G. Kock  ©  11.2011–2016
SCRIPOPHILY IN FINLAND

An overview of the state of the hobby in this country. The same article in Swedish und auf Deutsch.

Production of share certificates
From the early 19th century up to the 1940s vignetted certificates of the highest quality and beauty were printed by lithography. The cheaper method being letterpress. The most famous litho printer in Finland was Tilgmann. Another large one was Frenckell. The bank note printers, that had previously produced bonds, started printing partly line-engraved (recess) shares* around 1965.

Tilgmann
Beginning in 1934 Frenckell started to add a patented (system Thörnblad) dorsal colour ribbon to one margin of the securities in order to enable fast distinguishing of different denominations. This ingenious invention never went out of use. For roughly the last 130 years share certificate folded sizes here have generally been close to the US letter (A) size of 8.5" x 11". Since the 1940s the exact metric A4 of 8.3" x 11.7" has been the norm. The smallest size of a certificate is Viasveden Laiva's 11x16 cm and the largest Åbo Skeppsvarv's 33x49 cm. In the right hand margin of this page you can see the evolution of Finnish share design.

Transfers of share ownerships were noted on the certificates, which were rarely physically replaced. In the 1980s it was still possible to get papers issued in the late 19th century when trading on the stock exchange. But by that time the total costs of just substituting a used-up sheet of coupons (between the folded cover) had exceeded the costs of replacing the entire stock certificate.

Trading on the stock market boomed in the 1980s with a lot of new issues. In 1984 Polytypos entered the security printing market and adopted a new kind of single A4 sheet shares with attached coupons (picture), resembling bonds and the old French system. This type is not appreciated by the scripophilists.

Physical shares soon became impossible to handle with the enormous expansion of trading. From 1992 to 2000 all quoted securities were therefore transferred into a centralised electronic book-entry system. The very last quoted company issue of paper shares was in 1995.

vanha osakekirja Helsingin Seurahuone Availability of collectable certificates
Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917. A forerunner to the stock exchange was founded in 1862. The first act regulating limited liability companies was instituted in 1864. Stock certificates of about ten companies issued before 1865 are known to have survived, the oldest being from 1762 (the only one from the 18th century). The oldest one in private hands is from 1828 (pictured >). About 210 companies have issued 19th century certificates that are now owned by collectors. These shares are usually inscribed in Swedish, the later ones gradually more predominantly bilingually or in Finnish.

Papers issued before 1870 are rare and those newer ones before the new law of 1896 are for the most part uncommon. After that availability improves drastically because the economy of the country had developed rapidly. It can be estimated that shares of about 3 100 different companies (not counting items in museums and archives) of all times are known to collectors – much fewer than Sweden and very little by international comparison. 3 200 joint-stock companies were formed up to 1912 only (in which year the stock exchange was founded). The number of identical copies of the same item is often modest and there are many unique ones. Today's high market price level has furthered the offering for sale of hitherto unknown items from the public.

How are share certificates collected?
Due to the limited number of companies and shares available most collectors are general collectors. However, quite a few specialise in papers of listed companies. It is also feasible to limit the collection theme to a certain region (such as one's native place, or ceded Karelia) or a particular time period. Collecting by industry would require the inclusion of foreign items. If there are any industries that are both popular and somewhat accessible it would be shipping companies, banks and railways.

Here only a few enthusiasts are interested in different years of issue or denominations of the same share – too difficult to obtain. Restricted and unrestricted (for foreigners) ones are not separated either. Ordinary and preferred shares (as well as class A and B ones), however, sometimes use to be differentiated. A collection comprising 1 000 companies is a big one. We have no forgeries, only a couple of fakes, but a few non-fraudulent reproductions have been made in Germany.

Vaasan Puuvilla Bonds.  Foreign stock certificates
A great variety of repaid bond certificates (>) are sold on the collectors' market for just a few euros each, because when the loan had been paid the stub remained with the owner. We have loans issued by the State (Republic) and by mortgage banks and by private companies for the public, as well as convertibles and warrants. Of certain interest are bonds issued abroad by Finnish entities. – Shares of co-operative societies often look uniform and are thus of less interest.

Foreign stock certificates, especially American and German ones, are increasingly common, and cheap, on the scripophilic market here too, but attract only limited interest. No foreign country is more popular than another – it is the certificate as such that can be tempting – although neighbouring Sweden has a couple of non-serious followers. World famous corporations would draw buyers, but are usually not available. Foreign companies with a Finnish background are sought after.

Item states encountered
Issued share certificates, whether cancelled or not, are the most wanted ones. Earlier the shareholder could specifically ask the company for the favour of getting back his paper, made void by hand stamping or punching. Few owners did. Sometimes certificates were mislaid and are invalid but uncancelled when found. They are now appreciated. Occasionally items have been released from company archives.

A great portion of the items in collections are from bankrupt or otherwise defunct enterprises. No cancellation. Printers' specimen copies and the companies' own unissued forms are frequently seen. They are of lesser value but are usually the only way to obtain certain certificates.

leimamerkki Bearer shares were only rarely used in Finland. The very oldest certificates are denominated in Russian Roubles. The Markka was in use from 1862 to 1962 and the New Markka (100:1) from 1963 until 2001. Today the currency is the euro. From 1916 to 1966 revenue stamps (>) were stuck to certificates. Explanation of the red 1946 adhesive.

The Finnish Catalogue
The first (since 2006) catalogue of all known certificates in the hands of collectors is available updated on the net  h e r e . It is collector maintained and there is no charge for its use. Note that "Osakeyhtiö", "Oy" and "Ab" (all meaning "Ltd") have been disregarded when sorting that list alphabetically. "Helsingissä" just means "in Helsinki". An appendix with additional company information (in Finnish) is linked to when applicable and there is also a list by industries. In 2008 a dealer printed a list.

Prices and how we buy and sell
In the over-optimistic 1980s people unconcernedly spent money on e.g. collectables. During the next decade scripophily prices either went down somewhat, or the market contracted. Now a German managed to cheaply gather the largest collection (now sold) of Finnish certificates. In the following years demand improved and prices at least regained their pre-depression levels. The foundation of the Society in 2007 resulted in a veritable boom and in a few years prices perhaps tripled, and for some time we saw signs of overheating.

The universal criteria for valuing items apply here too. A common paper will typically cost 15 to 25 euros. If the price exceeds 100 euros it can be considered expensive. The highest price paid in Finland is 900 euros in November 2011 for a Kägelban (English summary) certificate.

osakekirja Talous-Osakekauppa The most important Finnish scripophilic market (for buying and for selling, continuously) can be found online at huuto.net (a local site similar to eBay). No buyer's commission is charged on huuto.net. In addition we have several other general auctions (both room and web sales, incl. numismatic ones), as well as some ephemera e-commerce shops that sell certificates at fixed prices. The online shops became active less than ten years ago; the first specialised one in 2004.

Finland has no scripophily bourses, but the Society offers efficient and free assistance in their auctions to all who want to sell Finnish items. The Society does not charge any commission. Of course there are private buyers too.

The collectors and their Society
The first scripophilists started collecting in the late 1970s. In 1980 Mr. Erkki Borg, a numismatics dealer, published a book with, among other content, images of old securities. In 1986 the collector Mr. Pekka Kantanen established an unofficial auction club. It ceased operating, however, after two years. In 1988 he and Mr. Kari J. Sillanpää wrote Osakekirjat kertovat, a magnificent illustrated volume with tri-lingual text, including English. The book is still easy to obtain second hand.

Those club auction catalogues of the 1980s had more than 100 different subscribers, but most of them were not true scripophilists. During the economically difficult years of the 1990s the number of real collectors was reduced to maybe just a dozen – during the very period when printed shares were being abolished. After the 1990s interest slowly improved. Now the Society has about 50 members, i.e. nearly all the active collectors in Finland.

On 1 August 2007 the Share Certificate Collectors Society, Osakekirjakeräilijät ry (OKK), was formally founded with Mr. Kantanen as initiator and chairman. It is a registered non-profit organisation and a member of the Finnish Numismatic Society. OKK's activities include monthly online auctions open to the public, a web site, various meetings, advice regarding the hobby, its dissemination, as well as charitable activities. Most of the auction sellers are members, but anybody may submit lots for sale. OKK is the sole association.

Turku numismatic bourse 2011 Shows/exhibitions (>) are unusual but have been arranged by the Society or by investment fairs. Numismatic societies regularly run their own bourses and the Share Certificate Collectors Society used to take part in such twice a year with a table of their own, mainly for public relation reasons.

More business history information (on this web, in Finnish)
A descriptive list of all my English articles on the net.
Suomalaisia Arvopapereita Oy (incl. Bensow), an early equity fund.
Korvausosakkeiden Hallintoyhteisö, compulsory government holding co. 1945.
German companies in Finland confiscated by the Soviet Union 1944.
Bibliography of company history books.
Facts about all former quoted companies (link list at the bottom of page).
List of the different business history articles on this web.
All joint-stock companies founded in Finland before 1913.
Articles about individual Finnish companies (in Finnish):
Seurahuone 1828Kägelbanbolaget 1860Privatbanken (PDF),  EmissiooniyhtiöHelsingin MakasiiniHelsingin Raitiotie ja OmnibusVaasan Puuvilla bond 1871.
Articles about individual foreign companies (in ENGLISH):
Borgå Ångfartygs Ab (Finland),  Järnvägs Ab Fredrikshamn (Finland); Companhia de Moçambique,  Mines de Balia-Karaïdin (Turkey),  Mines d'Or de Kilo-Moto (Belgian Congo),  Banque Industrielle de Chine (Paris),  La España Industrial (Spain).
 

* "Share" has been used here as a synonym for "(share) certificate".
Address of this web page
www.porssitieto.fi/osake/scripophily.html