Saturday, January 23, 2021

Scripophily Puzzle No. 4 - solution

In Puzzle No. 4 we were looking for a novel. This time, three scripophily detectives gave the correct answer. "A bit too easy" I was told. 

In order to solve the puzzle, I provided you two visual cues : details from the designs of a bond and a share certificate. Let's have a look at them.

The first image shows a logo consisting of the interlaced letters W and L flanked by two lions and a banner underneath. The banner shows some words. Click the image to enlarge it. You can't distinguish all the words but Compagnie, des, Lits and Européens must be clear.

Googling these words brings up links to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. In the Google Images results pane you'll find a similar logo, and likely, an image of one of the company's bond certificates like the one shown here.

The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Européens, in short CIWL, was founded by the Belgian Georges Nagelmackers in 1872. His business pioneered in luxurious on-train catering and sleeping car services. CIWL operated the famous long-distance Orient Express that originally ran from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul).

The second image shows a fragment from a share certificate. We can read [H]ôtel de Constantinople, and you can also detect a stamp that mentions Société Française des Grands Hotels Internationaux. All-knowing Google tells us that we are talking about the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul. 

The Pera Palace was built in 1892 for the CIWL. The company needed a suitable hotel at the final destination of its Orient Express. Among its famous guests were : Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Ernest Hemingway, Queen Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Using the words Wagons-Lits and book, or even novel, in your next Google search yields many results to multiple publications. So does Pera Palace combined with the words book or novel. Obviously, both are popular subjects.

A better idea was to search for the combination of all these words : Wagons-Lits, Pera Palace and novel, or, even better, Orient Express and novel. The outcome leads you to the solution : Murder on the Orient Express, a novel written by the English writer Agatha Christie.

Christie's famous book appeared in 1934. It brings the story of Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective, who returns from the Middle East on the Orient Express. The train is stopped by heavy snowfall and a murder is discovered. Poirot's trip home to London is interrupted to solve the murder.

Agatha Christie stayed on several occasions at the Pera Palace from 1926 through 1932. It is said that she wrote there Murder on the Orient Express in her favored room, 411. Did you know you can still book her room for your stay in Istanbul ? 

Did Agatha Christie ever travel on the Orient Express ? As a matter of fact, yes, she did, more than once. Her first journey on the Orient Express was in late 1928, only a few months before a blizzard, near Cherkeskoy, Turkey, stranded another Orient Express for six days. And in December 1931, when Christie returned from her husband's archaeological dig at Nineveh, aboard an Orient Express, sections of railway track were washed away by heavy rainfall flooding. 

In scripophily, we have seen bonds and shares that were issued to or signed by famous authors like Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain. Wouldn't it be a baffling mystery if a share issued to Agatha Christie would turn up in suspicious circumstances ?

To conclude, scripophily detectives DB and RS provided a correct answer, but is was SC who was the first to solve puzzle no 4.  Great job everyone. You are now entitled a portion of "eternal fame".




Sunday, January 17, 2021

HWPH kicks off '21 with large scripophily auction

Auctioneer Matthias Schmitt has compiled pretty much as 2000 lots of mainly antique bonds and shares for his 58th sale. The online event runs till 30 January, 10 AM. 

Collectors seek these genuine securities for their historic values or artistic features. I'll show you an Italian example from the auction of the first type later, but to start with, here is one of the latter type.

The SA Italiana per l'Impianto e l'Esercizio del Giardino Zoologico in Roma was founded in 1909. Today it is known as Bioparco di Roma. Its shares feature a gorgious vignette of wild animals, and sixteen others interacting with exuberant scrollwork and foliage. Click the image to enlarge. Creator of this Stile Liberty work was Giambattista Conti, aka Giovanni Battista Conti (1878-1970). He was known for his religious works and as an illustrator of children books. He became Director of the Vatican Restoration Institute. This rare certificate for 10 founders' share , lot 773 in the auction, starts at €1,000. 

HWPH is known for its Russian offerings and starts the feast with more than 250 lots from Russia and the former USSR. Two examples : 
  • L(ot)116 A 5-shares certificate, 1898, from the Rigaer Commerz-Bank, unusual large underprint  the imperial double-headed eagle holding the arms of the city of Riga, then still part of the Russian Empire.
  • A specimen bond from the Soviet Union's 1925 Internal Loan for the Reconstruction of the Economy, multicoloured Art Nouveau design, three vignettess, L151.

One of the Russian highlights is L154, a specimen bond from the 9% railway loan of 1927. The loan was issued to finance railway extensions connecting Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan with the Trans-Siberian Railway. The bond has a denomination of 25 Chervonets, a currency, fully convertible and backed by the gold standard, that was introduced by the Soviet Union to stabilize the hyperinflation. 

A major part of the sale consists of scripophily items related to Germany. Actually there are 700 of them. These can easily be queried online by means of key words like 'Freiburg', yielding 3 results, or 'Leipzig', 16 results. 

Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft, AEG, originated in 1882 when Emil Rathenau acquired licenses to use some of Thomas Edison's lamp patents in Germany. This extremely rare share from 1890, L917, bears Rathenau's facsimile signature. L918, a share in another Berlin company, has Rathenau's original signature. Rathenau died in 1915 when AEG pioneered in the development of aircraft and soon thereafter in film projectors as well. 

Nearly 300 lots represent scripophily from the USA, some picks :
  • L1714 shows a share number 1 in The Magirus Corporation of America, issued in 1926, and with vignette of a fire engine. Conrad Dietrich Magirus, born in Ulm, Germany, was the inventor of the mobile fire ladder. Today, the Magirus M68L is the fire engine with the highest turntable ladder in the world with a range of 68 meters.
  • The Los Angeles, San Diego and Yuma Railway Company, 1890 stock certificate, L1711, rare
  • The tracks of the Virginia and Tennessee Rail Road, a company that played a strategic role for the Confederacy, were destroyed during the American Civil War and later rebuilt. Its $1000 bond from 1853, shows off some of the finest vignettes on US railway securities. L1801, interesting start price at €40.
  • A section of 27 Confederate States of America bonds with start prices at €20 to €40, L1618 through 1644

The auction counts no less than eight 'piano' lots : 563, 1023, 1139, 1213, 1567, 1578, 1773 and 1886. This share in the Schomacker Piano Forte Manufacturing Company was issued in 1894. Pianists and high society figures like President Ulysses S. Grant preferred these fine and award-winning instruments. Schomacker pianos were called the “Gold String” pianos. H. W. Gray, who signed this share as President, patented a technique wherein the piano strings were gold plated through a process called electro-plating. The other signature we see here is the one of Henry C. Schomacker, son of Johan Heinrich Schomacker, founder of the business. L1773 

The offerings present bonds and shares from many more countries. Let me further mention some more noteworthy collectibles :
  • UK : One of the oldest Cunard Steam-Ship Company shares seen, 1888, with ship vignette, L532
  • Italy : Gucci Group NV, Dutch Gulden specimen stock certificate , vignettes of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, and Gucci craftsman inspecting a Gucci handbag, L598
  • Czechoslovakia : L727, Prvni Pražský Měštanský Pivovor, freely translated : The First Prague Civic Brewery, 1930, multicolor print with brewing vignetttes and of course, a drinking King
  • The sale includes a nice selection of Egyptian scripophily.

The Monte di Pietà, a church-run lending institution founded in Italy's 15th century, became a model for many charity institutions. Called “Monte’s” these organizations obtained their funds by means of bonds called “Luoghi di Monte” and evolved into banks and lending institutions. The bonds were registered, and guaranteed the investor a type of life annuity. This Monte non vacabile del Sale della Città di Firenze was issued as early as 1699! The loan was guaranteed by income from taxes on salt (Sale) and bears the arms of the House of Medici. L895 

Of course, there is much more to tell, but the best way is to see for yourself. Here are the auction details:
  • Date : 30 Januari 2021, online auction
  • Further info and catalogs, see here on HWPH
  • Live bidding is possible through, see here, where you can find high quality images of the lots.


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