Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2021 Issue

History through Commerce: the confluence of money and ideas converted into Certificates of Ownership


History through Commerce:  the confluence of money and ideas converted into Certificates of Ownership


I’ve been reading two volumes, both photographic essays, that are collector’s guide books to the collecting of historic stock certificates:


                        Hans Braun’s Historische Aktien Europa Vol. 1


The Art of the Market:  Two Centuries of American Business as seen through its stock certificates



I came across these volumes during a discussion with Christopher LaBarre of George H. LaBarre Galleries and found them to be a rewarding read.  Between them, they provide hundreds of examples of stock certificates that capture the pace and approach of industrial development both in early Europe and the United States.  Histories are the poetry of events while corporate records reflect the intersection of money, sweat, blood and everyday reality. 


Collecting the printed word has been an honored pursuit that has long relied on bibliographies and auction catalogues to understand scale and range, frequency of appearance and value.  But these days the variety and complexity of many, previously somewhat obscure collectible forms of collectible paper, are now increasingly the subjects of associations, auctions and websites.  For the category of stock certificates these books are useful to understand how this form fits.


I have long appreciated that manuscripts, documents and artifacts relating to business and commerce in the transforming decades between the French and Indian [1754-1763] to the First World War [1915-1918] – roughly 160 years, have provided a clear sense of reality.  Wars were invariably written about while the precariousness of life tended to be told in the business ledgers and legal documents of families and businesses.  Over those decades local economies were created from grants and patents into networks of subsistence farms that became the basic local economic unit, organizing themselves in time into counties, towns and villages where crops, goods and services were shared.  These homestead patroons seeing the benefits of being organized, being both self-reliant and ambitious, over the ensuing decades relentlessly sought more opportunities to improve the quality of their lives.


For them politics was a distant idea, the difference whether they lived under a king or an American governor was almost an abstraction.  For them the great unseen power was the rising economy that almost routinely presented the possibility of miracles.  If they could increase their farm yields and could move that excess to far away places they could earn the money of people who wanted to live in cities.  Based on that simple calculus the independent family farm was integrated into the regional economy.


For that to happen communities emerged as the important economic unit to organize their area’s basic needs; to own and build roads and bridges, provide policing, courts and common defense.   From that local taxation developed and with taxes came economic power.


These communities were an amalgam of pirate and patroon and both saw the potential for their communities to be interwoven into the developing regional economy.  The issues were complex; who and how they would benefit and how would they pay for what would be significant risk taking.  The answer was the miracle of stocks and bonds that initially seemed to be as certain as the words printed in the Bibles they kept by their beds.  Beginning in the early 19th century many families committed to stockholding ventures to lure canals and railroads their way. 


The analysis of those shifting currents  that brought economic development to places big and small is endlessly interesting and complex at the intersection of opportunity and advantage.


One form of these economic developments were expressed in the history of how the corporation’s legal advantages were leveraged, shareholders organizing themselves into entities gaining permissions and rights to building and operating canals and railroads and creating banks and later municipal services.  Capital always seemed hard to come by and the creation of companies and selling shares made it possible to pool capital and share risks.  Invariably, involved in the ocean of possibilities, there were investors, opportunities and pigeons and many a hard story were learned through the succession of high minded ideas that too often crashed on the altar of economic reality.  Infrequent successes notwithstanding, wanted objectives stacked on hopeful assumptions, financed hare-brained ideas that are fun to contemplate that made the development of needed services possible but often ultimately doomed to failure.  Such is the price to be paid for progress, too often paid for dearly.


Bare knuckled 19th century capitalism, when ascendant, flickered between exhilaration and despair, later leaving some of the bridges we use today as well as vestiges of canals and railroads long abandoned.  And something else survived;  while their bankrupted businesses disappeared, their share certificates in some few cases live on as florid history of beautiful printed documents, many signed, some by the famous, many of them bonds with most of their payment stubs never redeemed because many, may I say, most companies formed on high hopes, rarely survived to their 5th or 7th birthdays.  Oh well.  Life could be tough.  Stated another way, not much has changed.


Today the formation of companies in most countries is highly regulated but in the 19th century many were the reasons and ways they failed.  Dishonesty and disagreements were as common as dandelions but no matter, there always seemed to be enthusiasm for the next new idea.  No matter how many clouds and showers, the economy could and would recover.  This is how progress was achieved. 


While my personal interest is the Hudson Valley of New York State, the explosion of commercial development across America was experienced via boom and bust cycles from sea to shining sea and everywhere in between. Early America had the complete experience as is portrayed in the Art of the Market, while their European neighbors who virtually invented the game fifty years earlier, you can use Hans Braun’s Historische Aktien  Europa, given their industrial revolution was in long pants before America’s was in diapers, you can use the volume of European certificates to appreciate we were small timers by comparison.


Needless to say, I like the category.  



Auction houses participating in the sale of stock certificates:


Holabird western Americana Collections LLC



Archives International



Spink UK



Heritage Auctions




Dealers that make markets in this form of printed history:


M. Veissid & Co.



George H. LaBarre Galleries




Associations that provide an umbrella for the collector in this category:


International Bond & Share Society




The two books I’ve relied on were provided by the George H. Labarre Galleries and they may have copies.  Their prices for them are competitive with Amazon.


The Art of the Market

By Bob Tamarkin and Les Krantz

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Lyscosthenes, Conrad. <i>Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon,</i> Basilea: Henricus Petrus, c. 1557, first edition, folio. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Collection of Ethiopic Religious Texts, in Ge'ez , illuminated manuscripts on vellum, c. 1700-20th c. (5 pcs.) $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Augustinus, Aurelius Sanctus.<br><i>De Civitate Dei,</i> Venice: Bonetus Locatellus per Octavianus Scotus, 9 Febbraio, 1486, 4to. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie Gabriel Comte de. <i>Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece,</i> Paris, J.J. Blaise, 1782-1809-1822, first edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Rufinus, Tyrannius (c. 345-411). <i>Expositio in symbolum apostolorum,</i> [Cologne, Ulrich Zel, c. 1472], first edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Magnus, Albertus. <i>Summa de eucharistiae sacramento,</i> Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1474. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Strabo. <i>Rerum geographicarum libri septemdecim. A Guilielmo Xylandro Augstano magna cura recogniti…,</i> Basel, Henricpetri, (August 1571). $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Riou, Stephen (1720-1780). <i>The Grecian Orders of Architecture. Delineated and Explained from the Antiquities of Athens,</i> London, 1768. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Mair, Paul Hektor. <i>Geschlechter Buch...der...Statt Augspurg,</i> Frankfurt am Maim, Sigmund Feyerabend, 1580. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Polybius (c. 200-118 B.C.). <i>Historiarum libri priores quinque,</i> Basel: Johann Herwagen, 1549. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Bellori, Giovanni Pietro. <i>Columna Antoniniana Marci Aurelii Antonini Augusti rebus gestis insignis Germanis simul...,</i> Rome, [1672]. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> <i>Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Eusebii Pamphili...Eiusdem de vita Constantini...Socratis...,</i> Paris, Robert Estienne, 1544. $800 to $1,200.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman<br>Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana<br>April 13, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> The first book-form printing of the Declaration of Independence. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Paine, Thomas) <i>The American Crisis. Number I.</i> "These are the times that try men's souls." $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> First printing of the Treaty of Paris, with distinguished contemporary provenance. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman<br>Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana<br>April 13, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> Washington, George. Letter signed as first President-Elect. Washington prepares to embark "again on the ocean of publick affairs." $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Hamilton, Alexander). Manuscript document. The launch of one of the most consequential careers in American public life. $180,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Lexington & Concord). <i>A Bloody Butchery, by the British Troops…</i> $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Yorktown Campaign—Jean-Nicolas Desandrouins). A Yorktown Campaign map from the personal archive of the Comte de Rochambeau. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.

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