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The plethora of investment indices continues to grow. Whatever the asset class, there is an index to accommodate it, whether its stocks, bonds, commodities, property, art, fine wine, etc.
But what about an index that tracks the market value of a basket of historic bond and share certificates? A group of scripophily experts joined forces recently to develop one. The traded securities don’t have any “intrinsic” value, they are just financial esoterica that, for various reasons, have significant historical or decorative value.
The Historic Stocks Market (HSTM) Index tracks the auction prices of 100 “representative” share and bond certificates and is updated every six months to incorporate the latest realized sale values. Since its inception in late 2012, the index has risen by approximately 25%.
The Historic Stocks Market (HTSM) Index
Methodology Note: Each component has a 1% weight in the index and had its value rebased to 100, based on its auction price before 31 December 2012. Prices are derived from the following scripophily auctioneers: HWPH, Scriposale, FHW, HSK, Boone, and Spink London. All prices used in the calculation are net prices without commissions, fees, or taxes. The index base currency is euros. Source: hstm-index.com
The index features a broad spectrum of historic certificates ranging in age, geography, and industry. The index’s timespan covers a wide gamut, with securities issued in the early 17th century to the late 20th century. Of the 100 historic items, 58 are European in origin and 16 are North American, with Asia, Australia, Africa, Central, and South America accounting for the remainder.
Current auction values range between €60 to €30,000. In that sense, the market represents the full scope of scripophily — the collection and study of old stock and bond certificates. While the certificates are rare, they are not so extraordinary that they never come up for auction. For each piece, there are typically between 15 and 50 known to exist.
Volker Malik, editor of the HSTM Index, explains:
“The intention was not only to supply the market with a guideline for collectors who might consider their hobby being a kind of investment . . . [but] that the Index should also provide people with ideas on ‘how to collect’ as there is a span over different countries, industries, and types. Someone might use the index as a base to start a worldwide scripophily collection in the context of ‘which papers should I have in my collection’ — and then [others] could expand this basic collection by further items as they like.”
Perhaps the most historically significant certificates are those of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie- VOC). Established in 1602, it was the first firm to offer stocks and bonds to the general public and to have its securities listed and freely traded on a public stock exchange. The first known warrant, again of Dutch origin, is also included in the HSTM Index. The warrant entitles its owner to purchase six shares of the Imperial Indian Company (Kaiserlich-Indische Compagnie) at 103%, by 25 August 1730.
Shares signed by illustrious business leaders and entrepreneurs are also well represented:
- Standard Oil Co. (John D. Rockefeller)
- Accessory Transit Co. (Cornelius Vanderbilt)
- American Express Co. (Henry Wells, William G. Fargo, and Alex Holland)
- Bank of the United States of America (Nicholas Biddle)
- Basler Bandfabrik, vorm. Trüdinger & Cons. AG (Johann Rudolf Geigy-Merian of Ciba-Geigy fame)
- Bodie Bluff Consolidation Mining Co. (Leland Stanford who endowed Stanford University)
- Camden & Amboy Rail Road & Transportation Company (Robert Livington Stevens)
- Edison Phonograph Works (Thomas Alva Edison)
- Flamingo Films, Inc. (Buster Keaton)
- Gesellschaft für Linde’s Eismaschinen AG (Carl von Linde)
- Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mount Joy & Lancaster Railroad Company (John Edgar Thomson or Thomas Alexander Scott)
- Ilmenauer Kupfer- und Silberbergwerk (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
- International Business Machines Corp. (Thomas J. Watson)
- The Staten Island Rail-Road Co. (Jacob H. Vanderbilt or William H. Vanderbilt)
Dutch East India Bond, dated 1623. With only six to 10 known to exist, these bonds are among the rarest securities included in the HSTM Index. The last to be auctioned earned a hammer price of €30,000. Illustration courtesy of hstm-index.com.
Shares issued by the Suez and Panama Canals, The Pilsner Brewery, The Ford Motor Company of Canada, The Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC), Hispano Suiza, Madame Tussaud’s, Siemens, and The Stockton & Darlington Railway Co. are also included in the HTSM Index.
A number of certificates have considerable aesthetic as well as historical value. The shares of Fabrica de Faiancas das Caldas da Rainha, designed by Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro, are especially appealing. Printing involved a complex manual process using 11 different colors. Another sought-after certificate is the Paris France Société Anonyme, illustrated by Alphonse Mucha.
The Portuguese share certificate of Caldas da Rainha (Thermal Springs of the Queen), dated 1884, is among the more decorative share certificates ever made. Its latest auction value was €1,800. Illustration courtesy of hstm-index.com.
Detail from Paris-France Société Anonyme Bond, 1898, illustrated by Alphonse Mucha. Between 11 and 50 of these certificates are known to be extant. Its latest auction price was €301. Illustration courtesy of hstm-index.com.
While the HSTM Index provides a useful price barometer for both investors and collectors, it should also pique the interest of those new to scripophily. Finance professionals, in particular, can appreciate such tangible relics of financial history as these old stocks and bonds. Indeed, there are few better ways to decorate the offices of banks, brokerages, or fund management companies than with some well-chosen stocks and bonds certificates.
For those interested in researching the subject further, more details can be found at Historic Stocks Market. The International Bond & Share Society is also a great resource on this fascinating branch of numismatics.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image Credit: Share certificate of the Standard Oil Company, dated 1882, with the original signature of John D. Rockefeller. Between 101 and 250 of these certificates are known to be extant. The latest auction value was €3,343. Courtesy of hstm-index.com.
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