History of Scripophily
Historical documents, also known as "Nonvaleurs", are nonpar
stocks and bonds currently in high demand by collectors. These mercantile
antiques were long regarded as waste-products of the economic and financial
past, sentimental souvenirs of long gone wealth often gathering dust in attics.
In the last 20 years collectors and scripophily enthusiasts have newly discovered
and revived these historical documents.
A collector named Haseltine began 1876 with amassing nonpar confederate bonds used to finance the American Civil War. 4 years later the wall street broker Roland M. Smythe abandoned his occupation to concentrate on the trade with historical documents. He predicted in an interview with the New York Herald Tribune on March 24, 1929:
"People will begin buying thousands upon thousands of old stocks and bonds in the hope of an increase in value. They will not be relinquished no matter what happens."
Smythe, the "trader with the broken dreams" (New York Herald Tribune), did not live to see the revival. Yet his memory lives on and adorns one of the great auction houses for Nonvaleurs "R.M. Smythe & Co. Inc.". Their current headquarters on 26th Broadway in New York was once shared by the great Standard Oil John D. Rockefellers headed by Diana and John E. Herzog, who was also an avid collector and founder of the "Museums of American Financial History, New York".
Famous acquisitions of the Museum on Broadway include a financial document of the Bank of New York from 1791 with an original autograph of Alexander Hamilton (Sotheby's, $ 20.800), as well as an early bond from 1780 signed by Benjamin Franklin (Tschoepe, DM 22.500). Another spectacular addition in January 2000 was a Pullman's Car Company Stock containing original autographs by George Mortimer Pullman and steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie ($ 77.000).
The pioneers in Germany were finance journalist Dr. Heinz Brestel and the
newspaper company "Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung". Dr. Brestel
was the proud owner of a private collection of over 400 historical documents.
In 1971 he published the worlds first list of quotations for historical documents.
The first german auctions were finally held in 1975 by the companies
Haas in Asperg and Leck in Frankfurt followed by the establishment of the
worlds first "Historic-Actien-Museum" in Kuernbach in 1976. The
coming years brought forth the auction houses "Freunde Historischer
Wertpapiere" and "Auktionshaus Tschoepe" in 1980, who still
organize two annual auctions in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf respectively.
The founder Detlef Tschoepe innovated auction procedures by adding illustrations
and descriptions such as circulation numbers, condition or availability to
The Londoner Times christened the collection and trading of historical documents Scripophily, which has gained international popularity. Auction houses were eventually established in England, France, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and the USA. More Information regarding Scripophily can be obtained from the quarterly publication Scripophily Journal Katalogisierungen (Suppes, GET).
Jakob Schmitz, a renowned author and collector, regarded historic documents in his book as a key to the past.
Another reference by Prof. Dr. Udo Hielscher (University of Leipzig) documents the rise of the American economy using historic American stocks and bonds. The second revised edition entitled " Die Finanzierung des amerikanischen Unabhaengigkeitskrieges und die Urspruenge von Wall Street" is available at Fritz Knapp Verlag, Frankfurt.
Similar information regarding 17th and 18th century Spanish incunabili can be obtained from the book "Koeniglichen Spanischen Handelsgesellschaften" by Alexander Kipfer.
In Financing the American Revolution, Udo Hielscher accomplishes something that has eluded almost every other author who writes about American economic history; he somehow finds a way to make the subject interesting, accessible, and visible. This handsome 95-page volume, published by the Museum of American Financial History, features 43 premium quality, full color plates of rare original documents, presented as a truly cohesive collection. Both the text and captions are well organized, and they are written in an informative and entertaining style. Hielscher chronicles America's economic history from just prior to the Revolution, and takes us step-by-step to the birth of the New York Stock Exchange under a buttonwood tree in 1792. Meticulously researched, beautifully designed, clearly and persuasively written, Financing the American Revolution is that rare book that can be read and enjoyed by academicians, collectors, and the general public as well. Don't miss it!
There are currently 6 German auction houses trading with historical documents. Jakob Schmitz justifies their existence by quoting "Don Joseph de la Vega", who 300 years ago described the first Amsterdamer stockholders as people who eat, sleep and think stocks.
Contemporary scripophily enthusiasts are no different than their colleagues 300 years ago. Historical documents not only give insight into past financial markets but also represent an era where bold inventions and revolutionary ideas pioneered today's progress.
The Banca di San Georgio founded in 1407 in Genua, Italy has long been regarded as the first company to issue state bonds and turn creditors into shareholders.
Hence began a new era in the history of finance.
The creation of joint-stock companies began in the year 1602 when the dutch Vereinigte Ostindische Kompanie began issuing shares to individuals. Though the actual beginning dates back to the 16th century when the spice trading company "Amsterdamer Pfeffersaecke" began pepper trade with Indonesia.
Other companies soon followed, eventually creating the legendary Vereinigte Ostindische Handels-Kompagnie. There are only two known specimen of their founder stock dating from as far back as 1606, issued by Kammer Hoorn and preserved today at the Bourse of Amsterdam. The oldest one, issued on September 27, 1606 is now in private hands (www.oldestshare.com).
The VOC became a prime example of such companies created in the 17th Century, but at the same time acts as the very first shareholding company of modern status, as much as the English East India Compagnie. As early as 1600, the latter held a privilege of the English Crown, in 1613 became a shareholding company until its demise in 1858. As for the VOC, competition with the East India Company as well as the war with England (1780-1784) and administrative mistakes brought it to its knees on December 31, 1799 after 200 years of existence.
Stock companies appeared first in England in the first half of the 18th century, then in France around 1800 and Prussia in the second half of the 19th century.
The first German shareholding company was created by the "Grossen
Kurfuerst of Brandenburg" which was trading along the African coast
in pepper, elephant teeth, gold, slaves and others.
These dates jibe with the industrialization period of Europe. Financing was done through major banks by the private sector.
Before 1850, the idea of credit was still inexistent, because few were
ready to lend money, or to invest in such companies.
"Capitalists here do not appreciate industrial companies as they should".
After several wars against Maria Theresia which left Schlesien in ruins, Friedrich the Great (1712-1786) imposed the creation of bonds, which, due to its small denominations, allowed less comfortable citizens to deposit their money in interest-earning schemes.
The urban development and industrialization of the 19th century owes much to the creation of such bonds which were the first bonds on the market when the Berlin stock market opened. Up until the 20th century, they were made from pigs' skin and showed aside from the original signatures of the gentry stamps of the interest earned.
It was only in 1870 that shareholding companies started to mushroom in Germany, with 900 companies created within 5 years and 4.5 billion DM mobilized. Even the compensation payments paid by France after the 1870/71 war contributed to stimulate the German economy.
However, not all of these companies survived the initial stages.
In addition, states, provinces, districts and cities gave out bonds to stimulate infrastructure construction. Not only domestic but also international stocks and bonds appeared on the stock markets. The famous Trans-Sibirian railway connecting Moscow to Wladiswostok and Charbin was financed from French and German funds.
For the collector, one major reason to collect is more often than not the beautiful appearance of such non-valeurs. Skilled and renowned artists were selected to this effect and reflected in their work the different styles of the historical periods.
Roulette de Monte Carlo (Replice #12)
20% obligation on 500FF; # 12, Paris, November 1, 1924
The bond shows the face of the French Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), taken from a photography of Man Ray, covered with soap foam and framed with a game of roulette. The bond bears the signatures of Rose Selavy (an alias of Duchamp as president of the company) and of Marcel Duchamp as the administrative officer. The objective of the company was to exploit the bank of Monte Carlo, which he tried to do after having borrowed money from some of his best friends. Even though he was not entirely successful, he earned enough to pay dividends in the amount of 50FF in December 1925 to his some 30 creditors. Most of such original bonds have been lost, but one sample is to be found at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia. In 1938, another edition was printed, showing the number 4 on each one of the 2000 copies. In 1944, another edition of 334 exemplars showing the number 12, had miniature replicas and color reproductions of Duchamp. In 1962, he autographed a numbered edition of 100 Monte Carlo bonds and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine on October 2, 1968.
The artist Andreas Paul Weber (1893-1980) started his career during the first World War with litographies, drawings and caricatures published in soldiers' newspapers. In the subsequent period, his work gained a political purpose, as he joined the resistance around Ernst Niekisch. On one bond, he portrayed for the first time a worker at the forefront, while the individual coupons had different leitmotivs, which made it a unique design.
Scripophilists owe to the architect and painter Paul Cauchi (1875-1952) the design of two stocks: Hortus and the Companie des Eaux Minerales de Genval Societe Cooperative. Today they belong to the most precious specimen and fetch five digit prices.
Nobody less than the notorious Constant Montald from Belgien (1862-1944) was commissioned to design the stock certificates of the Banque D'Outremer, which financed Belgien's overseas activities. The motive showed God Hermes welcoming everybody to a cruise.
The stock company of Tyrnau (10.10.1919 with a capital of 500.000 krone in 500 stocks, bancruptcy in 1925) is a good example of the use of art on stocks in east-european countries. The picture is that of a female farmer dressed accordingly, heavily endowed with baskets and products of the land and in the background the silhouette of Pressburg, the whole design symbolizing the objective of society.
The Certificate of the United States of America Centennial Board of Finance, City of Philadelphia, January 7, 1876 is a symbol of the Stahlstichkunst which was in favor among the Americans of the time. The advantage of such a method was that it could be used for numerous editions. The picture (size 50 by 60 cm) shows the development of that great industrial nation in the period 1776-1876, with the busts of the Presidents Washington and Grant surrounded by oriental and black Americans, Indians, soldiers, seamen, farmers and notorious dignities such as Franklin, Fitch, Fulton and Howe and in addition, on the lower part, the signing of the "Declaration of Independence".
The price for "non-valeurs" depends strongly on supply and demand, historic importance and availability of the specimen.
The most sought after historical documents include 17th and 18th century incunabili, the autographed Rockefeller Standard Oil Companie , other autographed pieces by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Strauss Sohn, Commodore Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor, John Paul Getty, Thomas Alva Edison, Charles Chaplin, Henry Ford, Henry Wells, William Fargo or J.P. Morgan. A good reference are the publications "Aufbruch auf Aktien" by Jacob Schmitz and " Die Entstehung der Eisenbahn in England" by Prof. Dr. Udo Hielscher.
Collectors distinguish between different national and international industries ranging from automotive to zoo stocks. Extremely popular in Germany are American railways and industrials. They not only depict American historia but are also currently rather affordable. Also decorative German founder stocks from the 19th century are becoming rare and therefore in high demand. This paired with original autographs makes an increase in value certain.
Historical documents can be bought for as low as Euro 10,00.
The currently highest valued founder stock is the legendary Standard Oil Company autographed by J.D. Rockefeller which first broke the Euro 50.000,00 barrier in 1997 at an auction held by Auktionshaus Reinhild Tschoepe..
In January of 2000 another Standard Oil founder stock was offered at an R.M. Smythe auction in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The bidding ended at US$ 120.000 which is an increase of 160 % from the hammer price in Germany two years before. A current owner is the German businessman Tankred Menzel, himself an avid collector of the first hour, forecasting a future value of Euro 500.000.
There are approximately 12-15 thousand collectors worldwide and growing. Stocks and bonds are increasingly traded over stock and bond markets and rarely issued and printed, thus, increasing the future demand for the rare autographed certificates. It is therefore no surprise that not only portfolio-managers regard historical documents as long-term financial investments. Prices have spiraled due to the waning supply and availability and the fact that the register makes them unique historical documents. Even the introduction of the Euro replacing many national currencies can help historical documents to increase in value.
One final advice: Acquiring historical documents through specialist suppliers
or public auctions can guarantee the buyer a right of return as well as in
depth information on the historical share or bond.
© Auktionshaus Tschöpe