. You can download it here at www.gimp.org .

The functionality I used here was located under the "Colors" Menu, named 'Levels'. It makes an image lighter or darker, changes contrast or corrects a predominant color cast (unwanted tint). The graph - a histogram - shown when invoking the function represents the statistical distribution of color values in the image. You can play around with three triangles as sliders: one black for dark tones (Shadows), one grey for midtones (Gamma), and one white for light (Highlights) tones. 

The image above shows the result, a pretty dramatic evolution of my nice scan. It revealed more details of that underprint though most still not clear, except for a clearly identifiable computer shown in the lower right corner. Mission completed !

What has become of the Télémécanique company? Well, under général de Gaulle, the French government had been trying to establish a strong computer industry, one that could thrive independently from the big American computer companies. 

Under that government pressure Télémécanique had to merge its computer division in 1976 with the mini-computer division from Compagnie Internationale pour l'Informatique (CII), into a separate company called Société Européenne de Mini-informatique et Systèmes (SEMS). 

The group Schneider Electric absorbed the remaining company in 1988. Télémécanique is now a major brand within that group involved in industrial automatisation.


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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Scripophily : historic share certificates at SPINK auction

SPINK's Bonds and Shares Department recently put its next sale online. The auctioneer offers over 600 antique securities from Great Britain, USA, Russia, China, Rhodesia, Canada, and more. 

Antique bonds and shares often represent an important evolution in our industrial and financial history. With the help of artists, security printers produced these collectibles as little works of art.

L(ot) 79 in the auction is a share in the Compagnie Française de Tramways et d'Éclairage Électriques de Shanghaï.  Founded in 1906 the company built and operated the tramway network in the French concession of Shanghai. A first line opened in 1908 between Waitan and Xujiahui. Around the time this share was issued, 1929, its trams carried 60 million passengers. Bids start at £50

The British chapter consists of several sections such as metal mining, motorcar and cycles, railways, theatre and entertainment, a large series of tramway securities, and a rarely seen collection of taxi and bus operators.

Introduced in 1956 the red double-decker buses from London have become world famous. In the early 1900s bus companies replaced their horse-drawn buses with motorized versions. The London Power Omnibus was one of those. It operated routes in North London with Sterling motor buses from Edinburgh. This share, issued in 1906, shows two of its motor powered buses, one of them a double-decker. L313 in the auction possibly fetches £100

Collectors of Canadian scripophily will be pleased to see that several remarkable railway and automobile certificates are part of the offerings. A few examples :
  • The Chignecto Marine Transport Railway Company was set up to transport entire ships across the Isthmus of Chignecto. L416 
  • L427, Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway Company, vignettes of steam train and steamboat, £100 bond issued 1884 and due after 999 years in 2883 ! 
  • Dominion Motors Limited, share certificate from 1931, rare, vignette of maple leaf and beaver

The Temiscouata Railway Company was chartered in 1885. A 113 miles line was completed from Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, to Connor's, New Brunswick, in 1891. Poor's Manual of Railroads, Vol 26, 1893, reports for the year ending June 30, 1892, that TR's mileage reached 71,368 miles (1,130 for passengers), and 16,921 passengers and 24,294 tons of freight were moved. 
In 1950 the Canadian National Railway took over the operations of the Temiscouata Railway. In that same year, a USAF bomber dropped a nuclear bomb due to engine troubles near Rivière-du-Loup where TR had its principal office. The bomb was destroyed in a non-nuclear detonation before it hit the ground scattering nearly 100 pounds of uranium over the St. Lawrence River. 
This rare bond, possibly the only one known, was issued in 1890 for the St. Francis Branch of the railway. L426, bids accepted from £130 onwards

There is a lot more to see in the auction. A good number of Rhodesian scripophily is present. Australia has a nice section, and there are nearly 100 American mining certificates waiting for a new owner.

The Banque Commerciale de Palestine was established in 1909. This 2 Ottoman lira share shows the Dome of the Rock (Arabic: قبة الصخرة‎ , Hebrew: כיפת הסלע‎ ), the Islamic sacred place located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. L84 in the auction

You can find more of these fascinating stocks and bonds in the SPINK online catalogue. Here are the auction details :
  • location & date : online only, this timed auction ends on : 26 May 2021, 11:00 AM
  • online catalogue see here  


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