Paper Money

Donald Trump spotted on an item in this Spink sale

Bonds and stock certificates do not usually have the cachet of paper money, nor do they command the same prices. For artistry, history and topical interest, however, they can often rise to equal status.

On Nov. 10 in London, as part of a larger auction of bonds and stock shares, Spink will offer what it is labeling “The Casino Collection.” More formally, it is the Helmut-Stahl Collection, described as the world’s biggest collection of casino shares. It comprises almost 300 items from over 20 countries, issued between 1830 and recent times. 

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The shares offer a history of the business of gambling. The first true casino opened in Spa, Belgium, in 1763, and included in the sale is a 25-franc share from the Cercle International de Spa, dated April 30, 1894. Certificates from the famous spa towns of Baden-Baden and Bad-Homburg reflect the growth of gambling in 19th century Germany, where the game of roulette was employed to make the Bad-Homburg resort the leading gaming venue in Europe.

The legendary casino in Monaco is not forgotten and is represented by one of that institution’s oldest shares — an unissued mid-19th century 500 franc certificate for the Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers à Monaco. At the bottom of the certificate is an image of the casino looking much as it looks today. Somewhat jarring, however, is that, instead of being surrounded by today’s buildings and luxury cars parked bumper to bumper, there is bucolic scenery and a reflecting pool.

The Monte Carlo casino had a long-time near monopoly on gambling in Europe after the closing of all German casinos in 1872 and was a profitable economic engine of the principality for years. 

Not all the stocks and bonds being offered tell the same story of success. Among the otherwise worthless shares being offered to collectors as part of a large lot is an April 24, 1998, certificate for one share of Trump International Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. According to financial reporting services, in bankruptcy, each share was worth 88 cents in a cash distribution and one-thousandth of a share in a new company. It will probably be worth more as a collectible because of current events.

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