My virtual museum - 2023 in review

By Michael Fraikin

Published December 25, 2023

Last Change December 28, 2023

In 2023…

I would like to review the year 2023 for my virtual museum and present some interesting pieces and their history. The year about to end brought about considerable dynamic development with regards to my collection of historic securities related to the sugar industry and for my web presence. I have acquired 176 new pieces - which is the highest number for any year since I started collecting in 1990. Out of the now close to 1500 pieces I have described nearly 1200 on my website (+345). 

Not only securities…

but also books, brochures and other ephemera of which I added about 50. Including a small booklet about beet-growing in Kleinwanzleben from 1894, a post-card showing the short-lived sugar-refinery in Barby on the Elbe from the early 1900s to the book celebrating 100 years of Zuckermühle Ruperswil in Switzerland from 2006.

Beet breeding in Kleinwanzleben 1894, Sugar Refinery Barby on the Elbe pre-1908, With sugar please! (100 years of Zuckermühle Ruperswil), 2006

The other key aspect of my collecting is the interaction with people around the world: from fellow collectors, academics, local museums to the employee of a Polish sugar factory who wanted to know when his place-of-work started business - all this is great fun and little of it would have happened without my website. 

The oldest of the newest…

was issued 1813 in Denmark. The sugar refinery in Denmark was established before 1760 in Copenhagen and run by a highly successful  entrepreneur of German origin who had made a fortune trading slaves and sugar - earning him the title Count Schimmelmann amongst other things. His son took on the refinery and was as minister of finance one of the most powerful men in Denmark at the time. When the Danish state filed for bankruptcy in 1813 the refinery was incorporated to try and salvage what could be salvaged in the turbulent times - but the end for the enterprise came in 1822.

front and rear of the share in the Sukker-Raffinaderiet i Store Kongensgade No. 64 from 1813 - shares at the time frequently looked like mortgage documents. 

Argentine, Brasil, Ecuador and Peru

The number of certificates issued by companies in mainland Latin American countries or at least active there is comparatively small. But given that sugar was produced in most of the countries - usually from cane but sometimes from beet - certificates exist. Apart from local companies we also find those backed - with more or less success- by US and European capitalists. Sometimes however it seems the main purpose was to part gullible investors from their money - some things do not change…

The longest history amongst my new pieces comes with an Ecuadorian sugar mill still existing today: Azucarera Valdez. The mill itself was established in the 1880s and incorporated probably as a result of the great sugar crisis after WWI in 1922 - but continued to be run by the Valdez family to 1996. Rafael Valdez - the founder - is depicted on all pieces known to me - and it seems that Rafael remained a very popoular name in the family given the signatures on the shares. 

The Compañía Azucarera Tucumana established 1895 in Argentine initially relied heavily on Belgian capital (which is why the early certificates are in Spanish and French). By the 1950s it was the largest sugar company in the country and the certificates in Spanish only. Interestingly the Peso was even then something that was not always trusted - which is why it is defined as a Peso Oro here - meaning there was a guaranteed fixed exchange rate into gold.

1942 share of the Compañía Azucarera Valdez depicting the company founder, Compañia Azucarera Tucumana one share 1896

The Cartavio Sugar Company (Peru) was established at the end of the 19th century to acquire the assets of a failing British corporate in Peru. The new venture was controlled by W. R. Grace (founder of a US company still listed today) who acquired a fortune in Peru and eventually made it to mayor of New York. It was during his time in office the city received the Statue of Liberty as a gift.

Last and possibly least: The San Paulo Sugar & Distillery Company incorporated in 1887. The company was established to acquire the assets of the bankrupt San Paulo Central Sugar Factory of Brazil established 1882. The plan however did not work out - and Michael Seymour - schoolmaster in Oswestry (one of the oldest public schools in England) was left only with a comparatively plain piece of paper. German sugar literature of the day ridiculed the attempt of British capitalists to resuscitate equipment that had been left lying in the sand of the Egyptian desert for years…

Clockwise: The Cartavio Sugar Company (Peru), First Mortgage Gold Bond 1909; The San Paulo Sugar & Distillery Company, 200 shares 1887; The San Paulo Central Sugar Factory of Brazil, 42 shares 1882.

(Almost) all the colours of a rainbow

Many exchange traded companies had pieces representing different numbers of shares. In the case of German post-WWII companies for example typically 1, 10 and 50 shares with a nominal value of 50 DM each - with the pieces printed in different colours making recognition easier. In Finland a different way prevailed: Different numbers of shares were recognizable by a coloured ribbon at the side of the shares - which are otherwise monochrome. This patented method was however only employed in Finland as far as I can tell. And in case you were wondering - sugar beet grows in Finland!

1, 10, 20, 50 and 100 shares of the Turengi Sugarfactory, Finland 1943 - 1950 each coloured ribbon representing a different number of shares.

Monochrome preferred

Dutch securities were mostly monchrome and sober in design - a decorative border usually the extreme in terms of extravagance. There were exceptions: the profit participation share in the Utrechtschen Beetwortel Suikerfabriek issued in 1889 is absolutely an exception in the Dutch context - the bright orange unique. The undertaking itself was less spectacular - the small factory was closed for good in 1908. The founders of the Zuidhollandsche Beetwortelsuikerfabriek also chose an unsual design in 1902 with sugar beet and cogwheels in the underprint. Apparently they got cold feet - the shares actually issued in 1903 were boringly normal and the work of the renowned printing firm De Bussy in Amsterdam. But their factory kept going to 1972.

De Utrechtsche Beetwortel Suikerfabriek, Action de Jouissance 1889; Zuidhollandsche Beetwortelsuikerfabriek, 1902 - unissued

… transferred to the formerly reigning king… 

One interesting aspect of many certificates is that their owners are identified - in some case including adress, date of birth and nationality. This share in a private limited company was transfered to a prominent owner in 1935: the former emperor of Germany living in exile in the Netherlands. Wilhelm II is here refered to as the formerly reigning Prussian king which he also was aside from being German emperor to 1918. The share was shortly thereafter inherited by his son August-Wilhelm today infamous as an ardent supporter of the Nazis. The company ran a sugar factory in the Silesian town of Glogau - present day Głogów in Poland. The factory is still in operation - nowadays run by German Pfeifer & Langen.

rear and front of the shares in Zuckerfabrik Glogau, Germany, issued 1897

Natives gathering rubber…

is something you would not expect to see depicted on the plantation bond of the Coliseo Sugar Plantation. The company was established in 1903 with the intent to launch a sugar plantation in Mexico. The president of the hopeful start-up was a medical practitioner from Green Bay, Wisconsin. The placing of the bonds was helped by agressive advertising in the local press and supported by the option to pay in instalments. It quickly became apparent that the area acquired was unsuitable for sugar cane - so rubber was tried - alas to little success. Apparently the good burghers of Green Bay took no offense - Dr. Wolter died as a respected citizen of Green Bay in 1937.

detail Coliseo Sugar Plantation Company, Wisconsin 1903, plantation bond

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

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