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the oldest known share of stock

An archive in the Netherlands has uncovered the oldest known share of stock in a company. The West Frisian Archive says the share in the Dutch East India Company (the world's first joint-stock limited liability company with freely transferable shares.) is dated September 9, 1606.

The share was issued to Pieter Harmenz, a personal assistant to the mayor of the city of Enkhuizen, which then rivaled Amsterdam as one of the nation's most important ports. The share was found by Ruben Schalk, a college student working on his history thesis.

The Enkhuizen ‘share’ is dated 9 September 1606, the day on which Pieter Harmensz paid the last installment of his 150 guilders investment in the VOC. This amount was entered in the Enkhuizen chamber’s ledger. In return Pieter Harmensz received this document, which therefore is really a quittance. An interesting feature is the long series of notes on the inside of dividend payments up to 1650. The three other known ‘shares’ have rather fewer such notes. Trade in VOC shares started almost immediately after the closure of the offer. This provided a stimulus for the rise of the Amsterdam stock exchange, the world’s oldest such exchange. The Enkhuizen ‘share’ is almost three weeks older than the previous record holder, dated 27 september 1606.

VOC Enkhuizen
The Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC was the country’s biggest trading company during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was the world’s first joint-stock limited liability company with freely transferable shares. The public share subscription ended on September 1st 1602, giving everybody the chance to participate in the new venture. Amongst the 538 Enkhuizen subscribers were remarkably numerous craftsmen, small entrepreneurs and citizens like Pieter Harmensz. With 540,000 guilders subscribed the VOC chamber Enkhuizen supplied, after Amsterdam and Middelburg, the third most capital to the company.

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