Although often neglected, one of the most interesting areas of collecting is scrip, and historical share & bond specialists HWPH held a particularly exciting auction of stock certificates over the weekend with the star lot being from the now-notorious Lehman Brothers.
One impressive piece in the sale was from the Paulinenaue-Neu-Ruppiner Railway Company. In 1879, the company secured permission to construct a 29.83 km long, single-track branch line.
This linked the station opened in 1846 Paulinenaue the Berlin-Hamburg Railway with the Neuruppin.
The item in the auction was a 500 mark certificate of 'priority ordinary' shares - a true rarity from an old collection dating to June 1, 1880.
On September 12,1880, the route for the railway was opened. Until the opening of a direct rail link with Berlin over Kremmen in 1898 by the Kremmen-Wittstock train, the Paulinenaue-Neu-Ruppin train (bound for the aspiring town of Neuruppin) was the gateway to the world.
Listed at €2,500, the Paulinenaue-Neu-Ruppiner Railway Company piece sold for €4,200 ($5,800).
The inevitable star of the show, however, was the Lehman Brothers share certificate. The 1994 certificate for 1 share at 10c is actually the very first: LB0001.
Between 1844 and 1850 the brothers Henry, Emanuel and Mayer Lehman emigrated from Rimpar in Lower Franconia (quite near HWPH, in fact) to Montgomery (Alabama).
In the following years the three brothers founded the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which grew to be one of the pillars of the US financial scene, the failure of which was unthinkable until immediately before it happened. Its collapse marked a turning point in the financial crisis.
Listed at €5,000, the certificate sold for €24,000 ($33,100).
It's ironic that the failure of Lehman Brothers stock has only served to make this stock certificate even more valuable, just as it has bolstered the value of the art which Lehman Brothers used to own and which was sold off during its liquidation.
"We are very happy with the results of this auction." Matthias Schmitt of HWPH told us after the sale, "Not only the Lehman items, but all other items sold very, very well.
"In particular, items from Asia, Australia and South America were greatly desired.
"This auction and it's publicity was a big success for the hobby of collecting stocks and bonds."
Scripophily has been coming into its own in recent years. For example Spink, which periodically holds dedicated auctions for bonds and shares, offered a share certificate in the Di Li Coal Mining Company (issued in 1922) with an estimate of HK$6,000-7,000 at their January 2011 auction.
To the amazement of the room, furious bidding saw the price forced up to HK$52,000 (US$6,700).
But that's still a long way off the top price paid for a share certificate. That honour goes to a a share of Standard Oil Trust signed three times by John D. Rockefeller. He signed it as it was issued to him, then as director and then by way of endorsing it.
It sold for $136,000. Coincidentally, we currently have a fantastic item in stock for collectors sorry to have missed out: an original Standard Oil Trust share certificate signed by JD Rockefeller. But ours is a fraction of the record price.
It's a 1% share of perhaps the most powerful company in history, which would be worth the equivalent of $10bn today, and available now with our unique 120% guarantee. We also have an intriguing share certificate from the Wells, Fargo & Co. express company, not to mention the signatures of both Fargo and Wells on an American Express share certificate.