Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Swastikas for prosperity

Last year's Holabird Americana’s Big Bonanza Auction included a share in the Swastika Mining and Development Company. The item sold for $80. Scripophily magazine no.121 said: “The swastika was said to be a good luck symbol in western Native American culture and it appears on a few certificates”. That’s only a part of the truth.

Fig. 1 The Swastika Mining and Development Company owned claimes at Lakeview, Idaho, and a lime quarry at Lake Pend Oreille. This share was issued in 1910, and shows two swastikas in the masthead and one in the embossed seal. 

We usually recognize the Swastika symbol as the symbol of Nazis, which we can also find on Nazi era bonds. However it is a much older symbol. In North America, the Tlinglit and the Hopi applied the symbol to decorate objects like baskets up to the 20th century. The Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Celts, Germanic and Baltic tribes, as well as the Vikings knew about the swastika. The swastika is one of the most common symbols on Mesopotamian coins.

Fig. 2 Detail of the tomb of Bishop William Edington (d. 1366) in Winchester Cathedral. Note the swastika on the vestments of the effigy of Bishop William Edington. Atrribution: Ealdgyth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons 

The word swastika comes from Sanskrit, the lingua franca in ancient South Asia and generally means ‘beneficial for well-being and prosperity’. The Sanskrit philologist Pāṇini from Ancient India wrote down the word approximately around 500 BC, but the symbol predates even the pyramids of Egypt.

Fig.3 Details of swastikas on Indian shares. Top row, left to right: Kesoram Cotton Mills, Gourepore Co, Scindia Steam Navigation, Bottom row, left to right: Indore Malwa United Mills, Jodhpur Commercial Bank 

The swastika icon has a spiritual significance in Indian religions. Swastikas can be seen on many buildings, statues and in homes in Asia and especially in India. It is an auspicious symbol for Hindus and can be used when starting anything new. The swastika often decorates the opening pages of personal and ledger account books. What follows are some examples in Indian scripophily. I grouped the details in figure 3.

Fig.4 The Indore Malwa United Mills Ltd, Rs100 share, 1949 

Sir Sarupchand Hukumchand was an important opium trader and a pioneer in the cotton Industry of central India. He founded the Indore Malwa United Mills in 1909 at Indore. In the 1950s the company employed about 3,000 textile workers that worked more than 1,400 looms. The underprint of its share shows the Goddess Lakshmi giving lots of coins. A minuscule swastika was incorporated in the border design right below the hoard (Fig. 3 and 4).

Fig.5 The Scindia Steam Navigation Co Ltd, 1 share of Rs15, 1948 

The Scindia Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1919 by Walchand Hirachand, Narottam Morarjee, Kilachand Devchand and Lallubhai Samaldas. Back then the sea routes in the British Empire were controlled by British companies. The company's flag ship SS Loyalty was the first Indian owned ship to sail to the United Kingdom. The vignette on the share, Fig. 5, depicts the SS Loyalty. The ship was purchased from Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior. Note the tax duty stamp with swastika.

Fig. 6 The Gourepore Co, Ltd, ordinary shares of Rs100, 1929 

What appears to be a rather plain certificate, the share of the Gourepore Company comes with a surprise feature to the meticulous researcher. This jute mill was registered in 1893. Its factory at Naihati, now part of the Kolkata Metropolitan area, had its own train carrying coal to its power house. The underprint of the certificate, Fig. 6 and 3, consists of a pattern of 2.5 mm² sized swastikas covering most of the surface.

Fig.7 Kesoram Cotton Mills Ld, 100 ordinary shares of Rs10, 1955 

Registered in 1919, the Kesoram Cotton Mills from Calcutta was managed by the Birla brothers. On 16 August 1946, Direct Action Day was announced by the All-India Muslim League leading to large-scale lethal violence between Muslims and Hindus in Calcutta. More than 300 labourers of the Kesoram Cotton Mills were killed. The company’s share certificate from 1955 shows an embossed company seal with swastika (Fig. 7 & 3). The business evolved into today’s industrial group Kesoram Industries Ltd.

Fig.8 Jodhpur Commercial Bank Ltd, ordinary shares of Rs10 paid Rs5, 1946 

The Jodhpur Commercial Bank was established in 1944 in Jodhpur but soon opened branches in Kuchaman, Merta City and Pali, all three in Rajasthan, but also in Nagpur and Bombay. Jodhpur’s impressive Mehrangarth Fort is illustrated on the company’s share certificate, figure 8. Note the swastika in the 100 shares denomination. 

As a symbol of good luck the swastika had a major revival in Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th century (that lasted till World War II). Scout groups used the icon on badges, even the US Army’s 45th infantry division used it as a sleeve insignia. Carlsberg has put it on its beer labels. Metal watch fobs in the form of a swastika with Coca-Cola logo are now selling at auctions for hundreds of dollars.

Fig.9 The Ericsson Shipping Co, Ltd, shares of £1, 1915, image courtesy aktien.gutowski.de 

I end this article with a share from the Ericsson Shipping Company. This company from Newcastle-on-Tyne experimented with ships built with a corrugated steel hull. This design increased the longitudinal strength of a ship without any corresponding increase of weight. Its certificate shows a sectional view of a ship’s hull on the left. 

The Ericsson shipping flag consists of a swastika for good luck. However, its SS Monitoria was sunk on 21 Oct 1915 by a U-boat. Their SS Willingtonia, built in 1918, was hit by a torpedo the very same year. So much for good luck.


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Friday, February 9, 2024

FHW's 125th auction is online with exceptional antique stocks and bonds

Jörg Benecke has scheduled FHW's 125th sale for 2 March 2024. With his team he brought together 2000 lots of scripophily and related documents. The event, a live auction held at FHW's home base Wolfenbüttel, offers historic and beautiful antique stocks and bonds from all continents. 

A highlight in FHW's auction is L(ot)962, a 1858 share in the Eisenhütten-AG Blücher, an early steel company from Dortmund. Germany's Ruhr area counted almost 300 coal mines by the 1850s. Coal was exported or processed in coking ovens into coke, used in blast furnaces, producing iron and steel. This 200 Thaler share depicts Generalfeldmarschall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher who won several battles against Napoleon’s troops. He joined Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, his army playing a decisive role in the final victory. The vignette shows von Blücher wearing the Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross awarded only twice in history. This rare and spectacular lithoprint by H. Kaufmann from Münster starts at €2,800. 

The Eisenhütten-AG Blücher certificate is part of the Deutschland bis 1945 chapter that includes about 650 lots. Some of the other historic items here are:
  • Deutsche Bank, Berlin, 200 Thaler share, 1881, extremely rare and a top object in any international finance collection 
  • Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke AG, 1000 shares certificate, from the Reichsbank archives
  • LLoyd-Werft Aktiengesellschaft, builder of boats, 10000 Mark share 1923, underprint of a sailboat and a hand emerging from the water rescuing a canoe.
  • Münchener Trambahn-Actien-Gesellschaft, 400 Mark share, 1882, rare founder's share 

Part of the 200 lots in the Deutschland ab 1945 chapter, is this BASF specimen 1000 shares certificate. BASF as we know it today was reorganized in 1952 and became the largest producer of chemicals in the world. In the 1960s and 1970s BASF succesfully sold computer tape and other storage devices. At the end of the 1970s the company marketed Hitachi's mainframe computers and soon thereafter launched their own line of business microcomputers like the BASF 7120 model. The certificate dates from 1967 and shows the Ludwigshafen production site.  L1457 starts at €500. 

A surprise is the sale of a complete collection of stocks and bonds related to Israel. About 130 certificates, spanning two centuries, are initially offered as one lot at €20,000, L24. In case of no bids, buyers have the opportunity to bid on the individual lots. 

This certificate from The Arab Cigarettes and Tombac Company Ltd is part of the Israel collection. The company was founded in Nazareth, which is the largest Arab city in Israel today. The company traded in cigarettes and tombac, a unwashed natural tobacco leaf used with the waterpipe. This unissued share of 1 Palestine pound with text in English and Arabic might be available from €240. 

Over 350 lots are comprised in the USA chapter. Among the many interesting items are: 
  • L1743 Florida Land Rock Phosphate Company, Western Bank Note engraving, 1894, unique vignette of phosphate miners in forest 
  • L1835 New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Westeren Rail Road Company, stock certificate, 1855, large train vignette, signed by Benjamin Franklin Flanders, Governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans, who formed the 'Friends of Universal Suffrage' 
  • L1680 Central New England Railway Company, preferred stock, 1906, large Poughkeepsie Bridge vignette 
  • L1652 Apperson Bros. Automobile Company 

Steel engraving is the trademark of the American Bank Note Company. With no sales recorded during the past ten years in the coxrail.com database, this stock from the Tennesee based Morristown and Cumberland Gap Railroad can find a new home from €500 onwards. L1824 

The auction catalog counts over 200 pages. You'll find several more chapters in it, including two with items offered at half of their previous start price. So, lots to discover there. Here are the details :
  • Location : The event takes place at the company headquarters in Wolfenbüttel.
  • Date : 2 March, 2024
  • Further info, see here; PDF catalog see there; live bidding is possible through https://connect.invaluable.com/dwa/  

L277: Sociedad del Teatro Chapi de Villena, 25 pesetas share from 1915, vignette of the Spanish composer Ruperto Chapi, lovely Art Nouveau design, €150 


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