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 

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.


Previous posts

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".