Monday, March 29, 2021

Collectibles from the undersea world and other rarities emerge in Boone's scripophily auction

The 66th auction of Mario Boone takes place online with an exceptional wide range of scripophily collectibles. More than 1,100 antique stocks and bonds span 4 centuries of financial history.

The sale includes several historic items and a number of old collections have been consigned for this occasion. Very special, and unseen before, is a scripophily collection of the undersea world. The companies represented here had goals that captured our imagination. Their shares often featured fantastic vignettes.

During the American Civil War hundreds of ships  were destroyed. This share from the Life Saving Raft Company, was issued in 1866 just after the war. The amazing vignette shows the company's life raft with shipwrecked sailors. Early lithograph produced by Henry Seibert and Brothers, New York, and part of the Diving/Submarines collection 

The Diving/Submarines collection consists of about 90 certificates from companies involved in diving operations, the ship wreck salvage business, underwater treasure hunting, production of submarines, insurance of maritime losses, diving and life saving equipment and maritime archaeology. The collection, L(ot) 1051, offered as a whole, starts at €4,000. In case no bid is received, it will be offered again in smaller lots. 

I'll come back to the other collections consigned for this sale but let me discuss first some of the top items in the sale.

One of the highlights in the auction is this previously unseen share from 1747. Formed in 1720 the Compañia Real de la Havana organized the trade between Spain and Cuba. The company controlled the export of tobacco, sugar, wood and other Cuban products but also slaves, as well as all import of European products needed in the colony. L771 in the auction starts at €5,000. Detailed image provided on the auctioneers portal, see link below.

Here are some more lovely items from the Spanish chapter in the sale :
  • L772, an early copper engraving on vellum, boundless vignette all over the design, is a share from the Real Compañia de Comercio Establicida en Barcelona, dated around 1748 but unissued which explains the moderate start price of €400! 
  • Printed with a "gold" vignette of a mining operation, the San Juan Bautista (Teruel) silvermine share, 1857, belonged to the Duke of Rianzares, second husband of Queen Maria Cristina de Borbon, L775 
  • A great example of Art Nouveau design, L782, a share in the Nueva Plaza de Toros, shows off the bullring of Barcelona

Let's jump to the present. Everyone knows how to download a PDF auction catalog and read it with the Acrobat Reader application. Both PDF and Acrobat Reader were developed by Adobe Systems. The company was founded in 1982 by ex-Xerox PARC employees John Warnock and Charles Geschke. This specimen stock certificate bears the facsimile of Charles M. Geschke. In 1992 he was kidnapped from Adobe's parking lot. Four days later the FBI found and saved Geschke. L1043, a very interesting collectible from the software industry, starts at €50 

Regarding American scripophily there is lots more to find. This auction chapter includes a top collection of ninety early USA (1816-1860) certificates, lot range 884 through 976. A few examples :
  • L886, Thomaston Coal and Mineral Company, 1819!, then part of Massachusetts, today Maine
  • L910, Philadelphia Museum Company, previously Peale's American Museum, share from 1840
  • L943, West End Land Association, 1854, vignettes of villa and native Americans
The American 'regular' section, lot range 977-1044, has some more surprises, so don't forget that part. 

The Russian chapter consists of nearly 100 lots and kicks off with another highlight :  L678, a share in the Warsaw-Vienna Railway Company. In 1814 Alexander I of Russia was made king of Poland at the Congress of Vienna. His succesor Nicholas I approved the construction of the Warsaw-Vienna Railway. Its 1839, unissued, share shows the vignette of the Russian imperial double-headed eagle. Besides tsarist era scripophily, the chapter includes several soviet certificates as well.

The Azoff Steam Ship Company, founded in 1871, serviced the harbors at the Sea of Azov and the River Don. In the Soviet period the company became an asset of the Ministry of the Maritime Fleet (Minmorflot). This 1895 specimen share was printed by Typography Brothers Schumacher. The printing house finds its origins in the 18th century print shop of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The shop was founded by Johann Daniel Schumacher, secretary of the academy and librarian to the Tsar, and his brother Johann-Jacob, professor of architecture at the St-Petersburg university. L691 

Here is an overview of the other collections that will go on the block in this auction : 
  • L5, Collection of 16 Red Cross certificates
  • L187, Collection of 46 Austrian World War I bonds 
  • L321, Collection of 84 royal loans of France under the form of life rentes (cfr. the catalogue France, The Royal Loans by Howard Shakespeare), period 1689-1787 
  • L322-333, Corsica collection
  • Lot 625-677: Rolf Büchsenschütz collection of Romania (part)
  • L1080-1117, Fire fighting collection

The printed catalog contains several indexes to help you find what you are looking for.  The online versions can be searched by keywords. 

At the start of the 20th century, Ghent, Ypres, Bruges and other Flemish cities still counted many female lace workers. During WWI, war lace was bought by soldiers as a gift for the home front in England or America. This handicraft would disappear, partly because in the Congo, then a Belgian colony, nuns taught lace-making techniques in the missions. The Congolese women and children produced large quantities of lace at very low wages. De Vrouwelijke Beroepsbonden, in English: The Women's Occupational Unions, was a cooperative from Ghent founded in 1914. This unissued share shows vignettes of a lace worker and two seamstresses. Printed by Litho. F. & R. Buyck Frères. L229 

It is impossible to mention all items in this sale, but there is a way to find out more about them. Here are the auction details :
  • Location : Internet only
  • Date : 10 April 2021
  • Further info : 


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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Google Translate and tiny printer names

Recently I compiled a list of the printing houses identified on the bonds and shares illustrated in the blog. Some of these printers have produced bonds and shares over many decades and in different styles. It shouldn't be a surprise that people start a collection of certificates made by their favorite printer, such as Waterlow & Sons, Richard or Cote Libre. But the quest is not always straightforward.

There is always a possibility that one can't detect a printer name on a certificate. The reason why may be simple. Sometimes the design did not include a printer name. Or, speaking for myself in this case, the name can not be identified because you don't know how to read the language.

This ¥25 million stock certificate for 500,000 Hitachi shares of ¥50 is an undated specimen (見 本) from the 1970s. Its vignettes show the company's logo, a power transformer and an electric locomotive.

As a kid I was mesmerized by the sparkling Hitachi modular Hi-Fi systems on display in a local shop. Hitachi, Ltd., a Japanese multinational conglomerate company, has been active in many fields of technology such as electric and nuclear power installations, electric engines and locomotives, military vehicles, supercomputers and communication technology. Today, Hitachi has about 300,000 employees.

The illustrated Hitachi share shows the name of its printer at the bottom. It's in Japanese. That's out of my depth but there is a work-around.

I once wrote about What you can do with Google Translate on your smartphone. In that article, I showed you how to deal with scripophily catalogs in an unknown language. I tried that same approach, this time on the printer name of the Hitachi share. It did not work.

The name of printer was too small, less than 2cm, about two grains of rice long. The characters, less than 1.5 mm wide, were too small for my camera to be recognized. If I could only provide a larger image. Now, that thought turned out to be a step in the right direction. 

high resolution scan of printer name, taken at 600 dpi

I put the certificate on the image scanner. I set the scanning properties to a high resolution of 600 dots per inch to get a large and clear image of that line of text. I narrowed the scan area to a rectangle surrounding the text. The resulting image, see above, was saved.

Next, I opened the saved image file on the PC screen, and started the Google Translate app on the smartphone. Language parameters were set : 
  • Text to translate from : Japanese
  • Text to translate into : English
I pointed the camera to the image on the PC screen and pressed the camera icon in the app.

The Google Translate software tried to recognize the words that were captured by the camera. It was necessary to find the right distance between the camera and the computer screen by holding the phone closer to and further from the screen. Then the answer appeared on the phone : Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. Got it !

The text on the share actually shows two words 大日本印刷株式会社 and 印刷. The first part says  Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd., the second part - which occurs also in the first part - means 'printing'. I guess the entire line means '(a) printing of the Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.'.

Here is another example of a Dai Nippon Printing certificate. Note that the name of the printer here is written from right to left.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. 
100 Shares of 50 Yen, specimen stock certificate, 1968 

The Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd., (Dai Nippon Insatsu) was organized in 1935 as a merger between the Shueisha printing house and the Nisshin Printing Co., Ltd. After WWII the company began printing new banknotes for Japan. In 1949 its Enokicho plant started producing share certificates.

What I like about Dai Nippon Printing certificates are the fine patterns and guilloches produced in subtle color tints in the underprint. You can check this blog's printer page to find another Dai Nippon Printing share.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cuban scripophily at Spink's upcoming "world bonds and shares" auction

More than 300 lots from the Andrew Kirk collection of bonds and shares are going on Spink's E-block. At stake are antique stocks and bonds from many countries. This online sale started last week on the 9th of March and the bidding window closes on March 23rd 11:00.

Rare and interesting scripophily objects represent themes like UK railways & shipping, British theatres, United States, China & Latin America.

The sale also presents an attractive section with Cuban scripophily. Here are some highlights from Cuba's pre-independence period :
  • L(ot) 223 is a rare 1853 share in the Compañia de Caminos de Hierro de la Habana, vignette of the railway station, incoming train and lots more, a feast for the eye, and early
  • L225, Compañia de Seguros Maritimos de la Habana, 1857, very fine vignette of steamship in trouble at sea near lighthouse
  • Issued ten years earlier is a 50 peso share from the Sociedad de Minas de la Habana, 1847, L234.

L224 is a share in the Compañia del Ferro-Carril de La Bahía de La Habana à Matanzas. Issued in 1859, the year when the company opened its first track, it shows the old Fesser railway station. The company was also a ship owner. Their side-wheel steamer, the Nuestra Señora de Regla, built in 1861 in New York was meant to run on a ferry between Havana and the railroad's terminus at Regla. On her way to Havana the ship entered Port Royal, South Carolina, then in rebellion against the United States during the American Civil War. The ship was seized by the Union fleet, it was searched and incriminating letters were found including an order from the Confederate Army for purchasing rifles, bayonets, cavalry sabers, cannon powder and the like from agents in London.
source: The Mystery of the Nuestra Señora de Regla : Underwater Archaeology in North Carolina, by Richard Triebe and Mark Wilde-Ramsing, Prologue - Quarterly of the National Archives, Spring 1992, Vol 24 No 1

Collectors of UK railway and shipping scripophily must have a look in the Great Britain section. Some examples :
  • L122, Poole Isle of Purbeck, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth Steam Packet Company, 1845, beautiful vignette of paddle steamer in heavy seas, printed on vellum with green embossed seal depicting ship.
  • Two rare 1845 shares from the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) are offered, L120 and L121. The term Peninsular stood for the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal. Soon the company offered round trips to Alexandria and Constantinople. Two years after these shares were issued, the company entered the opium trade in the East.
  • Another fine landscape with train vignette can be seen on a share in The Middlesbrough and Guisbrough Railway Company, L106, issued 1857

American scripophily forms a substantial part of the sale. This is L259, a $1000 City of Boston Water Scrip bond, issued in 1848 and signed by mayor Josiah Quincy Jr (IV). During his term the Cochituate Aqueduct was built to bring water from Lake Cochituate to the growing city of Boston. Both Quincy Jr's father and grandson were mayors of Boston.

There is much to discover in the sale! So, here are the sale's details : 
  • Location : online auction only
  • Date : ends on 23 March, 2021 at 11:00 AM
  • Further info : see Spink's online catalogue with full color images here 


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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A new page on this blog : Printers

Scripophily, the hobby of collecting and researching antique securities, is blessed with marvellous collectibles. These objects have been produced by all kinds of printing houses, some of them being top notch banknote printers. Others specialized in the printing of artistic posters, or were active as book and newspaper publishers.

Absolutely amazing are the bonds and shares from the B. Sirven company. The detail above is a part from their main vignette, a work made by the artist Luigi Loir. Click the image for more details. 

I went on a discovery tour and checked out the posts from this blog. I searched for printer names that could be recognized from the featured bonds and shares. Much to my surprise I counted over 150 of them.

The B. Sirven printing house originates from a business set up in 1834 by Jean Bernard Sirven in the French city of Toulouse. The company continued through several family generations and excelled in chromolithography. Collectors are after the Belle Époque postcards and posters made by the company. Different bond and shares issues from B. Sirven have similar designs but are produced in different color versions. This 500 francs bond dates from 1911.

You can see the list of the identified printing houses, and the certificates they printed, on the Printers page (hyperlink on top of the site). The world of security printers is a little planet on its own. The list represents only a microscopic fraction of it, but it gives you an idea what's out there. As you'll find out, some printers, like the American Bank Note Company, were extremely productive. 

In many cases scripophily collectors find a reference to a certificate's printing house at or below the bottom edge of the design. You can see an example here. However B. Sirven's certificates do not reveal a printer name. Yet, I believe these certificates were printed on B. Sirven's own presses. There is lots to see, for instance, along the vertical borders, you can spot these small circular elements holding the company's interlaced initials 'BS'. This mini-logo is repeated in all its magnificence in a subtle underprint of abundant scrollwork. Click image to enlarge

I don't recall seeing any other scripophily produced by B. Sirven, the printer who produced the bond illustrated here. Who does? 

Collecting bonds and shares printed by a certain printing house can be a great theme to pursue. You may want to start a side collection of certificates produced by your favorite printer.

Scripophily from the B. Sirven company shows two tiny portraits in the upper corners. Johannes Gutenberg (ca. 1400-1468), on the left, introduced the movable type printing press in Europe. Johann Alois Senefelder (1771-1834), on the right, who is also a German like Gutenberg, invented the printing technique of lithography. Founder Jean Bernard Sirven may have known or heard about Senefelder, a contemporary. By paying tribute to these pioneers, the company showed its investors that it was a legitimate successor in the evolution of printing. 

Do you think that a certificate from a particular printing house is missing in the Printers list ? If so, then email me a high resolution image of the certificate at issue. I'd be happy to include it with an accompanying article on the blog.

F. L.