World's oldest stock certificate found

September 10, 2010 11:54 pm | Updated 11:54 pm IST

A Dutch history student has unearthed the world's oldest share, dating back to 1606 and issued by the sea trading firm, the Dutch East India Company. As the Netherlands' largest trading company in the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was also the world's first company to issue stock. The Westfries Museum, in Hoorn, the Netherlands, has identified it as being the oldest share in the world. It is said to have been issued three weeks before what had been the oldest known share in the company.

The holder of this share was Pieter Harmensz, and worth 150 guilders. It dates back to September 9, 1606, when Harmensz paid the last instalment of his 150 Dutch guilders.

Dutch research has shown the VOC faced early financial difficulties and shareholders were not initially paid dividends. The company finally started paying dividends in 1610, partly in money and spices, after shareholder pressure. An interesting feature is a series of notes on the inside relating to dividends up to 1650. The Dutch East India Company was established in 1602 on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange for dealings in its printed stocks and bonds The share was found in the archive by the history student, of Utrecht University, during research for his thesis. It went on display, on September 10, at the Westfries Museum.

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