A receipt signed by the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton made $53,805 at RR Auction in a Science and Technology sale that closed yesterday.
The document dates to November 15, 1721 and has a link to one of the biggest financial crises in history.
Sir Isaac Newton was an investor in the South Sea Company
It’s addressed to the accountant general of the South Sea Company, a joint-stock company originally founded to reduce British national debt through trade with South America.
At the time the Spanish controlled most of the continent.
However, the British government believed it could wangle a favourable trade deal from a weakened Spain – which was emerging from the long War of Succession.
As it happened the deal, inked in 1713, wasn’t that great. Still, the company’s stock continued to rise. When the king came on board as governor in 1718, it skyrocketed.
All went well until September 1720, when the stock went through the floor and everybody lost their shirts – including Newton.
He would later say that he “could calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of the people.”
The receipt reads: "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."
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