Isaac Newton Signed 'South Sea Company' Document Sold for $53,000 at Auction
The one-page document signed “Is. Newton,” and dated November 15, 1721. The pay order issued to "the Accountant General of the South Sea Company," John Grigsby. In full: "Pray pay to Dr. Francis Fauquier the four per cent Dividend due at Midsummer last upon sixteen thousand two hundred & seventy-two pounds four shillings & nine pence South Sea stock in my name & his Receipt shall be your sufficient discharge."
In the spring of 1720, the South Sea Company, created as a public-private partnership to stabilize and reduce the cost of national debt, witnessed an incredible boom in company stock. Newton, a stockholder and the current Master of the Royal Mint, wisely sold off his South Sea shares in late April after nearly doubling his initial investment of around £3,500.
However, with prices still rising heading into the fall, Newton reentered with an even higher investment and was soon caught up in the first major ‘bubble’ in stock-market history, losing an estimated £20,000— equivalent to more than $3 million in today’s terms.
Unlike many others, Newton survived the crash on the strength of his position at the Royal Mint, but the experience prompted the scientist to famously note that he 'could calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of the people.'
“It’s an extremely rare and attractively penned document with an association to one of Newton’s most questionable experiments,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.
The winning bid came from a science and technology enthusiast from New England, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Highlights from the sale include, but are not limited by:
Project Apollo and Skylab Series Maurer Data Acquisition Camera, sold for $48,914.
Michael Collins's Apollo 11 Flown Robbins Medal, sold for $37,056.
Dave Scott's Apollo 15 Lunar Flown Star Chart, sold for $24,500.
The Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction from RR Auction began on May 19 and concluded on June 14. More details, including results, can be found online at www.rrauction.com