January 2015 | Nate Pedersen

Bonds and Share Certificates Auction at Spink on January 30

On January 30, Swiss auction house Spink will offer an auction of bonds and share certificates from around the world. This burgeoning area of ephemera collecting offers a glimpse at world history through a fascinating new lens. 

model a wright france.jpg
Highlights include a 1908 share of the French company Compagnie Générale de Navigation, who incorporated to produce the Model-A airplane from the Wright Brothers after Wilbur demonstrated their invention in Le Mans. The coolest thing about the stock certificate? The fact that it's illustrated with a lithograph of the Wright Model-A. (The business itself was soon a failure, closing its doors after selling a handful of airplanes to the French military in 1910). The rare certificate is estimated at $2,000-$3,000. (If only its original investors could rise from the grave and command that price for their shares).

On a similar note, a 1909 share is on offer of the German aviation firm Deutsche Luftsschiffahrts-AG (or DELAG) who carted passengers around Europe between 1909 and 1935 on zeppelins! The firm was forced into liquidation, however, by the Nazis in 1935, and their zeppelins were given to the newly formed company Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei. Two years later the Hindenburg disaster destroyed the industry. Estimate $500-$700.

Also from 1909 is a share of the solar cell producer Sun Electric Generator Company, by the far the earliest share in the field of solar energy. Sun Electric Generator, however, was closed after its owners were arrested for fraud in 1911.  After patenting their unique "Thermo Electric Battery and Apparatus," the firm used fake sales of the product to drive up the price of stock shares, leading to an official investigation.  Police declared the invention a fraud, finding that the apparatus was secretly connected to regular city power in Baltimore. The stock certificate is illustrated with a lithograph of the offending device. Estimate $1,500-$2,000.

[Editor's Note: FB&C ran a feature on scripophily--collecting antique bonds and share certificates--back in 2008. An online version of it is still available at IBSS, the International Bond & Share Society.]